My Turn: ‘Planet wrecker in chief’ — the U.S.?

Russ Vernon-Jones

Russ Vernon-Jones CONTRIBUTED

By RUSS VERNON-JONES

Published: 12-18-2023 4:10 PM

Eight years ago in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the nations of the world set a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. They agreed that every nation, and especially the wealthiest ones, would contribute to reducing climate damaging emissions.

Since then many people, businesses, climate organizations, and governments around the world have worked to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, reduce the use of fossil fuels, preserve forests, and generally reduce our collective carbon footprint. In the United States we’ve had some modest success. Since 2005 our polluting emissions have fallen 20%. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is accelerating our progress with significant incentives for transitioning to renewable energy.

However, while we’ve been making progress on domestic emissions, something horrible has been happening in the U.S. that is having a huge global impact — worsening the climate crisis with deadly effects on people all over the world. Since 2015,the U.S. has gone from exporting no oil and virtually no LNG (liquefied “natural” methane gas) to becoming the largest driller and exporter of gas and oil in the world! The increased emissions from the gas and oil we export are so great that they exceed all the reductions we’ve achieved in our domestic greenhouse gas emissions since 2005.

One effect has been to increase the use of methane gas in other parts of the world and slow the global transition to renewable energy. These U.S. exports are also stimulating the building of more methane gas infrastructure in other countries, locking in their use of climate-destroying gas for decades to come.

What’s even more alarming is that, while we already have seven giant methane gas (LNG) export terminals, the industry is pushing hard to construct 20 more, mostly along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas. One of these proposed terminals, known as CP2 (which is not a lovable Star Wars robot) is awaiting permit approval by the Biden Administration. It would be so big that it would be responsible for twenty times more greenhouse gas emissions annually than the much opposed Willow oil drilling project in Alaska that Biden recently approved.

The proposed build out of gas liquefaction export terminals in the Gulf Coast is the largest proposed fossil fuel expansion anywhere in the world. According to Oil Change International, the U.S. is on course to be the world’s “Planet Wrecker in Chief.

This would be an environmental disaster for the folks who live anywhere near the terminal. At a Zoom webinar last month I had an opportunity to meet Travis Darder, a remarkable Indigenous man who makes his living fishing in that area of the Gulf. It was heartbreaking to hear him describe how when the first terminal was built it dramatically reduced fishing catches on his boat and for all the other fishers and shrimpers in the area.

He said that now that the gas companies want to build more terminals, it threatens to make fishing in the area extinct. Other local activists explained that the expansion of export terminals in that area will make this beautiful Louisiana coast into a “Cancer Coast” similar to ”Cancer Alley.”

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Next month I plan to answer some key questions about the campaign to end expansion of gas exports. 1) Isn’t methane gas, also euphemistically known as natural gas, better for the environment than other fossil fuels? 2) Doesn’t Europe need this additional gas? 3) Politically, is there any chance of stopping CP2 and other export terminals from being approved? (The short answers are: “no, no, and yes.”)

Meanwhile, I will tell you that a big campaign is underway to stop these additional export terminals and the increased pollution and climate damage they will cause. I invite you to join me in signing a petition (https://bit.ly/NoNewLNG) on Action Network telling President Biden and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to “Stop CP2 and new Liquefied Natural Gas Exports.” In a relatively short period of time, this petition has gained over a quarter million signatures. Organizers are hoping to get to one million signatures. Please sign and share with everyone you think might sign.

Russ Vernon-Jones of Amherst is a member of the Steering Committee of Climate Action Now (CAN). The views expressed here are his own. He blogs regularly on climate justice at www.russvernonjones.org.