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Thursday, May 05th

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Solar plane reaches California after flight across Pacific

Solar plane crosses pacificA solar-powered airplane reached the San Francisco Bay area and performed a fly-by over the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday afternoon following 56 hours of flight over the Pacific Ocean as part of its journey around the world.

"I crossed the bridge. I am officially in America," pilot Bertrand Piccard declared as he flew over the iconic span as spectators watched the narrow aircraft with extra wide wings from below.

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Why North Dakota (aka Boomtown, USA) is running on empty

N Dakota running on emptyIn the mid 2000s hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - coupled with soaring oil prices, made it possible to unlock billions of barrels of oil from the rocky Bakken formation, one of the largest deposits of oil and natural gas in the country.

Almost overnight, the former backwater of Williston transformed into the unofficial capital of America's energy renaissance, experiencing unprecedented economic growth.

As oil workers flocked to the region, its population exploded, salaries ballooned, fancy new buildings appeared and chain stores arrived.

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New Documents Show Oil Industry Even More Evil Than We Thought

big oilIn 1968, a pair of scientists from Stanford Research Institute wrote a report for the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for America’s oil and natural gas industry. They warned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the earth” — one that “may be the cause of serious world-wide environmental changes.”

The scientists went on: “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.”

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Notorious Coal Baron Don Blankenship Sentenced to a Year in Prison

Don BlankenshipA federal judge in West Virginia sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to a year in prison on Wednesday for conspiring to commit mine safety violations at his company's Upper Big Branch mine during a period leading up to the explosion there that left 29 miners dead in 2010.

Blankenship was convicted of the misdemeanor charge in December, but the conviction was explicitly not linked to the Upper Big Branch disaster itself and Blankenship's attorney worked hard to ensure the accident was hardly mentioned during the trial.

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Big Banks Aided Firm At Center Of International Bribery Scandal

Big BanksNo business can operate without bankers — not even the bribery business.

British financial giant HSBC and American bailout kingpin Citibank processed transactions, managed money and vouched for Unaoil, a once-obscure firm that is now at the center of a massive international corruption scandal. Police raided Unaoil’s Monaco offices and interviewed its executives on Thursday, a day after The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media first exposed the company’s practices. Law enforcement agencies in at least four nations are involved in a wide-ranging probe of the company and its partners.

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U.S. Oil Industry Giant Paid Millions To A Company At The Center Of Huge Corruption Scandal

KBRThe American engineering and construction firm KBR hired Unaoil — an obscure Monaco-based company now involved in a massive international bribery scandal — to help it win oil and gas contracts in Kazakhstan. KBR, which until 2007 was part of the oilfield services giant Halliburton, paid Unaoil millions of dollars from 2004 until at least 2009, according to thousands of internal documents obtained by The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media.

Halliburton and KBR have been in trouble for bribery in the past. After a years-long federal investigation, KBR pleaded guilty in 2009 to multiple criminal counts of violating U.S. foreign corruption laws by bribing Nigerian officials. KBR agreed to pay $402 million as part of a settlement. Halliburton and KBR also paid $177 million to settle SEC civil charges related to the same conduct. Three years later, Albert “Jack” Stanley, KBR’s former CEO, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for his role in the scandal. As part of the deal with the Justice Department, KBR agreed to waive many of its legal rights if it was caught violating bribery laws again.

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Israel's Supreme Court shoots down gas deal

Israeli SC nixes gas dealIsrael's Supreme Court on Sunday overturned the government's landmark deal to begin pumping natural gas, handing a painful blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a consortium of energy companies.

The decision gave parliament a year to amend the plan or the framework will be canceled. It cited a clause in the deal that would prevent Israel from making significant regulatory changes for the next 10 years as reason for scuttling it. It argued the clause restricted parliament's powers.

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