Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Designs for 'mini' nuclear power plants proposed by Rolls-Royce led group set to be given go-ahead

An important report assessing the viability of new “mini” nuclear power plants for the UK to be published this week is expected to give the green light to develop designs proposed by a British consortium led by Rolls-Royce.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is set to issue a study which formally ends a competition between different types of low-carbon power generation to assess which should be supported.

Industry sources say a concurrent Techno-Economic Assessment for the government by EY concludes that designs for small nuclear reactors (SMRs) from the Rolls consortium are the more likely to succeed.

It is understood that rival proposals using US designs for “integral reactors” have been assessed as being harder to manufacture and maintain and not commercially viable.

A different concept from the Rolls consortium - which helped invent the integrated design in the 1980s but abandoned it for similar reasons in favour of a different concept - is expected to get the nod for development from BEIS.

A fleet of these SMRs could be cheaply produced to guarantee Britain’s energy supply, with hopes that the technology could be exported worldwide.

SMRs are a fraction of the size and cost of conventional nuclear plants. They are likely to be funded from the £250m pledged by the Government in 2015 to develop “innovative nuclear technologies” which would help the country hit climate change targets.

Studies from the nuclear industry claim Britain could take the lead in an estimated £450bn global industry if the country establishes itself as a leader in SMR technology.

A study published by the Rolls consortium - which includes Laing O’Rourke, Arup and Amec Foster Wheeler and which was reviewed by the Royal Academy of Engineering - called SMRs the “best opportunity” for the next generation of UK reactors.

The research claimed that once mature, SMR technology will deliver power at £60 per megawatt hour. This compares with £92.50 per megawatt hour slated for the giant Hinkley Point power station, which uses a conventional large reactor design.

A Whitehall source said: “The report is not good for those companies who are committed to integral SMRs.

“Rolls has been involved with this technology in the past and realised it is not designed with the energy utility in mind because it simply isn’t commercially investible.

“It also looks as if the Government has come to this view and is pursuing detailed talks with the Rolls-led SMR consortium.”

A spokesman for BEIS said: “We are currently considering next steps for the SMR programme and we will communicate these in due course.”


EPA Chief Set to Bar Government-Funded Experts From Agency’s Science Panels

Try asking the nation’s top environmental protection official to “describe the shortcomings of the scientific evidence for climate change,” and what type of data he might find persuasive on the subject.

You might shake loose news of major policy changes designed to end what President Donald Trump’s team sees as potential conflicts of interest that undermine the value of scientific advice to the government agency.

That opportunity came Tuesday for an audience member during The Heritage Foundation’s annual President’s Club meeting in Washington, where Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who now heads up the Environmental Protection Agency, took on that question.

Pruitt revealed that he will issue a directive aimed at ensuring the “independence, transparency, and objectivity” of experts who serve on the agency’s scientific advisory boards. He suggested he may rule out science advisers with a history of taking EPA grants, sometimes “to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars.”

“I think what’s most important at the agencies is to have scientific advisers who are objective, independent-minded, providing transparent recommendations to me as the administrator and to our office on the decisions that we’re making on the efficacy of rules that we’re passing to address environmental issues,” Pruitt said, adding:

If we have individuals that are on those [scientific advisory] boards that are receiving money from the agency, sometimes going back years and years to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars over time, that to me causes questions on the independence and the veracity of the transparency of the recommendations that are coming our way.

Pruitt specified the Science Advisory Board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Board of Scientific Counselors as concerns during his interview at the Heritage event.

The EPA administrator did not spell out what would be in his directive, but he drew a parallel with the steps he already has taken to end the practice known as sue and settle.

Speaking at length on the topic, he said that sue and settle enabled federal agencies to “engage in rulemaking through the litigation process.” Critics have faulted the practice for permitting environmental advocacy groups to set regulatory policy without input from the public or Congress.

Pruitt’s expected directive could immediately affect the 47-member Science Advisory Board, which is charged with reviewing the quality of scientific information that underpins EPA regulations. The board also reviews EPA research programs and directly advises the administrator.

Terms for 15 members of the Science Advisory Board are set to expire, and the agency has published a list of 132 possible candidates for the open seats.

Some on the list have expressed skepticism in one form or another toward the idea that human activity is the primary driver of climate change, much to the consternation of certain environmental advocacy groups.

These candidates include Kevin Dayaratna, senior statistician at Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis; Craig Idso, senior fellow at Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank; and Paul Driessen, senior policy adviser at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a libertarian environmental organization.

A report in The Washington Post on Pruitt’s interview at the Heritage event with Rob Bluey, editor-in-chief of The Daily Signal, quoted officials with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Union of Concerned Scientists who said the EPA administrator should apply the same standard concerning potential conflicts of interest to science advisers who receive funding from private corporate sources connected with the oil and gas industry.

But Steve Milloy, publisher of, told The Daily Signal in an email that Pruitt’s pending directive is right on target.

“For too long, EPA has been able to purchase the ‘science’ it wants from grants-hungry researchers and their universities,” Milloy said, adding:

The EPA would then employ these same scientists to review their own work under the guise of peer review. This system is entirely corrupt if not illegal, as the applicable laws require the boards to be independent and unbiased. Congress has tried to fix this problem, but has been unable. It’s terrific that Scott Pruitt has recognized the seriousness of this problem and is now taking steps to fix it.

Contrary to the howling of the left, this is not a purge of any viewpoints. This is a first step in restoring the purpose of the science review boards—to provide EPA with the various views of experts vs. the rubber-stamping of the agency agenda by cronies. There are many more steps that need to be taken to right the science advisory panel ship at EPA, but this is an important first one.

William Yeatman, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said he credits Pruitt for compelling the EPA to live up to its own standards. Yeatman cites reports from the agency’s own Office of Inspector General and from Congress, including: 

—EPA has taken the position that receipt of government grants doesn’t constitute a financial conflict of interest. However, the agency’s own Peer Review Handbook states that grants can be a conflict of interest if the advisory board plans to address work performed under the research grant.

—Six of the seven members of the 2015 Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, appointed by President Barack Obama, received a total of  $119.2 million in EPA research grants, according to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The panel, the most important of the science advisory boards, recommends national ambient air quality standards.

—The Obama administration’s prior clean air panel cited its own work more than 700 times, according to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

“The data suggest that these grants do indeed raise a conflict of interest as EPA defines it,” Yeatman said in an email to The Daily Signal. “So I welcome this reform effort to bring integrity to the advice EPA receives from outside advisers. For better or for worse, there are other federal sources of funding for science (e.g., NSF or NIH). It just makes sense to have EPA comport with its own rules.”

His references were to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

During his interview with Bluey, Pruitt also offered up his own definition of environmentalism, in contrast to how he said it has been defined by contemporary advocacy groups:

True environmentalism from my perspective is using natural resources that God has blessed us with to feed the world, to power the world with the sensitivity that future generations cultivate, to harvest, to be respectful good stewards, good managers of our natural resources, to bequeath those natural resources for the next generation.


EPA says 3 scientists won’t discuss climate change in R.I.

The Environmental Protection Agency has canceled the speaking appearance of three agency scientists who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference Monday in Rhode Island, according to the agency and several people involved.

John Konkus, a spokesman and former Trump campaign operative in Florida, confirmed that EPA scientists would not speak at the State of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed program in Providence. He provided no further explanation.

Scientists involved in the program said that much of the discussion at the event centers on climate change.

Many said they were surprised by the cancellation, particularly since the EPA helps to fund the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which is hosting the conference. The scientists who have been barred from speaking contributed substantial material to a 400-page report to be issued Monday.

The move highlights widespread concern that the EPA will silence government scientists from speaking publicly or conducting work on climate change. Scott Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, has said he does not believe human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are primarily responsible for the warming of the planet.

“It’s definitely a blatant example of the scientific censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at EPA,” said John King, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island who chairs the science advisory committee of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program.

“They don’t believe in climate change, so I think what they’re trying to do is stifle discussions of the impacts of climate change,” King said.

Monday’s conference is designed to draw attention to the health of Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England and a key to the region’s tourism and fishing industries. Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation, all Democrats, will attend a morning news conference. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, an outspoken critic of Pruitt, will be among the speakers.

Scientists there will unveil the report on the state of the bay, which EPA scientists helped research and write. Among the findings will be that climate change is affecting air and water temperatures, precipitation, sea levels, and fish in and around the estuary.

Autumn Oczkowski, a research ecologist at the EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory Atlantic Ecology Division in Rhode Island, was scheduled to give the keynote address. Colleagues said she intended to address climate change and other factors affecting the health of the estuary.

Rose Martin, a postdoctoral fellow at the same EPA laboratory and Emily Shumchenia, an EPA consultant, were scheduled to speak on “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.”

“The report is about trends. It’s kind of hard not to talk about climate change when you’re talking about the future of the Narragansett Bay,” King said.

The agenda and speaker lineup was e-mailed to attendees Oct. 4. Tom Borden, program director of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, said he received a call Friday from Wayne Munns, director of the Atlantic ecology division of the EPA’s Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, telling him the three scientists would not be allowed to speak.

“I was not really provided with a clear explanation,” Borden said. “He advised me that it was the decision of the EPA Office of Public Affairs.”

Several Rhode Island scientists who work closely with the regional lab said political officials from EPA headquarters in Washington spent two days last week in the Rhode Island office reviewing the lab’s work.

Munns confirmed that EPA officials would not be participating in the meeting but did not explain why. Konkus, the agency spokesman, did not respond to questions about whether the conference’s focus on climate change was a factor.

He said in an e-mail that EPA scientists may attend the program, but not the morning news conference. He later clarified, saying, “EPA staff will not be formally presenting at either.”

Since August, all EPA awards and grant solicitations have gone through Konkus’ office for review.

A longtime Republican operative, Konkus served on President Trump’s campaign before he was appointed deputy associate administrator in EPA’s Office of Public Affairs. At the time, agency officials said they were ensuring agency funding is in line with Pruitt’s priorities.

The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program is funded through the EPA’s approximately $26 million National Estuary Program. It funds 28 state-based estuary programs and delivers about $600,000 annually to the Narragansett Bay program. Pruitt’s proposed budget for 2018 would eliminate the national program.

Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA also has removed most mentions of the words “climate change” from its website.

He has declined to link carbon dioxide emissions to global warming, and in an interview with Time magazine last week said he intended to assemble a team of independent experts to challenge established climate science because, Pruitt asserted, it has not yet been subject to “a robust, meaningful debate.”

On an EPA website, scores of links to materials to help local officials prepare for a world of rising temperatures and more severe storms have been removed.

Among the now-missing pages are those detailing the risks of climate change and the different approaches states are taking to curb emissions. Also edited out were examples of statewide plans to adapt to weather extremes.



Bad news is always more newsworthy than good. The widely reported finding that insect abundance is down by 75 per cent in Germany over 27 years was big news, while, for example, the finding in May that ocean acidification is a lesser threat to corals than had been thought caused barely a ripple. The study, published in the leading journal Nature, found that corals’ ability to make skeletons is “largely independent of changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, and hence ocean acidification”. But good news is no news.

And bad news is big news. The German insect study, in a pay-to-publish journal, may indeed be a cause for concern, but its findings should be treated with caution, my professional biologist friends tell me. It did not actually compare the same sites over time. Indeed most locations were only sampled once, and the scientists used mathematical models to extract a tentative trend from the inconsistent sampling.

Greens were quick to use the insect study to argue for a ban on the widely used herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup, despite no evidence for a connection. Glyphosate is made by Monsanto and sometimes used in conjunction with genetically modified crops.

Their campaign comes to a head this Wednesday in Brussels, where an expert committee of the European Commission will decide whether to ban glyphosate. The European parliament has already voted to do so, though its vote carries no weight. The committee will probably defer a decision until December, amid signs that the commission is getting fed up with the way French politicians in particular demand a ban in public then argue against it in private.

The entire case against glyphosate is one “monograph” from an obscure World Health Organisation body called the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which concluded that glyphosate might cause cancer at very high doses. It admitted that by the same criteria, sausages and sawdust should also be classified as carcinogens.

Indeed, pound for pound coffee is more carcinogenic than the herbicide, with the big difference that people pour coffee down their throats every day, which they don’t glyphosate. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was recently found to contain glyphosate at a concentration of up to 1.23 parts per billion. At that rate a child would have to eat more than three tonnes of ice cream every day to reach the level at which any health effect could be measured.

The IARC finding is contradicted by the European Food Safety Authority as well as the key state safety agencies in America, Australia and elsewhere. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment looked at more than 3,000 studies and found no evidence of any risk to human beings at realistic doses: carcinogenic, mutagenic, neurotoxic or reproductive. Since glyphosate is a molecule that interferes with a metabolic process found in all plants but no animals, this is hardly surprising.

Meanwhile, glyphosate has huge environmental benefits for gardeners and farmers. In particular, it is an alternative to the destructive practice of ploughing to control weeds. It allows no-till agriculture, a burgeoning practice that preserves soil structure, moisture and carbon content, enabling worms and insects to flourish, improving drainage and biodiversity while allowing the high-yield farming that is essential if we are to feed humanity without cultivating more land. Organic farmers rely on frequent tillage.

How did the IARC paper come to its alarmist conclusion? Well, we now know, thanks to Reuters, which reported that IARC prepared a draft which somebody altered in ten different places. “In each case, a negative conclusion about glyphosate leading to tumors was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one.”

Last week, The Times reported how the scientist who advised the IARC to classify glyphosate as carcinogenic received $160,000 from law firms suing Monsanto on behalf of cancer victims. Christopher Portier began advising one of the firms about two months before IARC’s decision on glyphosate. He said that he had been hired to advise on an unrelated matter and his contract to advise on glyphosate was dated nine days after the IARC announcement in 2015.

Dr Portier has denied that his advice was influenced by financial interest. He told The Times that he “probably should have” declared his links with the law firms in an open letter sent to the European health commissioner urging him to disregard the European Food Safety Authority’s finding before he did so.

The Corporate European Observatory, which claims that it is in the business of “exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU”, nevertheless rushed to the defence of Dr Portier. It argued that reports about the scientist should be seen as “outright attempts at character assassination”.

As David Zaruk of the Universit√© Saint-Louis, Brussels, replied: “You forgot to mention Portier's…belief that he had no conflict of interest working for the Environmental Defense Fund [an anti-pesticide lobby group].”

Here is Zaruk's version of events:

This blog is based on statements in Christopher Portier’s deposition in the liability litigation hearings related to the cases against Monsanto’s Roundup (commonly known as the “Monsanto Papers”). Portier was the external special adviser to the IARC working group that prepared their famous “glyphosate is probably carcinogenic” decision.  This expos√© will highlight the following information:

During the same week that IARC had published its opinion on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity, Christopher Portier signed a lucrative contract to be a litigation consultant for two law firms preparing to sue Monsanto on behalf of glyphosate cancer victims.

This contract has remunerated Portier for at least 160,000 USD (until June, 2017) for initial preparatory work as a litigation consultant (plus travel).

This contract contained a confidentiality clause restricting Portier from transparently declaring this employment to others he comes in contact with. Further to that, Portier has even stated that he has not been paid a cent for work he’s done on glyphosate.

It became clear, in emails provided in the deposition, that Portier’s role in the ban-glyphosate movement was crucial. He promised in an email to IARC that he would protect their reputation, the monograph conclusion and handle the BfR and EFSA rejections of IARC’s findings.

Portier admitted in the deposition that prior to the IARC glyphosate meetings, where he served as the only external expert adviser, he had never worked and had no experience with glyphosate.

I am still too shocked to know where to start!

And here is Portier's response to my inquiries:

"All of the letters I wrote concerning the scientific quality of the reviews by EFSA, EChA and the US EPA have been done on my own time, using my own resources, and written by myself or in collaboration with my co-authors. Where appropriate, I have declared my conflict of interest and I can provide you with details of this as appropriate.

When I was asked to speak with the EC Health Commissioner, I notified his staff that I was working with the law firm, and the subject of that work, but that I was coming as an expert academic scientist to explain the differences between the IARC review and the EFSA review along with my colleagues.  They asked all of us to register on the EC Transparency Registry, so I did.  However, a few days later, they concluded that I did not need to register and informed me they would be removing my name from the registry.  The record of this is available here…

 As you can see, I am not in the registry currently, but I was on it on December 21, 2015. So, the first date I notified the EC Commissioners office about my working with a law firm on glyphosate would have been before December 21, 2015.  As of this date, I had spent less than 4 hours working for the law firm.

Both my recent letters to President Juncker (disclosure after my signature) and my testimony at the European Parliament (slide 2) disclose this arrangement.  I also made the disclosure in my 2016 paper in JECH (attached) And I disclosed it in advance to the EU Parliament staffer when I was asked to participant. I also disclosed it to the EPA staffer in advance of the comments I sent to them.

As to the contractual agreement I have with a U.S. law firm, in 2015 and 2016, I did approximately 30 hours of work in total for the firm.  That translates to less than 1.5 hours per month.  The remuneration I received that was asked about in Monsanto's deposition of me was almost entirely earned since March of this year when I was asked to be an expert witness in a U.S. court case on glyphosate. 

This expert work required me to do a thorough review of all of the available evidence, to read all of the epidemiology, toxicology and genotoxicity studies, and to reanalyze most of the studies I could re-analyze based on the availability of the data. Indeed, in this work I even identified tumors in the animal studies not identified in the EFSA, EChA or EPA evaluations.  This took more than 2 months of me working full time.  If you care to read the 250 page expert report, it is available below along with the full deposition:

It also required me to spend time and effort to respond to the Expert Reports by Monsanto’s experts (7 of them) which took a few weeks of my time.  So, to be clear, the comments I sent to EFSA, EChA, EPA were not done at the behest of the law firm, and in fact preceded the report I wrote as an expert witness in this one case.

It is important to realise that Europe banning glyphosate would open up a litigation bonanza in the US. Bounty-hunting law firms are in cahoots with environmental NGOs, to bring them business putting companies under pressure based on the theory that barely detectable doses of chemicals might do harm. Johnson & Johnson faces claims over the alleged carcinogenicity of talcum powder, for instance.

The technique, says David Zaruk, is to “manipulate public perception, create fear or outrage by co-operating with activists, gurus and NGOs, find a corporate scapegoat and litigate the hell out of them”. The glyphosate story is a scandal, of the kind that would be front-page news if it happened in industry, rather than a branch of WHO. But the BBC has not covered the Reuters story. Indeed, its presenter Chris Packham campaigns to get glyphosate banned. WHO itself shows no sign of investigating, although the US Congress, a major funder of IARC, is starting to take an interest.

The episode lifts the lid on a questionable network of activist scientists, NGOs, and financiers, not to mention useful-idiot politicians. Scientists raise a scare, lawyers sue on the back of it, bureaucrats give themselves work, all profit. Cancer victims are misled, consumers deceived, farmers’ livelihoods destroyed and environmental benefits undone. But who cares if there is money to be made?

Note: I have never been paid by Monsanto.


Podesta’s ‘Green Company’ Forced to Close Because Hillary Lost the Election

Gravy train fails to depart. Taxpayers win

Joule Unlimited, a secretive green energy company that appears to have placed a big bet hiring Democratic insider John Podesta to its board, appears to have been doomed when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election.

When the 2016 presidential election ended, senior company executives admitted the prospects for their renewable energy “biofuels” company evaporated. “We had a lot of prospects last year,” former Joule CEO Brian Baynes told BioFuels Digest in a rare interview in July. “But those new investor prospects walked away, particularly post-election.”

Dmitry Akhanov, the president and CEO of Rusnano USA Inc., a Kremlin-owned venture capital firm nicknamed “Putin’s child,” oversaw the Russian government’s investment in Joule and sat on its board along with two other Russians with ties to the Kremlin.  Akhavov agreed that Clinton’s loss doomed the company.

“We lined up investors who were willing to buy the bonds, but after the elections, with some statements from the new administration regarding potential uncertainty, the future support of biofuels was stopped,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “The company was not able to do the deal and it was one of the reasons why the company was closed.”

Akhanov confirmed to TheDCNF his company invested and lost 1 billion rubles, worth $35 million when Joule closed its doors.

The two other board members with ties to Moscow were Ruben Vardanyan, who Putin appointed to a Russian economic modernization council, and Anatoly Chubais, a close personal friend of former President Bill Clinton and economic advisor to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.  Chubais allegedly made millions in the sell-off and “privatization” of Russia’s state-owned industries.

The FBI was concerned about Russian government investments in American high-technology firms, as previously reported by TheDCNF.

Lucia Ziobro, the special agent in charge at the FBI’s Boston field office, issued an “extraordinary warning” in 2014 about Russian investors to startups like Joule.

“The FBI believes the true motives of the Russian partners, who are often funded by their government, is to gain access to classified, sensitive and emerging technology from the companies,” she wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed.

Hillary’s loss of the 2016 presidential election meant Podesta would not serve in the White House and thus was not in a position to advance the company’s prospects.

The Obama administration became a big “hedge fund” trying to finance and promote renewable energy technologies at any cost, Thomas Pyle, president of the libertarian Institute for Energy Research, told TheDCNF.

“The whole entire eight years under Obama, the Department of Energy was basically a hedge fund — and a bad one — for renewable energy for wind, solar and biofuels,” he said.

Critics of former President Barack Obama’s renewable energy agenda believe it’s likely a President Hillary Clinton would have doubled down on Obama’s renewable energy initiatives.

“If Hillary Clinton had won, then we would have four to eight more years of the Obama trajectory, which means everything that calls itself ‘progressive energy policy’ would have just ramped up,” Marlo Lewis Jr., a senior fellow at the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, told TheDCNF.

“So the market would have been even more tilted in favor of so-called ‘green energy companies. And President Trump has basically changed the direction,” he said.

Since entering office, Trump reversed many of Obama’s regulatory mandates that hurt fossil fuels and assisted renewable energy in the marketplace. He also ended the U.S. participation in the Paris agreement on climate change, which was designed to cut carbon emissions.

Trump signed a sweeping executive order in late March at the Environmental Protection Agency that rescinded six of Obama’s climate change executive orders.

“The order represents a clear difference between how Trump and former President Barack Obama view the role the United States plays in combating climate change,” CNN reported at the time.

Podesta was one of Joule’s biggest political assets. He had served as President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff and co-founded Podesta Associates, a D.C. lobbying shop with his brother Tony. John Podesta also founded the Center for American Progress, a Washington liberal advocacy group.

Podesta served on Joule’s board from December 2010 to December 2013. In January 2014, he joined the Obama White House, where he served as “counselor” to President Obama. After leaving the White House, he joined Hillary Clinton to help run her presidential campaign as its national chairman.

From the very beginning, Joule executives knew Podesta’s value. Bill Sims, one of Joule’s CEOs, was excited about landing Podesta and talked about “leveraging his insights” when he announced the board appointment.

“We look forward to leveraging his insights as we progress toward international deployment,” he declared.

As one of the biggest power players in Washington, Podesta could open doors for Joule. Obama’s first secretary of energy, Steven Chu, visited the company in November 2011, according to WikiLeaks.

Podesta told Chu’s chief of staff, Brandon Hurlbut, he was delighted with the upcoming Chu visit. “The gang is excited. I think he’ll be impressed,” he wrote in a Nov. 28, 2011, email released by WikiLeaks.

“I felt fortunate to be able to engage with a leading expert like John to get feedback, as I did with many other experts,” Hurlbut told McClatchy News for a 2016 article titled, “WikiLeaks emails show how Clinton’s campaign chief once opened doors for energy firm.”

And even as he worked at the White House, Podesta apparently continued to provide advice to Joule.

“As promised, I am providing to you a corporate slide presentation, a short summary of the company and videos of the Hobbs plant. Please let me know if I should change any of it, or feel free to edit as you see fit. I look forward to learning about next steps and to your guidance for the company about how best to forge partnerships globally,” Noubar Afeyan, the founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, the main venture capital firm that underwrote Joule Unlimited, told Podesta in an Aug. 31, 2015, email.

On Oct. 12, 2015, Afeyan followed up, emailing Podesta, “Dear John, I wanted to get this back on your radar screen hoping you can make some intros in the far east as we had previously discussed. Please let me know how I can follow up. Regards, Noubar.”

Podesta did not respond to a request for comment.

The company’s rise as well as its demise have been shrouded in secrecy. It claimed to have a patent for genetically engineered microbes that could harness the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into ethanol, diesel fuel or jet fuel.

“Many people were very skeptical that they could pull off what they were trying to pull off,” Robert Rapier, who runs a website called R-Squared Energy, told The Boston Globe.

“There are other companies out there that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and come up with the same results,” John Beneman, an expert on algae-based biofuels and CEO of MicroBio Engineering, told the Globe. “Either they are walking dead, or ghosts, or resting in peace.”

Jim Lane, a reporter for Biofuels Daily who favors renewable energy technologies, noted the company had a penchant for secrecy including when it closed its doors.

“The news from Joule closes out an extraordinary period of silence for a company that we once described as The Sultans of Stealth for their secretive approach to development,” he wrote.

The firm went through four CEOs in less than two years, according to Biofuels Digest.

Further adding to its mystery, the company raised 1 billion Rubles or $35 million from Rusano, the Kremlin-owned nanotechnology company that set up a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Two other Russians with Kremlin ties sat on Joule’s board along with Podesta.



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