Fracked Gas Exports: A Climate Disaster

This guest post was written by Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Even as the facts about liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports get harder and harder to ignore, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) continues to bury its head in the sand. Last month, a Department of Energy study revealed that — even when using conservative estimates of harmful emissions — exports of US fracked gas to Asia provide absolutely no climate benefits for decades, if ever. In fact, exporting natural gas is worse for the climate over the next critical 20 years than if Asian countries burned coal overseas!

FERC wants to ignore this fact and rubber stamp the gas industry’s proposed export projects, but FERC is being met with a sea of opposition. Next week, opponents of FERC’s traditional cow-towing to fossil fuel interests will raise their voices on FERC’s doorstep using a tactic successfully employed by past social justice campaigns, ranging from women’s suffrage to civil rights: The picket line.

Each day during the week of June 23-27, from noon – 1:30pm, groups of concerned citizens from the region will descend upon FERC’s headquarters in downtown DC, just a block from Union Station. With signs and chants, we’ll highlight FERC’s wrongdoing in a whole new, unavoidable way — by picketing directly at their doorstep.

Sign up to join the first-ever DC picket line protesting Cove Point! Pick a day or two from 6/23-6/27, noon – 1:30pm outside of FERC headquarters in downtown DC.

And the timing couldn’t be more crucial. Earlier this year, President Obama made it clear that climate change is here now, and its impacts are already being felt across the nation and around the world. Then, on June 2nd, the Environmental Protection Agency released some of the most significant climate regulations we’ve seen yet, laying out requirements for each state to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The new regulations are an important step forward that could help promote the transition to cleaner energy across our region.

To achieve that switch, however, we need to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room: fracked natural gas. The studies are clear: a global shift to reliance on natural gas fracked from deep below the earth could be equally as bad, if not worse, for the climate than continued reliance on coal.

The natural gas industry has been selling the public a bill of goods. For years, they’ve tried to sell their product as a “bridge fuel,” a clean alternative to coal and oil. But now data from the DOE itself shows this is not true, especially when the gas exported to Asia. And FERC has yet to change course.

Enough is enough.

Join thousands of climate and anti-fracking activists on July 13th in an historic march on Washington on to say NO to FERC’s tradition of giving the gas industry what it wants at the expense of our climate, economy, and safety.

It’s abundantly clear that solving the climate crisis will require keeping gas in the ground — along with the tar sands, the coal and the oil.

The gas industry spends billions on ads touting natural gas as 50 percent cleaner than coal. Gas is cleaner only at the point of combustion. If you calculate the greenhouse gas pollution emitted at every stage of the production process — drilling, piping, compression, shipment to Asia — it’s just coal by another name.

Earlier this week, Karen Feridun of Berks Gas Truth wrote a great piece about the attendant risks that come with the increased fracking we know will result if any of the more than 20 proposed natural gas export facilities are built. Fracking poses safety risks to local communities as harmful chemicals are released into the air and water. It also triggers the start of a chain of climate pollution.

In the process of fracking, piping, and liquefying natural gas, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 1.4% of natural gas escapes as methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 84 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over a 20-year time frame. Gas exports will increase the demand for fracking and transporting natural gas, meaning more and more climate polluting methane will be leaking into the atmosphere.

When you add it all up, gas export facilities like Dominion Resources’ proposed Cove Point plant would trigger global warming pollution that spells disaster for our climate; the cumulative, planet-heating emissions triggered would be equivalent to building more than 100 new coal plants or putting 78 million more cars on our roads.

But real alternatives exist. While we’re saying no to dirty fracked gas exports, Americans want to say yes to increasing our wind and solar power consumption and adopting policies committing us to more clean energy.

It’s time for the US to decide. Are we going to stay the course to a safe climate with bigger and better clean energy development, or are we going to move backward to dirty energy with fracked gas exports?

On Sunday, July 13th, here’s what’s happening: Tim DeChristopher, Sandra Steingraber, the Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., and anti-fracking activists by the thousands will gather for an historic national rally at the Capitol building. We’ll then march together — noisily, creatively, insistently — to the disgracefully pro-fracking Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

We need you there, too. Join Tim DeChristopher, Sandra Steingraber, and citizens like you to protest fracked gas exports — July 13th in DC. Our message to President Obama and FERC is simple: Fracked gas is not clean and exported gas harms our climate. It’s time to leave the gas in the ground and move on to real solutions like wind and solar power.

  • The People’s Climate March was INCREDIBLE. Check out the photos and more at peoplesclimate.org

  • People’s Climate photos pouring in from around the world — check out the growing photo galleries here.

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