The Interior Department has said that current coal leases contain enough reserves to support 20 years of production. Oil and gas drillers are also sitting on 13 million acres that they’ve already leased but where they are not producing.
Federal lands account for about 40 percent of the nation’s coal production, a quarter of oil production and an eighth of gas output. The emissions from producing and using those fuels were equal to nearly 20 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas output in 2014.
But while any reversal may take time to be felt, an analysis published last year by researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute in Seattle estimated that a policy like the one Warren is proposing could, by 2030, cut global carbon dioxide emissions by 280 million tons per year, equal to pulling 54 million cars off the road.
Advocates say that leaving as much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground as possible is critical to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.
Trump Stripped Away Previous Leasing Limits
During the Obama administration, federal agencies began to include climate concerns in their reviews of energy projects.
That was part of why Obama rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada’s tar sands, implemented a short-lived moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands, and placed large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans off limits to oil and gas drilling.
All of those policies were reversed by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump‘s agencies have stripped away regulations meant to limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling, opened up new areas in Alaska to drilling and proposed allowing drilling off nearly all of the nation’s coastline. Some of the administration’s moves have been blocked by courts, however, including a ruling last month by a federal judge in Alaska that reinstated the Obama-era ban on drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
Domestic oil and gas production, which increased steadily during the Obama administration, has surged over the past two years. The United States is now the world’s top oil and gas producer, and an increasingly important exporter too.
Could Warren’s Plan Survive a Legal Challenge?
Several of the Democratic candidates for president have condemned Trump’s attempts to expand offshore drilling. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) joined Sanders and Warren in co-sponsoring a 2017 bill that would have halted the issuance of new fossil fuel leases on federal lands, similar to Warren’s new proposal. While those moves could gain supporters, they also could generate more opposition in fossil fuel-producing regions.
Dan Naatz, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, issued a statement after Warren’s announcement this week saying that her proposal “would damage our economy and negatively impact job growth in communities across the United States.”
Michael Gerrard, faculty director at Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said in an email that a Warren administration would have to provide a clear rationale for implementing a ban on new leases, and pointed to the moratorium on coal leasing implemented by the Obama administration as precedent.
As long as her plan met a number of legal requirements, including providing an environmental assessment that justified the moratorium, he said, “it should survive attack in court.”
Climate Plan Also Boosts Renewable Energy
Warren, like many of the candidates, has said she supports the Green New Deal, which would shift the nation rapidly away from fossil fuels while promoting job growth and social justice. She sponsored a bill in the Senate last year that would have required companies to disclose more information about their climate risks and their emissions. On Monday, she also asked the Government Accountability Office to review the risks posed by climate change to defense contractors and the defense supply chain.
Her promise to halt new fossil fuel leasing could set a new benchmark for candidates as they roll out policy platforms in the 2020 campaign. As part of her plan to boost renewable energy production on federal lands, Warren said she would set a goal of getting 10 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable energy produced offshore or on federally owned land.
“We need our public lands and waters and the fossil fuels they hold to be part of the climate solution and not part of the problem, and that’s the direction her plan points in,” said Sharon Buccino, a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund. “That doesn’t mean it’s an immediate halt to all drilling going on. But it does mean we’re not continuing to dig our climate hole deeper.”
** April 17, 2019 by Common Dreams Bernie Sanders ‘Raises the Bar Even Further’ on Climate With Vow to Ban Fracking, All New Fossil Fuel Projects “That is exactly the kind of leadership we need if we hope to stop the worst impacts of climate change.” by Jake Johnson, staff writer
Bernie Sanders won praise from environmental groups after releasing a climate platform that calls for a complete ban on fracking, a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure, an end to oil exports, and a Green New Deal.
“Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet,” the Vermont senator and 2020 contender wrote on the climate page of his website, which was unveiled this week.
If elected president, Sanders said, his administration will work to:
- Pass a Green New Deal to save American families money and generate millions of jobs by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A Green New Deal will protect workers and the communities in which they live to ensure a transition to family-sustaining wage, union jobs.
- Invest in infrastructure and programs to protect the frontline communities most vulnerable to extreme climate impacts like wildfires, sea level rise, drought, floods, and extreme weather like hurricanes.
- Reduce carbon pollution emissions from our transportation system by building out high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit.
- Ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground by banning fossil fuel leases on public lands.
- End exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.
Sanders’ climate platform comes just days after fellow 2020 hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) vowed that her administration would ban fossil fuel drilling offshore and on public lands on day one.
Environmentalists celebrated the senators’ bold climate positions and urged other 2020 contenders to follow suit.
“I love this competition!” tweeted David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change International.
The ACLU’s Phil Aroneanu said Sanders’ call for a total ban on both fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure “raises the bar even further.”
Collin Rees, senior campaigner at Oil Change U.S., said in a statement Tuesday that any presidential candidate who is serious about confronting climate change must be willing to take on the fossil fuel industry.
“That’s why it’s great to see Senator Sanders’ new climate platform hit the industry where it hurts by banning new fossil fuel infrastructure, stopping fracking, banning fossil fuel leases on public lands, and ending polluting exports,” said Rees.
“Along with Senator Warren’s commitment to ban new fossil fuel leases on public lands on day one,” Rees added, “this plan from Senator Sanders means we’re seeing the bar for climate leadership raised to new heights.”
Sanders and Warren unveiled their bold proposals amid a growing push for Democratic presidential candidates to hold a climate-specific debate during the primary process, in an effort to force candidates to detail how they would tackle the ecological crisis.
As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, the U.S. Youth Climate Strike team’s petition demanding a climate debate garnered over 30,000 signatures in just 48 hours.
“With the magnitude of the oncoming climate crisis, it’s no longer sufficient to have a single token environmental question that 2020 candidates get to brush off with a soundbite,” the petition reads. “We need an entire debate on environmental policies.”
Socialism — Political Ideology, Or Essential For Our Survival?
April 19th, 2019 by Andy Miles, Clean Technica
Republicans could not easily reject the Green New Deal in its old way — on the basis of totally ignoring climate change and completely denying the need to do something about it. Even oil corporations agree that climate change is happening and caused by burning fossil fuels. Republican politicians had to look at some other excuse for refusing to do anything to save the American people from catastrophic changes to the climate, that their own misguided, fossil-fuel-loving policies are causing. “Too expensive,” they said. “It would bankrupt America. It is just an excuse to inflict crackpot socialist ideas on America.” Even those more conservative amongst the Democrats baulk at some of the radical proposals of the Green New Deal.
USA — Bankrupt, or Just Morally Bankrupt?
What will bankrupt America, without any doubt, are Republican policies, which not only fail to do anything about climate change, but perversely persist in supporting and accelerating fossil-fuel exploration, extraction, and utilization in the USA. It is a well established fact that doing nothing in the face of climate change will literally cost the Earth, and the cost of the Earth is many $trillions more than the cost of any measures to avoid climate change.
It is also the case that investing in renewable energy, and energy efficiency would create thousands of jobs for American citizens, which would be much more pleasant work than coal mining and oil extraction. It would also make an abundance of low-cost energy available to all.
But there you are, the Republican cover story’s many weak points.
Republican Concern for “Ordinary Americans”
Strangely, they also tried to say that the Green New Deal was “elitist.” Normally, Republicans don’t seem to have any problem with elitism of any kind. They normally seem happy with enormous inequalities in wealth, opportunity, housing, education, and the provision of health services.
However, they made a special exception for the Green New Deal and suddenly became very concerned that those poor ordinary people could not afford to buy $50,000 electric vehicles, could not afford photovoltaic panels on their roofs, could not afford top-quality insulation and heat-pumps in their houses.
These green policies, they said, were just fine for wealthy liberals to discuss over canapés and Proseco at their organic vegan dinner parties, but not something that could be considered or afforded by fine upstanding ordinary American citizens. This sudden outpouring of concern for the common people by Republicans was most touching, and made one wonder if they might have a real beating heart hidden in there somewhere after all.
AOC Tells It How It Is
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes was not in any way impressed, however, and replied to their specious argument with the contempt it deserved. Her manner of address was very much as I would imagine a schoolmistress who had finally lost patience with some particularly irritating badly-behaved children. She spelt it out to them very firmly, the rights and wrongs of the particular case. For anyone who has not seen this deeply
An Unintended Truth
Unwittingly, it is here that the Republicans’ arguments are shining a glaring spotlight on a problem which they themselves would not like anyone to see. They have unintentionally highlighted a certain truth. I say “unintentionally,” as it is not very often that a Republican politician deliberately tells the truth. The truth is that the only way catastrophic climate change can be avoided is if all citizens adopt necessary changes in their lifestyles. As the Republicans rightly say, many US citizens lack the means to implement those changes in lifestyle which so desperately need to be made. This is so largely because of their own policies.
To overcome the poverty and inequality Republican policies have created, the only solution is to reverse those policies and provide state funding for some necessary goods. This, like providing universal health care, would be classed as “socialism.” That “socialism” word is enough to make the average Republican choke on their breakfast coffee. The question is — how else is the transition to a clean, green society to be achieved?
The Land of the Free (Market?)
If, as Republicans correctly point out, the ordinary American citizen does not have resources of their own to acquire all the necessary technology, then it must be provided for them. This, as the Green New Deal itself specifies, would require increases in taxation for the rich and corporations, and for people of low enough income to be given grants by the government, paid for out of that taxation.
Instead of allowing people to live in substandard accommodation provided by private landlords, the government needs to set up social housing trusts to build carbon neutral accommodation for people to occupy at subsidized rents. This, of course, would be “socialism,” which, according to Republicans, every fine upstanding American citizen needs to be protected from at all costs.
The USA is the land of the free: the land where people are free to be poor, without any pesky government interference; the land where people are free to die if they can’t afford the medical treatment they need, or, if they can afford it, free to go bankrupt once the money or the medical insurance has run out. This keeps US citizens free of the tyranny of higher taxes that pay for state health care for all, or other such immoral government interference.
The USA is the land where citizens are free to work in two — or even three — jobs, just to pay their rent, buy food, and cover all their bills. That also means, unfortunately, that they are free to continue polluting on a grand scale, because they can’t afford the means to do anything different.
Poison in Our Politics, Our Air, Our Water, and Our Fields
Currently, we are not only failing to reduce our emissions, but are actually increasing them. This, when we need to be reducing atmospheric concentrations tremendously. Please be absolutely clear of the difference between reducing emissions and reducing concentrations. Even if we stopped emissions altogether, the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would remain. We have to drastically reduce or completely end emissions to start the process of restoring concentrations down to something more normal. To do that, we need every home to be fully electric and efficiently insulated, and we need every car to be electric too.
However, 30 years of neoliberalism have created enormous inequalities of wealth. It is the pursuit of profits at any cost that has given us a global ecological crisis. Plastics poison the oceans, agrochemicals poison our fields and our food, hydraulic fracturing has poisoned our water, and fossil fuels are poisoning the air we breath. In the meantime, the burning of fossil fuels has doubled the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere to over 400 ppm, and those are still rising towards unprecedented levels of 1000 ppm. Further, our agriculture, our waste disposal, and extracting fossil fuels are adding huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than CO2 to our atmosphere.
WWIII is Here
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right that we have to mobilize like we did for WWII, as if this were WWIII. Every man, woman, and child; every city, nation, and corporation; everyone needs to be doing everything within their power to change the way we are collectively living.
But there we come back to the inevitable conclusion that neoliberalism, and free-market economics without regulation or restraint, have created a situation where millions of people in some of the world’s richest nations are too poor to be able to make the necessary changes. In the UK, there are millions of people who are working but still have to rely on charity and state benefits to feed their families. In the USA, millions of people are just making it through each month. How are any of those people going to buy electric cars or install heat pumps to replace heaters for their homes? Republicans are quick to point that out, but very slow to realize that if we are to defeat global warming, those “ordinary Americans” will have to be able to afford these things.
Republicans were quick to say that the Green New Deal should have stuck to environmental issues without including radical socialist ideas, but slow to realize that without those socialist ideas, there is no hope of defeating global warming. Socialism is actually an essential and unavoidable part of the Green New Deal, and, indeed, any solution to the catastrophe of global warming.
AOC Says —
The following is taken from material posted on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s own website:
“The level of investment required is massive. Even if every billionaire, and company came together, and were willing to pour all the resources at their disposal into this investment, the aggregate value of the investments they could make would not be sufficient.
“The speed of investment required will be massive. Even if all the billionaires, and companies could make the investments required, they would not be able to pull together a coordinated response in the narrow window of time required to jump-start major new projects, and major new economic sectors. Also, private companies are wary of making massive investments in unproven research, and technologies; the government, however, has the time horizon to be able to patiently make investments in new tech, and R&D, without necessarily having a commercial outcome, or application in mind at the time the investment is made. Major examples of government investments in “new” tech that subsequently spurred a boom in the private section include DARPA projects, the creation of the internet – and, perhaps most recently, the government’s investment in Tesla.
“Simply put, we don’t need to just stop doing some things we are doing (like using fossil fuels for energy needs); we also need to start doing new things (like overhauling whole industries, or retrofitting all buildings to be energy efficient). Starting to do new things requires some upfront investment. In the same way that a company that is trying to change how it does business may need to make big upfront capital investments today in order to reap future benefits (for e.g., building a new factory to increase production, or buying new hardware, and software to totally modernize its IT system), a country that is trying to change how its economy works will need to make big investments today to jump-start, and develop new projects, and sectors to power the new economy.
“Merely incentivizing the private sector doesn’t work – e.g. the tax incentives, and subsidies given to wind, and solar projects have been a valuable spur to growth in the US renewables industry but, even with such investment promotion subsidies, the present level of such projects is simply inadequate to transition to a fully greenhouse gas neutral economy as quickly as needed.
“Once again, we’re not saying that there isn’t a role for private sector investments; we’re just saying that the level of investment required will need every actor to pitch in, and that the government is best placed to be the prime driver.”
So, in conclusion, Republicans are very keen to say that the “Green New Deal” should not have included any political content. Some of our readers are very keen to say we should not be introducing politics into our pages, which should be purely about clean technologies.
It is so very clear, though, that politics, and more specifically the ending of neoliberalism & free-market capitalism and introduction of socialist ideas, are absolutely essential to the survival of our species. Without that, we cannot make the necessary transition to a society which respects the environment, respects the needs of the People, and brings to an end our dependency on fossil-fuels.
For anyone wishing to pursue those ideas further, there is an interesting article about the evils of capitalism in The Guardian by George Monbiot.