My Turn: Planet wrecker in chief — Part 2

Russ Vernon-Jones

Russ Vernon-Jones CONTRIBUTED


Published: 01-18-2024 6:45 PM

Last month I wrote about the damage the U.S. is causing to the global climate by exporting huge amounts of oil and LNG (liquefied natural methane gas) — the most of any country in the world. I shared the information that the fossil fuel industry wants to vastly increase exports — so much so that Oil Change International says the U.S. is on course to be the world’s “Planet Wrecker in Chief.

Now there is a growing movement to limit U.S. exports of fossil fuels by persuading the Biden Administration to deny permits for any additional LNG export terminals. Members of Congress, scientists, over 230 environmental organizations, and more than 300,000 signers of a petition are all urging President Biden to put a stop to this climate-destroying madness.

I promised that this month I would answer three questions about this LNG export matter. Here they are:

First, isn’t methane gas, also euphemistically known as natural gas, better for the environment than other fossil fuels?

No. It used to be thought that methane gas resulted in fewer harmful emissions than burning coal. It is now clear that because gas has 84 times the climate-destroying impact of carbon dioxide, and because it inevitably leaks at the well-head where it is being fracked and from the pipelines and compressor stations that distribute it, and emits greenhouse gases when it is burned, gas distributed by pipeline is just as bad as coal.

Worse yet, a new paper from one of the world’s leading experts on methane gas, has found that when the gas is liquefied and put in tankers and shipped long distances (which is exactly what the proposed terminals on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas are for), the total effect on the climate is at least 24% worse than digging up coal and burning it. Of course, we should really be comparing its effect to the impact of generating the same amount of power via renewable energy. In that comparison methane gas is a loser by a mile. Liquefied methane gas (LNG) is only a winner for the greed-driven gas companies that are willing to destroy the climate of the world to feed their own profits.

Doesn’t Europe need this additional gas?

No. The predicted disaster of Europe freezing after Russia reduced its gas exports, never developed. The Europeans dramatically increased their rate of installing heat pumps and renewable energy generation, reduced their energy consumption through efficiency measures, and found other sources of gas. Furthermore, these U.S. gas export terminals take 3-5 years to build and wouldn’t be online in time to meet any immediate needs in Europe or elsewhere.

Politically, is there any chance of stopping additional export terminals from being approved?

Yes. The proposed terminals need permits from the Department of Energy in Washington that the Biden Administration could deny without needing any Congressional action or emergency powers. The increase in LNG exports has raised the price of “natural” methane gas for consumers in the U.S. Biden could benefit politically from stopping these terminals to avoid further domestic price increases.

After generating an uproar with his approval of the Alaskan Willow drilling project, Biden badly needs a win with younger, more environmentally conscious voters. The approval of previous recent LNG terminals was based on government studies produced by the Trump Administration that are flawed, and now completely out-of-date with the latest research. Denying permits for new terminals, or even delaying them until new studies can be done, could be a political winner for him.

I was horrified, but not surprised, to learn recently that the U.S. is not only exporting these huge quantities of oil and gas, but is also financing fossil fuel infrastructure in developing nations ($1.8 billion in 2023), locking more and more of the world into energy systems that further destroy the climate. If this expansion of LNG exports is not stopped, the whole world will see its chances of ever containing the climate crisis vastly diminished.

Climate movement leaders, environmental justice advocates, and frontline community members are calling for a three day sit-in at the Department of Energy in Washington D.C. this Feb. 6-8 to pressure the Biden Administration to pause the issuance of any new LNG terminal permits. It will be an entirely peaceful protest, with only some participants (300?) engaging in civil disobedience.

Following my conscience, I’m planning to go to D.C. and participate. If you’d like to join me, let me know at More information is available at, If you aren’t going to join the protest, please at least sign the petition there and help build public awareness of the issue by talking about it in your everyday conversations. You will be doing something important — building public support for a key action that can help stop the climate crisis.

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