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Unita Basin. Credit: Google Maps

Fossil Fuels

Is Joe Biden The Environmental President? These Three “Climate Bombs” Say No

Joe Biden promised to be the environment president, but several recent decisions by his administration threaten that promise.

Joe Biden is ten thousand times better that the two-faced, lying cuckoo clock who preceded him. There’s no question about that. But recently, he and his administration have done some things that make it appear he is just another oil-soaked politician who is in thrall to the fossil fuel industry.

The Case Against Joe Biden

Exhibit A is a report by The Guardian that says 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. It tells 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.

Baird Langenbrunner, an analyst at Global Energy Monitor, said, “The amount of oil going through these projects and the resulting emissions, are pretty astounding.” No one knows if those four terminals will get approved, “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,” he added.

“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, told 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.”

Biden & The Uinta Basin Railway

Exhibit B involves the Uinta basin in eastern Utah which contains large reserves of oil and gas, but getting them to market has been hindered by a lack of access to railroads and highways. Utah’s Republican controlled legislature, governor, and local officials support building transport links to ramp up production, saying it would benefit the state’s economy. Of course, they want all US taxpayers to pay for the improvements, which include either flattening a section of the Nine Mile canyon, known as the largest prehistoric art gallery in America, to construct a road that would support a steady flow of heavy oil tankers or build an 88-mile long railway so the oil and gas can travel in tank cars.

If the railway gets built, 350,000 barrels of oil a day will be added to the nation’s oil supply. As if that weren’t bad enough, much of the railroad will run alongside the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to more than 40 million Americans and irrigates millions of acres of farmland. A derailment, quite obviously, would be a catastrophe.

The railway company says environmentalists are overstating the climate footprint, risk of derailment, and the potential for ecological harm. Meanwhile, the project developers are asking the US Department of Transportation to issue up to $2 billion in tax-exempt bonds to construct and operate the oil train through a program that has mostly helped fast-track rail and road projects with public benefits.

“If this goes forward it will be a triumph of corporate greed,” Kristen Boyles, a managing attorney at Earthjustice told The Guardian. “The fact that we continue to have disasters like East Palestine and near misses over and over again is a regulatory failure that demonstrates the absolute power of railroad industry lobbying.” More than a thousand trains derail every year in the US and the number of derailed cars carrying hazardous material is rising. In the past decade, the railroad industry has spent around $280 million lobbying Washington and more than $50 million on campaign contributions, according to the political finance tracker Open Secrets.

In neighboring Colorado, opposition to the plan is building following the catastrophic East Palestine derailment in Ohio last month. “The governor continues to share a number of the concerns that our communities and Colorado’s recreation and tourism industry have raised with the proposal,” said a spokesperson for governor Jared Polis. “Derailments are seen as a cost of doing business but we’ve seen the future in East Palestine and for us this would be like killing the golden goose,” said Jonathan Godes, mayor of Glenwood Springs, a popular tourist destination in Colorado.

The Willow Project

Exhibit C is the so-called Willow project in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve approved by the Biden administration over the strenuous objections of environmental groups. It will add 180,000 barrels a day to the nation’s oil production. The output from Willow would produce more 263 million tons of greenhouse gases over the project’s 30 year expected life, roughly equal to the combined emissions from 1.7 million passenger cars over the same time period, according to the Associated Press.

Environmentalists say approval of the project represents a betrayal by Biden, who promised during his 2020 presidential campaign to end new oil and gas drilling on federal lands. He has made fighting climate change a top priority and backed  legislation designed to accelerate the expansion of wind and solar power and move the U.S. away from its reliance on oil, coal, and gas.

There is some good news here, although not much. The government only approved three of the five projects requested by ConocoPhillips Alaska. It also required the company to give up its rights to develop an additional 68,000 acres within the National Petroleum Reserve and foreclosed future development in the Arctic.

Keep It In The Ground

Whatever safeguards and restrictions may have been included in the Willow approval, the fact remains that the only path forward for the Earth is to stop extracting and burning fossil fuels. There are alternatives to thermal energy, as my colleague Michael Barnard has shown in two recent articles, one that focuses on how switching investments in a pipeline to renewable energy would have three times the benefit to society, and the other that indicates switching to heat pumps could massively decrease the need for fossil based energy.

The story is always the same. We need to keep pumping oil and gas in order to keep the economy going. It is the argument that the El Paso chamber of commerce is using to oppose a climate action plan put forth by young activist working under the umbrella of the Sunrise Movement. All three of these projects are “carbon bombs” that threaten the ability of the Earth to support human life. What good are jobs if all the workers are dead? We really have to stop pumping oil and gas out of the ground someday. Why not start today?

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Written By

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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