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We all make choices, and some turn out better than others do. But the choices we end up regretting the most are usually the ones we make against our better judgment. Both individually and collectively, we humans seem uniquely capable of acting as our own worst enemy.

We also are capable of wonderful, positive, and inspiring actions. That makes it all the worse when the consequences of a single bad decision overshadow our best intentions. And that, I'm afraid, is what the Obama administration risks by recklessly expanding fossil fuel production on public lands.

The Climate Action Plan that President Obama announced last year is full of good ideas, and his administration has already done more to address carbon pollution than any other has. New fuel-economy standards will double the efficiency of our cars and trucks. The energy efficiency of our appliances and buildings will dramatically improve. Stimulus spending has helped boost clean, renewable energy, and the president has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards to curb both toxic emissions and carbon pollution from coal plants.

Unfortunately, a hard look at the numbers shows that all this progress could be undermined by one bad choice -- expanding fossil fuel production. Using publicly available data already gathered by federal agencies, the Sierra Club has calculated the potential carbon dioxide emissions from dirty-fuel development proposals in a new report, Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures. Such calculations send a clear message: To protect our climate, we must keep these dirty fuels in the ground.

Extracting and burning these coal, oil, gas, oil shale, and tar sands resources would release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and negate carbon-reducing actions. If we develop just one of these "climate disrupters" -- the Arctic Ocean, for example -- we'll release two-and-a-half times more pollution than we are saving through stronger fuel-economy standards.

Of course, that carbon pollution would be in addition to the already high toll from destructive mining, drilling, and fracking: polluted drinking water, destroyed wildlife habitat, and air that is dangerous to breathe. No matter where it happens, dirty fuel development leaves a trail of destruction. Throughout Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures, you'll find profiles of activist heroes around the country who are working to stop that destruction.

The world's best climate scientists have made it clear: To have even a two-thirds chance of keeping global temperature rise to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, we cannot exceed more than 469 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide pollution, yet burning existing worldwide reserves oil, gas, and coal would release 2.8 trillion tons of new carbon dioxide. That's why the Obama administration (and future leaders) will need to complement policies that reduce fossil-fuel consumption (and promote clean energy) with similar measures that limit dirty fuel extraction on U.S. public lands. It would be a mistake to see that as self-denial. In fact, committing to a future powered by clean, renewable energy will mean a healthier America with cleaner air and water, pristine coasts, and protected natural areas. As fossil fuels leave the picture, ours will be a wealthier, more just, and more productive nation.

For all these reasons, we urge that President Obama reject these dirty fossil-fuel projects and choose instead to maintain our national momentum toward a 100 percent clean energy future. The data in Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures leaves no excuse for saying we didn't know better.

Originally posted to Michael Brune on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If your org would support the fossil free meat (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I forage for my family I'd support you in whatever you do, but until then I just view you with skepticism.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:51:47 PM PDT

  •  The report published by the Sierra Club that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Michael Brune purports to be disclosure of the amount of emissions that would result from full utilization of 4 different United States-owned hydrocarbon deposits.  

    As such, it is Sierra Club publishing a work that is supposed to be a scientific finding by the Sierra Club of the facts as presented, shown and demonstrated.  

    The report...Dirty Fuels, Clean visually and graphically appealing with great production values and communications of Sierra Club's PR about volunteers and players on the issue.   However, that all is a distraction and a defocussing on the fundamental purposes for which report was written.   This report with its flashy, eye-candy content does not communicate as a scientific document.  

    The problem with all of this is the report contains no written and disclosed emission calculations in which all of the assumptions and emission determination methods are fully disclosed.   In other words, the report, Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures, contains no clearly and numerically stated mathematical demonstration of the claims made and specific numeric disclosures of what assumptions about fuels were made to reach the conclusions of the report.  

    As such, the report, Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures, does not meet even a high school chemistry class expectation of 'showing your work' in calculation problem sets because there is no way to specifically know what calculation methods and numeric assumptions were made to produce the resulting greenhouse gas emission claims that were made.    

    Because of this problem, there is no way to evaluate or check the Sierra Club greenhouse gas emission claims they are making about these hydrocarbon resources on public lands to determine if they are correct or not.  

    •  The stuff published by Oil Change International (0+ / 0-)

      about emissions claimed and attributed to the KXL Pipeline has the same disclosures of the numerical emission calculations claimed by the report.

      Environmental groups addressing the problem of emissions and emissions control and the matter of the public's trust in the atmosphere have a duty to conform to scientific norms for describing environmental problems.    That includes transparency and complete disclosure as a requirement for protecting the public trust.  But it especially involves the requirement to actually practice science and engineering in reports, disclosures and policy formation.

  •  Thanks for publishing here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sharon Wraight

    Nice job, there is a lot of research and detail, really good analysis and document, I like the company/activist comparisons, and the extensive use of maps

    Apologies for a summary but it is on point:

    "President Obama can take pragmatic actions to keep dirty fuels in the ground and put our country on a new path to a clean-energy future. Over the remainder of his time in office, he has an opportunity to:

      - require all federal resource management agencies to fully disclose potential carbon pollution;

      - not allow any oil shale and tar sands extraction;

      - reform coal mining on federal lands;

      - put oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off limits;

      - not issue any new oil and gas leases that require fracking until impacts on water, air and climate are averted and;

      - stop massive plans to export coal and liquified gas to other countries.

    What the Obama Admnistration Can Do
    *Withdraw all federal lands from consideration for oil shale and tar sands development

    *The BLM should not collaborate with the state of Utah to trade federal lands away

    *Call a “timeout” on coal leasing on all federal public lands

    *Not allow current Arctic leases to be developed on the Outer Continental shelf (OCs)

    *Cancel any upcoming oil and gas lease sales, tentatively proposed for 2016 and 2017

    *Restore protections in environmental and public health laws

    *No liquid natural gas (lNG) exports

    *No issuance of new leases or permits to drill utilizing fracking or other well-stimulation methods

    *Reopen investigations of water contamination from fracking operations.

    What Obama Cand Do to Keep Dirty Fuels in the Ground
    1) Fully implement Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13514

    2) Stop any new leasing of federal oil, gas, and coal until potential environmental, climate, and public health impacts are fully disclosed

    3) Close oil, gas, and coal industry exemptions from environmental and public safety laws

    4) Stop the export of coal and liquefied natural gas.

    Thanks again, it helps to have well researched, accurate  and documented publications here

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