Here’s a Washington Post headline from December 10: “U.S. Embrace Of Fossil Fuels At Climate Change Conference Spurs Mockery On World Stage.” America as global laughing stock. How’s that for making America great again? “I was completely embarrassed to be an American,” Leo McNeil Woodberry of the Climate Action Network told The Guardian. “Everything they proposed was absolutely wrong. I can’t believe they are putting profits over the planet, and profits over people.”
“It’s ludicrous for Trump officials to claim that they want to clean up fossil fuels, while dismantling standards that would do just that,” said Dan Lashof, director of the World Resources Institute. “Since taking office, this administration has proposed to roll back measures to cut methane leaks from oil and gas operations, made it easier for companies to dump coal ash into drinking water, and just days ago proposed easing carbon pollution rules for new coal-fired power plants.”
The US presentation promoted the use of fossil fuels — especially coal — and nuclear energy. Presenters included Wells Griffith, Donald Trump’s adviser on global energy and climate, Steve Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy at the energy department, and Rich Powell, the executive director of the ClearPath Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on “conservative clean energy,” whatever that means.
Their pitch involved “innovation and entrepreneurship” in the technological development of nuclear power, “clean coal,” and carbon capture and storage. None of them so much as mentioned climate change. Winberg said the US government is promoting new modular coal plants combined with carbon capture techniques. After the technology is perfected, it could be exported to other countries. “They offer opportunity for developing nations to access tomorrow’s coal technology to improve energy security,” he said. He also proposed more pipelines to oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico.
Griffith adopted an “in your face” attitude about fossil fuels. The US has the largest coal reserves in the world, he boasted and is producing more petroleum than ever. “To achieve economic growth and eradicate poverty, all energy uses are important and they will be utilized unapologetically,” he said. “In the US our policy is not to keep it in the ground, but to use it as cleanly and efficiently as possible.” Translation — we will poison our citizens any way we deem fit in order to protect the profits of fossil fuel companies.
About 10 minutes into his presentation, Griffith was interrupted by laughter and chants of “Keep it in the ground” and “Shame on you.” The protesters were quickly led away by security guards while the criminals on stage were allowed to continue.
Outside the forum, Teri Blanton, an activist from Kentucky, told reporters, “There is no such thing as clean coal. Coal is deadly from the beginning to the end. They talk about the life cycle of coal, I talk about it as a death march. My father died of black lung, and I am in this struggle with others whose fathers and husbands are dying of black lung right now,” she said. Blanton is a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth which speaks for Appalachian coal workers in North America.
As the COP 24 conference in Poland enters its second week, the stain of the United States shilling for fossil fuels at a meeting intended to address the threat of a warming planet will remain. With its disruptive actions this week, the US is well on its way to becoming a pariah among the nations of the world. How great is that?
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