Big Steps Forward for US Climate Movement
There are two major events being organized by the US climate movement over the next month.
The first and most immediately significant event is what is being described (accurately) as the biggest climate demonstration in US history, taking place February 17th in Washington, D.C. Tens of thousands of people have already signed up indicating their intention to take part, and momentum is building.
This action was called by the Sierra Club soon after the November elections. The official call to action that went out in December came from them, 350.org and the Hip Hop Caucus. Since that time close to 100 organizations have endorsed it, mostly environmental and climate groups but also including the League of Women Voters, MoveOn, the Nebraska Farmers Union, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen and United for Peace and Justice.
The demonstration is happening on President’s Day weekend, on purpose. The major target is President Obama. He is being called upon to give real content to his inaugural call for action on climate, to lead practically on this urgent issue, and, most specifically, to permanently reject the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline.
The tar sands, without question, has become a “line in the sand” for enviros, climate activists and most progressives in the US and Canada, and we are having a real impact.
There is the broadly-based, effective and escalating actions of Indigenous and others groups in Canada and the just-won’t-give-up organizing of Bold Nebraska. There’s the harassing activities of Tar Sands Blockade in Texas and organizing in New England against another potential tar sands pipeline proposed for that area. There is the on-going work of various national enviro and climate groups. And finally, with the replacement at the State Department of Hillary Clinton by former U.S. Senate climate champion John Kerry, big shots at TransCanada and within the oil and gas industry and the conservative Canadian government cannot be feeling so good these days.
Let’s really “make their day” on February 17th, come out in such large numbers that history will record this as a turning point day for the Keystone XL pipeline, all the various tar sands pipeline proposals, the tar sands itself and, indeed, the whole dirty fossil fuel corporate enterprise in North America.
Stop the Frack Attack Convenes
Two weeks after Feb. 17, the no-fracking movement will convene for a national conference right in the belly of the beast of the gas industry, in Dallas, Texas, from March 2-4. Organized by Stop the Frack Attack, the coalition which brought thousands to DC on July 28th last year, this event will be attended by hundreds, not tens of thousands, but it will still be significant. This will be the first major national conference of the movement against fracking that has grown up over the last several years.
As explained at http://stopthefrackattack.org, people from across the US will “attend to share stories, build skills, become better spokespeople, learn about the clean energy alternatives to oil and natural gas, celebrate victories and help build this national movement. We are also organizing a rally on Monday, to welcome the Texas State government back to work and remind them that they work for the people and not the oil and gas industry. . . The Dallas/Fort Worth area represents urban fracking at its worst; as you fly in you can see well pads as far as the eye can see, and once you land you are greeted by a compressor station right outside the airport. Dallas/Fort Worth is also home to many of the oil and gas companies destroying our communities around the country.”
Without question, the problems with fracking will be part of what is said from the stage and printed on the signs and banners of those attending the Feb. 17 DC demonstration. President Obama is in serious need of a wake-up call about how problematic fracking is. So far, he has been an unabashed cheerleader for this polluting and destructive industry, not just for those who live near fracking wells or who drink water downriver from them but for the earth.
Fracking leads to significant releases of methane, a greenhouse gas between 72-105 times as powerful as carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it enters the atmosphere. Recent studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that, in Colorado and Utah, there was a 4% and 9% methane leakage rate, respectively, in areas where there are large numbers of gas wells. These leakage rates alone, not counting other methane released over the life cycle of natural gas, make the gas produced in these areas worse than coal as far as greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural gas, however it is produced, is a fossil fuel that when burned and when released into the atmosphere makes our historic task of reducing atmospheric ghg’s more difficult. The current “gold rush” to produce fracked gas has without question weakened the absolutely essential, urgent need to move from fossil fuels to clean, jobs-creating, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal.
We need a nationally coordinated, unified movement that recognizes fracking for what it is, that slows and stops the mad rush toward a massive expansion of gas infrastructure intended to dramatically accelerate overseas gas exports, and that works closely with the broader climate and progressive movements to accomplish this absolutely essential goal.