Three months ago about 600,000 people took action in New York City and in 700 other localities around the world calling for an end to the fossil fuel era. According to mass media sources, the big September 17 March to End Fossil Fuels brought 75,000 people into the heart of Manhattan for an historic action. In addition to those big numbers, there were hundreds of people arrested in NYC before and after the 17th in nonviolent blockades targeting fossil fuel supporting banks and other financial institutions like the Federal Reserve.
Imho, this was the primary reason that two days ago, for the first time ever in 30 years of these conferences and however weakly, the nations of the world at the Dubai United Nations climate conference said that “transitioning away from fossil fuels” is a good thing. Street heat and growing numbers of nonviolent direct actions on the climate emergency had an impact.
These actions are not going to end anytime soon. Words are one thing, but action on the part of governments to advance a rapid shift off polluting fossil fuels is where the raging battle over what the future will be like will be won or lost.
A major focus of the climate justice movement right now is the plan by the methane gas industry to dramatically escalate the number of LNG export terminals to ship fracked gas around the world. This is particularly planned for the Gulf Coast states of Texas and Louisiana. There are about 20 proposed new LNG plants, in addition to the seven that are already up and running. The biggest, new proposed one is Calcasieu Pass (CP2) in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, which if built would add massive amounts of gas to what is already being exported.
A letter signed by 238 organizations and released just a couple of days ago called for a halt to the LNG gas rush, saying, “CP2 LNG is a prime example of the environmental injustice of gas export expansion… [and] is emblematic of the broader trend of the ways in which LNG export expansion disproportionately impacts low-income and communities of color along the Gulf Coast, many of whom rely on coastal livelihoods and who are already overburdened by industrial pollution from the fossil fuel industry.”
Who is all this gas intended for? Those pushing this scheme say it’s needed because of the Russia/Ukraine war, that Europe needs this gas because the Russian invasion and the response to it has severely diminished the amount of gas available to them. This may have been true in the early days of the war, but recent reports say that it’s no longer the case. Warmer than usual weather and developments within the methane gas industry internationally have led to an oversupply of gas in Europe and worldwide right now.
This early-war dynamic was what coal baron and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairperson Joe Manchin used 20 months ago as he acted, successfully, to intimidate the leadership of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, into reversing a decision they had just made to have more rigorous reviews of gas industry expansion permit applications.
Not only was Manchin successful in forcing one of the three Democrats in the majority (of 5 commissioners) to change his vote, killing that new policy; he later stonewalled Biden and refused to hold a hearing on Biden’s nomination of Richard Glick, the FERC Chair who developed the policy improvements, for a second term when his term ran out at the end of 2022. Since those Manchin actions, and under the leadership of Democrat Willie Phillips, FERC has returned to the rubber-stamping ways that have existed for literally decades, with the exception of a brief time in 2021 and into the winter of 2022 under Glick’s leadership.
According to analysis done by former FERC employee Andy Hinz of Beyond Extreme Energy, since Manchin’s intervention close to 80 new coal plants’ worth of greenhouse gases have been approved by FERC.
To move forward, FERC and the Department of Energy must sign off on CP2 and the other proposed LNG export terminals. They’re the deciders. There is deep concern based on past practice that the Biden Administration, despite what happened at Dubai, will give the go-ahead for more approvals for unneeded and destructive fossil fuel infrastructure expansion.
Momentum is building within the climate justice movement to go to the mat on this one, to use all the tools in our toolbox, including nonviolent direct action. 220,000 people signed on to November petitions demanding no expansion of the LNG industry. Gulf Coast groups are making plans for mid-January action in New Orleans when the gas industry is having a big conference. And just last evening, Bill McKibben announced that he and frontline leaders, youth leaders, and climate leaders from around the world are calling on activists to join them in nonviolent direct action at the US Department of Energy’s headquarters in Washington DC February 6-8, 2024 unless and until they start treating LNG and fossil fuel exports like the climate-wrecking problem they are.
Once again, it’s time for the street heat that can force change in the corporate and government suites. We need to keep building the visible climate justice movement that, now and going forward, can bring about the transformative change the world desperately needs.
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