“On Sunday, July 13th, fracking fighters everywhere, movement leaders like Tim DeChristopher and Sandra Steingraber, mothers fending off compressor stations, fathers fighting pipelines – and everyday people demanding solutions to climate change – will march together by the thousands in DC. We’ll call on President Obama and FERC to reject a gas export disaster, at Cove Point and beyond, and instead redouble investments in the wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies that will support good jobs and a stable climate for all.” http://stopgasexports.org
A new front is opening up in the critical battle to prevent climate catastrophe and protect people from the ravages of a fossil fuel industry going to extremes to find dirty and polluting, last-century energy sources. That new front: fracked gas exports.
As of today, with the exception of a small facility in Alaska, there are no export terminals along U.S. coastlines to ship natural gas (what I call methane gas) to other countries, but the plan of the gas industry, supported by the Obama Administration and Congressional Republicans, is to build a bunch of them over the next several years. Over 20 have been proposed, and one has been approved so far by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC is the semi-independent agency which approves—or rejects, theoretically–gas industry infrastructure proposals. The one export facility approved so far, Sabine Pass, is being built in Cameron Parish, Louisiana and is projected as being ready to export liquefied natural gas, LNG, in late 2015 or 2016.
Another LNG export facility has been proposed for Cove Point, Md., on the Chesapeake Bay, about 50 miles from the White House, and just last week FERC staff issued an “environmental assessment” that stated that there would be “no significant impact” from the building of this facility. A decision on Cove Point by the FERC Commissioners could happen as early as August.
More export terminal approvals from rubber-stamping FERC—which has approved just about every gas industry infrastructure proposal ever brought before it—are likely, absent a massive movement which does for this issue what the No Keystone XL pipeline movement has done for the tar sands oil issue.
Why the rush to export? For the gas industry it’s a simple matter of going where the profits are. Though gas prices in the U.S. have been going up over the last year or so, they are still well below the prices for methane gas in Asia, in particular, as well as in other parts of the world.
In a study produced for the Department of Energy on this issue a couple of years ago, a chart showed that just about every sector of the economy—farmers, manufacturers, consumers, others—would be hurt by exports because it will lead to rising domestic gas prices, as much as two-three times as high as they are now over the next decade or so. I have heard that a study put together by a Congressional office has found that only 10 out of the U.S.’s 50 states will benefit.
Despite these facts, our “all of the above” President and other Administration energy policy leaders, like DOE’s Secretary Moniz, continue to cheerlead for shale gas drilling/fracking and, now, a massive expansion of LNG export terminals.
How serious is this? Here’s what the International Energy Agency, hardly a radical organization, predicted in 2011 would happen if this gas rush worldwide came to pass: “This puts emissions on a long-term trajectory consistent with stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at around 650 ppm, suggesting a long-term temperature rise of over 3.5°C.”
Given that the world’s governments have agreed that this rise should no be more than 2 degrees C and that a 3.5 C increase would guarantee we will go past point-of-no-return climate tipping points, this push to hook the world on methane gas, primarily fracked methane gas, is truly alarming.
How can the Obama Administration announce with a straight face, in late March, that it is moving to develop a strategy to reduce methane—a greenhouse gas between 85 and 105 times as powerful as CO2 in the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere—while pushing a gas export rush? As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote on May 7, “The president has made serious progress with renewable fuels and with energy efficiency. . .but this is being offset by increased production and export of fossil fuels. It’s a contradiction.”
That’s why the upcoming July 13th mass demonstration and march on FERC headquarters in DC is so important. The cry: Stop Fracked Gas Exports at Cove Point and Beyond. It is encouraging that there is a breadth of organizations—29 of them, about half national, the others local Maryland and Marcellus Shale region groups—that came together to issue the call and are working together toward this action. Many more groups from around the country should endorse and work to mobilize many thousands of people to attend!
July 13th won’t be an end. It will be our visible announcement on the national stage that the movements against fracking and against climate change, for environmental justice and a Renewables First! national energy policy, are coming together to expose the lie that fracked gas exports are good for America. They’re not! It’s time to get serious about moving off of fossil fuels and onto a renewable energy path.
Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.