Credit: Global Energy Monitor

New Oil & Gas Terminals In The Gulf Of Mexico Will Unlock 24 Billion Tons Of Greenhouse Gases

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Pity the poor oil and gas companies. They have sunk thousands of straws into the Permian Basin to suck out the oil and methane buried there so it can be exported to countries around the world. But there’s a problem. The largest oil and LNG tankers can’t get into the ports along the Gulf Coast of Texas, and so the industry wants to build four pipelines that will carry them to offshore terminals in the Gulf of Mexico that will be able to service those gargantuan ships.

According to The Guardian, the federal government has quietly approved the Sea Port oil terminal project, a proposed offshore oil platform located 35 miles off the Texas coast south of Houston and will decide soon whether to allow three other oil terminals nearby. Taken together, the four terminals would expand US oil exports by nearly 7 million barrels a day, an amount equal to half of all current US oil exports.

Global Energy Monitor tracks fossil fuel activities around the world. Want to know if Timbuktu is using coal to make electricity? The people at GEM know and they have a lot to say about those four terminals in the Gulf of Mexico. They tell The Guardian that if all of these projects are completed and allowed to operate at full capacity for their expected 30-year lifespan, the result will be an incredible 24 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere once the transported oil is burned.

A Carbon Bomb In The Gulf Of Mexico

These huge “carbon bomb” projects will fatally undermine Biden’s image as a president who has acted decisively to stem the climate crisis. No new major fossil fuel infrastructure can be built if the world is to avoid dangerous global heating, the International Energy Agency has warned.

“The amount of oil going through these projects, and the resulting emissions, are pretty astounding,” said Baird Langenbrunner, an analyst at Global Energy Monitor, who added that the emissions total is likely a worst case scenario since it is unlikely all four terminals will be built and then operate at full capacity for decades. “But even if the emissions are a bit lower then, we are fast-forwarding ourselves to the date where we have to stop completely emitting. Any extra emissions are in direct conflict with climate goals and it’s hypocritical for the Biden administration to allow these things to get built and then say the US wants to decrease its own emissions.”

There is some political legerdemain going on here. The government says all that crud in the air won’t count as part of US emissions since it will be burned elsewhere. This is the same codswallop Australia has been peddling for years, saying its coal exports shouldn’t be counted as part of its emissions because most of it is exported. The fossil fuel companies pull the same stunt by saying they just pump the stuff. They have no control over where or how it is burned.

All Oil & Gas Emissions Are Global

The problem, as anyone with more than a fourth grade education can see, is that carbon emissions are a global problem and if we don’t slash them significantly — and pretty damn soon — the ability of humans to live on our beautiful planet will come to an abrupt halt. It makes no difference where the oil and gas originate. The fossil fuel companies are welcome to produce all they want but selling the stuff so it can be burned is akin to a crime against humanity. Surely Joe Biden understands this? It is beyond stupid to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into creating a green economy while simultaneously approving the addition of a possible 24 billion metric tons of crud into the atmosphere.

The Sea Port oil terminal, a joint venture between Enterprise, Enbridge, and Chevron, will be the largest oil export terminal in the US with a capacity of 2 million barrels a day. The project will link 140 miles of land-based and underwater pipelines to an onshore storage facility near the city of Freeport. Two underwater pipelines will run to the deep water port located offshore.

“It’s shocking the number of pipelines we already have and the dangers we face, such as explosions and oil spills, it’s just too much,” said Melanie Oldham, an air quality activist and Freeport resident who said that many of her neighbors suffer asthma and other health conditions from living next to a tangle of polluting facilities. “We are a low income community and this seems to be where they always want to build oil terminal projects. We are a sacrifice zone. It’s a constant worry and we just wonder when it will all stop.”

The National Security Oil Scam

In November, the maritime administration, an arm of the US Department of Transport, approved the construction of the Sea Port oil terminal, referencing the heightened demand for new oil and gas in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The project “is in the national interest because the project will benefit employment, economic growth, and US energy infrastructure resilience and security,” the agency wrote in its decision. “The port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to US allies in the event of market disruption.”

“These oil terminals will lock us into decades of greenhouse gas emissions and jeopardizes our ability to meet national and international climate goals,” Kelsey Crane, senior policy advocate at Earthworks, tells The Guardian. “The Biden administration’s continued fossil fuel expansion contradicts the science on what we need to do to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. We can’t invest in clean energy if we’re not phasing out fossil fuels. We need to reinstate the ban on oil exports and think about a managed decline for fossil fuels within this administration.”

The Takeaway

Humans are like alcoholics or drug addicts. We rely on the energy that comes from burning oil and gas for our livelihoods and demand more. The fossil fuel companies will ride this train as long as they can; there’s just too much money to be made from extracting, refining, and burning fossil fuels to stop. The reactionaries in America act as though it is unpatriotic to oppose any expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

To hear people like Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott tell it, oil and gas are as American as apple pie and we should fall on our knees to thank the Almighty for creating all that lovely gunk for humans to exploit. It’s a shame they won’t be around when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico close over Houston and head inland toward Austin. In the meantime, they will attempt to imprison anyone who dares raise a voice in protest. There is always a chance the courts may yet block this plan, but with the US Supreme Court now controlled by fossil fuel stooges, that is a slim hope indeed.

There’s a lot of lip service being paid to the idea of cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, but the truth is, despite all the happy talk, the push to continue our total dependence on fossil fuels continues and will continue until the cost of doing business is higher than the profits that are realized. Until we force oil and gas companies to pay for the damage they do, all the blather about 1.5º C and lowering emissions is just designed to blow sunshine up our skirts. There is no credible evidence that anyone is taking the need to stop burning fossil fuels seriously, or will any time in the foreseeable future.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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