By Marita Noon ~
The UN Climate Conference in Paris ended, as predicted, late and with lots of fanfare over the “agreement” that contains little enforceable language—other than reporting emissions. CO2 reduction goals are, according to the New York Times: “essentially voluntary.”
Despite the disappointing results for the anti-fossil fuel crowd, the Sierra Club gleefully tweeted: “Fossil fuels now have an expiration date.”
What comes next?
Recently, Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, announced their next effort: “to prevent the extraction of fossil fuels right from the start”—a campaign known as “Keep it in the ground.” The plan, reported The Hill, is to “shut down coal mines, and crack down on hydraulic fracturing, along with stopping the transportation of fossil fuels in oil trains, pipelines and coal export terminals.”
The plan, which likely isn’t legal, sounds ludicrous to anyone who understands energy or follows the topic—after all, Germany’s ambitious plans to “go green” have failed miserably—but activists, who are committed to the cause, are buoyed by several recent victories. A post, “Keep It in the Ground Movement Scores Another Victory Over Fossil Fuel Interests,” on Greenpeace.org states: “Remember when we told you that the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground was gaining momentum? We weren’t making that up.” The author then goes on to list the “much-discussed” successes:
- Shell’s departure from the Arctic;
- Rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline; and
- Exxon’s history of climate denial.
She then touts something that slipped under the radar for even the most ardent news watcher: On December 7, the Bureau of Land Management “announced a last minute delay to a fossil fuel lease sale”—which the post claims is due to “grassroots opposition.” The author brags that this “isn’t the first time” they have “stopped the sale of our public lands for fossil fuel exploitation.”
The antis have reason to celebrate. Last month 2016 presidential contender Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his colleague Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the “keep it in the ground bill”—in an admitted “long-shot effort to block the federal government from issuing fossil fuel extraction leases on public land.” While the bill is “certain to languish in the Republican controlled Congress,” they hope by getting it on “lawmakers’ radar,” they can “kick off a grassroots movement that will eventually force lawmakers to block new drilling and mining on public land.” Citing the previous “victories,” they believe that “if green groups can raise the same enthusiasm against federal land leases,” it will “breathe life into the proposal to end new federal land energy development.”
Just days after the Sanders/Merkley bill was introduced, President Obama intoned the movement’s message in his speech announcing the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline: “We’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them.” Activists believe that by keeping “the pressure on,” “the grass roots movement can push him in the right direction. They see this campaign as a way for Obama to “burnish his climate legacy by ending, or at least greatly phasing out, the sale of new fossil fuel leases.”
The fight, however, goes much further than federal lands: “It stretches into local fights, over small drilling wells, coal mines, and infrastructure.” As they learned from the Keystone fight, “opening multiple fronts” is important.
So, now you know what comes next. If you are in the energy industry—or are in a city, county, or state where it prospers—like low gasoline prices, or don’t want your taxes raised, “keep it in the ground” should scare you into action.
What will it cost?
Here’s what’s happened in many states just as result of low oil prices—not as a result of keeping it in the ground, which would have a much greater impact. And this quick review doesn’t include the devastation wrought on Appalachian Mountain residents as a result of President Obama’s war on coal.
- Lawmakers in New Mexico will have $60 million less than expected for the state budget;
- Louisiana is bracing for cuts across the board as it loses $12 million in mineral revenue for each dollar drop in oil prices;
- Thanks to the prolonged slump in oil prices, North Dakota’s state budget may have to be trimmed by $106.8 million;
- In Wyoming, projected revenues will be down by $617 million for the three-year budget period that ends in June 2018. The state faces a $159.7 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year;
- Oklahoma’s lawmakers will struggle to balance the budget due to a shortfall of between $500 million and $1 billion;
- Due to a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, Alaska’s governor has proposed the first income tax in 35 years. The state faces a lower bond rating if it doesn’t do more to address the deficit.
This is not just a state issue. In Santa Barbara County, as result of shutting down two major pipelines, a forthcoming report—which I’ll cover more in-depth upon release—projects 3-year losses to the county, state, and federal revenue estimated at $897 million.
These budget shortfalls impact everyone.
In Oklahoma—where “government officials think one out of every four tax dollars is linked to the energy business”—Governor Mary Fallin is calling for state departments and agencies to “start finding ways to cut from their budgets.” Department of Transportation spokesperson Terri Angier says: “Everyone has to take cuts. Everyone has to share the burden.” Addressing the state’s bleak long-term budget forecast, David Blatt, executive director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, says: “The state tax system is no longer generating the revenue needed for basic public services such as education.” He adds: “Equally troubling, state prisons are staffed at less than 65% even though they’ve reached well beyond inmate capacity.”
Carroll Cagle, media director of the New Mexico Prosperity Project, told me: “Services New Mexicans depend on from state government are paid for by taxes, and one of the largest and most reliable tax sources is the oil and gas sector. The services include state police, the public schools and colleges, health services, highways and many more. Too many New Mexicans are unaware of where the tax money comes from, or even if they do, they take it for granted. But tax revenue from oil and gas, which flows into Santa Fe to pay for a good portion of all those services (hundreds of millions of dollars), cannot be taken for granted. It defies the self-interest of those who benefit from and favor public services to add to the global pricing problem by unwisely hampering oil and gas producers—the most lucrative source of tax revenue in the state. Without the oil-and-gas industry, services would be cut and taxes would have to go up.”
The situation in Santa Barbara, according to initial reports, means the public school system could be the biggest loser with an estimated $24.1 million dollar loss. The County Fire Department could also face a potential $4.6 million shortfall in lost tax receipts.
Additionally, the federal government receives more than $10 billion annually from oil-and-gas revenues. If fossil fuels are kept in the ground, taxpayers will have to fill the funding gap.
If the “keep it in the ground” movement is successful, government services—including education, first responders, and hospitals and healthcare—must be cut, taxes on everything must go up, and electricity rates will “necessarily skyrocket.” Western civilization is based on successful mining and farming—which the antis want to block.
So, now that you understand the costs will result in a destruction of our economic system and standard of living, hopefully, you’ll engage in halting the movement—because without the participation of American citizens, they will roll on to more “victories.”
What can be done?
While the anti-fossil fuel movement can tout some successes, as I’ve recounted, they’ve had many setbacks—including state and federal courts overturning their ambitious goals. They have been pushing for an international climate treaty for 21 years, yet repeatedly fail. After decades of the most extensive and expensive public relations campaign in the history of the world, fewer people are worried about climate change than when the effort started—with recent polling indicating only 3% say global warming was the most important issue facing the country today.
The tide may have already turned, but with your help, we can enact a complete transformation of the anti’s destructive policies.
First, call your Senators and the White House. Tell them: “Lift the oil export ban without adding the increased economic burdens of long-term extensions of tax credits for wind and solar.” The House has already passed legislation to lift the export ban, but the White House has opposed it. Reports indicate that the export ban—a policy from a different energy era—will “likely” be lifted, but, as a part of the spending and tax measures deal currently being negotiated, Bloomberg states: “in return, Democrats are seeking long-term extensions of tax breaks for renewable energy such as wind and solar.”
Next, we are in an election year. Vote for lawmakers who are not trying to scare you or make you feel guilty—but who want to reunite the country, restore its economic strength, and who recognize the importance of cheap energy in our current economic war.
Stay engaged and support those of us who are on the front lines of the war on fossil fuels. Each week, through this column, I introduce a news-based, energy-themed issue that is generally not covered in the mainstream media. Please read it and pass it on. Encourage your local newspaper to publish the print edition of it (provided free). When people understand, they are less likely to be hoodwinked by the fairytale that we can power the world with butterflies, rainbows, and pixie dust.
Let’s score some more victories!