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Kochs' lease holdings in Alberta tar sands.
Since last October, when the Koch brothers' extensive holdings of Canadian tar sands acreage were noted here after publication of the International Forum on Globalization's report—Billionaires' Carbon Bomb: The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline—the claims have received considerable attention, including denials from Koch Industries and attacks from right-wingers, including a prominent blog.

The IFG concluded that, based on public records, the Kochs held at least two million acres of leased tar sands land, more than any other company. Subsequently, additional research by the organization confirmed 1.1 million acres in Kochs' hands in Alberta, the most of any American or foreign corporation. That is more than 1,700 square miles. Vast by any definition. The map on the right shows the distribution of the confirmed holdings.

At The Washington Post nearly three weeks ago, Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin wrote their own version of the story.

The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres—an area nearly the size of Delaware—in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records. The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to two million acres. The companies with the next biggest net acreage positions in oil sands leases are Conoco Phillips and Shell, both close behind.
The story generated considerable pushback, including several bits written by John Hinderaker at the torture-approving, climate change-denying blog Powerline. Among other things, he attached the all-purpose "far left" label to IFG, questioned Eilperin's objectivity and posed—in that slimy just-asking-a-simple-question technique—whether the Post had intentionally timed the article to coincide with "attacks" on the Koch brothers by Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Sheldon Whitehouse. Other critics called for a retraction and an apology from the Post. They mouthed the Kochs' repeated claims that they have no interest in the disputed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast.

On Monday, Mufson wrote another piece on the subject, Does Koch Industries hold most Canadian oil sands leases? It’s complicated. He didn't rely on the IFG report this time, but on "data from the Alberta provincial energy department, corporations’ annual information forms, information from a mapping firm called GeoScout, data from a Calgary-based exploration services firm called Divestco Geomatics and interviews with industry analysts and executives."

What did he find? Determining acreage is, in fact, complicated. Why? Because the experts who measure such things don't come up with the same answers. The bottom line is that Koch Industries ranks as No. 3 or No. 4 in terms of all tar-sands lease holders, and No. 1 as a non-Canadian holder. Those leases cover at least 1.12 million acres and as many as 1.47 million acres. But even that total may not tell the whole story.

More on this below the fold.

Mufson writes:

The province of Alberta keeps track of designated representatives on oil-sands leases, but the list doesn’t indicate whether those representatives have partners who share the cost of purchase and development. It is a list of gross, not net, lease holdings. Net ownership could be higher (if a company holds a lot of minority positions in partnerships) or lower (if a designated representative brings in other partners to reduce development costs and spread risks).

Moreover, Canadian government and industry officials note that any company can establish a subsidiary identified only with a number, such as 12345Alberta, and the authoritative industry official says that Koch’s holdings far exceed the acreage listed by name with the Alberta provincial government. Other oil companies might be doing the same thing, adding another element of uncertainty.

This could, of course, be cleared up if privately held Koch Industries itself came forward and disclosed all its holdings. That will happen about the same time as they praise the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As IFG points out:

The Kochs currently hold +1.1 million acres of tar sands land at the very least. They would certainly benefit from the building of the pipeline, though their tactic thus far is to be deceitful: Koch Industries doesn’t have an interest—does that mean that Koch Oil Sands Operating ULC does? They “aren’t currently a shipper”—but will they be after it’s built and bidding opens up?

The fact is that throughout the hearings and investigations into the Koch’s interest in KXL, Koch Industries has repeated that they have no interest in the pipeline, which is false. Being one of the largest land holders in the tar sands, providing money to pro-KXL congress people, spending millions funding groups who lobby for the pipeline, and by ignoring the most pointed criticisms in favor of reiterating falsehoods all point to a substantial interest in the pipeline.

Somebody is owed an apology all right.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by Gulf Watchers Group, Climate Change SOS, and Daily Kos.

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