Hard to believe it’s only 10 months since I had to write this in the aftermath of a really bad decision from the Obama administration:
Why is it so hard for so many of our leaders to recognize what Martin Luther King, Jr., once called “the fierce urgency of now”? We really don’t have time to waste, yet our government keeps promoting drilling, fracking, and mining as if the laws of nature could be suspended at our convenience.
That was last May, when Shell Oil was given a green light for what proved to be unsuccessful exploratory drilling in the Arctic. Less than a year later, although the Arctic is still not permanently protected from oil and gas exploration, the administration’s approach to dirty fuels has changed dramatically. The latest evidence is the draft released last week of the administration’s 2017–2022 plan for offshore drilling. While the new plan still allows for drilling in the Gulf, it proposes new standards for Arctic, and reverses President Obama’s previous intention of allowing drilling off the Atlantic Coast.
Don’t get me wrong — at a minimum, the only sensible offshore drilling policy would be to permanently protect both Atlantic and Arctic waters from drilling and allow no new drilling the Gulf of Mexico. But the draft plan released last week is nevertheless a big victory and a milestone for the growing movement to “keep dirty fuels in the ground” and save our climate.
And lately, those milestones have been flashing past at a steady clip:
On March 10, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a joint agreement to regulate climate pollution from methane and other sources, including shipping and aviation, and strengthen environmental protections for the Arctic.
Also this month, Oregon passed landmark legislation to rid itself of coal. It will completely eliminate the use of coal-fired power by 2035 and double the amount of renewable energy in the state by 2040.
And just last week — in more great news for Oregon — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a proposed liquid natural gas export terminal that would have been built in Jordan Cove, near Coos Bay. Just two years ago, that terminal had conditional approval from the federal government. Now it’s dead.
Those are just a few highlights from March — and we’re barely more than halfway through the month.
What’s changed? Two big things. First, President Obama has gotten our message that we need to keep dirty fuels in the ground. In fact, with the Paris climate agreement, it’s fair to say that most of the world has gotten that message. Second, through a lot of hard work and perseverance over the past decade, we’ve built a climate and clean energy movement that can advocate for and win victories like the ones we’ve seen this month.
What’s more, the next president of the United States (assuming that person is a Democrat) will be even more committed to keeping dirty fuels in the ground. Of course, you can still find plenty of politicians (in the legislature and on the campaign trail) who still don’t get it. Congress alone currently boasts 182 climate deniers. But their days are numbered, if only because their positions are clearly at odds with what their constituents actually want. In 21st century America, that’s not going to fly.
Obviously, our work is far from finished. But it’s always good to see that momentum — and ultimately history — is on our side.
Let’s keep it going… climate champions in both houses of Congress have introduced bills that would keep dirty fuels in the ground where they belong. Urge your members of Congress to become cosponsors of these bills.