One week after the People’s Climate March, eight U.S. Senators, including our own Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, wrote a letter to the President urging him “to establish national standards to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas sector.”
This might seem progress to some, but I’m afraid that our Senators lost me even before the get-go:
We strongly support your Administration’s efforts to address climate change through implementation of your Climate Action Plan as we continue to push for climate action in Congress.
The Climate Action Plan was fraudulent in its presentation as it completely ignored the problem of fugitive methane, escaping gas that contributes with a vengeance to global warming.
In its implementation, the “Plan” will be calamitous for the global climate. I wrote about this more than a year ago: Of spying and genocide. All that changed is that the key point, namely that natural gas (mostly methane) is a bridge to nowhere, has been put on an even firmer basis.
The rhetoric of The President’s Climate Action Plan and the hot air generated ever since might sound impressive, but anyone who looks at how the plan is put into action is in for a rude awakening. The following recent news items clearly demonstrate this:
- Feds Approve Fourth LNG Export Terminal Amid Growing Pressure To Cash In On U.S. Energy Boom
- Dominion Wins US Approval For Cove Point Gas Export Terminal: “The U.S. has previously approved liquefied natural gas exports from Cheniere Energy Inc. (LNG)’s Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, and the Freeport LNG Terminal in Quintana Island, Texas. About 18 applications are pending at the department.”
- U.S. Gas Boom Turns Global as LNG Exports to Shake Up Market
These articles refer to 20-year export contracts at a time when we have to reduce global emissions by 6% per year as of 2014. That amounts to a reduction by 70% over those 20 years. Does the Administration have a Secret Action Plan for migration to Planet B, and, if so, do our Senators have reserved seats on an escape vehicle?
Keep the LNG export facilities in mind, and then read the justification our Senators present for the expansion of the gas pipeline infrastructure:
Despite the abundance of domestic natural gas resources and low natural gas prices elsewhere in the United States, New England has not received the same benefit as other regions. [... S]ignificantly constrained pipeline capacity into the region has driven up natural gas and wholesale electricity prices …
Let’s see how that works. So, we’re going to keep domestic gas prices down by building export facilities for the global market with its much higher gas prices? Does that not sound as if it contradicts what they teach in Economics 101?
As mentioned, new, damning research about the national energy policy keeps popping up. Indeed, just this week, I came across this open access paper, in which, once again, methane as a bridge fuel is exposed as a sop — beware: skip if you suffer from number phobia.
Increased use of natural gas has been promoted as a means of decarbonizing the US power sector, because of superior generator efficiency and lower CO2 emissions per unit of electricity than coal. We model the effect of different gas supplies on the US power sector and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Across a range of climate policies, we find that abundant natural gas decreases use of both coal and renewable energy technologies in the future. Without a climate policy, overall electricity use also increases as the gas supply increases. With reduced deployment of lower-carbon renewable energies and increased electricity consumption, the effect of higher gas supplies on GHG emissions is small: cumulative emissions 2013–55 in our high gas supply scenario are 2% less than in our low gas supply scenario, when there are no new climate policies and a methane leakage rate of 1.5% is assumed. Assuming leakage rates of 0 or 3% does not substantially alter this finding. In our results, only climate policies bring about a significant reduction in future CO2 emissions within the US electricity sector. Our results suggest that without strong limits on GHG emissions or policies that explicitly encourage renewable electricity, abundant natural gas may actually slow the process of decarbonization, primarily by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies.
That “abundant natural gas may actually slow the process of decarbonization” is, of course, just common sense. Nonetheless, the letter signed by our U.S. Senators ends with “[y]our methane strategy is a key component of your Administration’s effort to combat climate change.” Dream, baby, dream!
None of this should come as a surprise. The US Senate is a staunch supporter of the Washington Consensus, which Noami Klein, recalling the late 1980s, summarizes as follows:
One year after Hansen testified, the Berlin Wall collapsed. History was declared over. This was the moment when we were all being told that there was no alternative to privatization, deregulation, cuts in government spending, tax cuts, free trade.
We’ve been living it; we’ve been breathing it. This is why it is so tragic that the Left has ceded the climate discussion to the environmentalists, because we should have understood this fundamental clash.
Did I mention the shale scam that forms the subprime carbon bubble at the basis of the Climate Action Plan? Let the late Randy Udall explain this, as he talks about a fatal characteristic of extreme extraction wells:
Drill-Baby-Drill is no longer optional; drill-baby-drill is destiny! [...] This is progeria [a syndrome in children indicative of premature old age]. This is a well dying as it is born. [...] We’ve chained ourselves to a drilling rig and thrown away the key.”
As our US Senators hop along from one fund raiser to the next and from one shale well to the next, they are captives on board of a neo-liberal drilling rig destined for nowhere. At the same time it has become clear how we can fight the Wall-Street-funded industry hype in a supposedly democratic system that operates according to the principle that “whose bread one eats, their tongue one speaks.”
As the nearly half a million people who participated in the People Climate March saw, we do have new leaders. They are in the streets, they are organizing everywhere and they understand that, as Chris Hedges summarized it: “Unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force that consumes greater and greater numbers of human lives until it finally consumes itself.”
Green Power to the People!