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350.org to Obama: stop LNG exports, invest in renewable energy and efficiency

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Amid increased rhetoric to fast-track LNG export terminals in the US, and official US policy supporting the deployment of hydraulic fracking not only in the US but around the world, 350.org on Wednesday published an open letter to President Obama calling on his administration to reverse course, and act to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The group argues that, like the Keystone XL pipeline, LNG exports would act as a catalyst for increased fossil fuel consumption, and a "huge new pulse of climate pollution."

Not too many years US natural gas production was in a decline, which was reversed by hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking). In the years since, natural gas production increased dramatically to the point where the US can begin offering natural gas exports, of liquified natural gas (LNG). US Government regulators were already in the process of approving LNG export terminal construction. Additionally, some in the US Government are planning to use LNG exports as a geopolitcal tool to wean Europe from being overly dependent on natural gas sourced in Russia. As we reported earlier, a recent Congressional Research Service paper detailing all the methods Europe could end its dependency on Russian natural gas pushed for increasing LNG exports, and described European energy security as a US National Interest. The US sometimes goes to war to protect National Interests, making the rising tensions over Ukraine and Crimea especially ominous.

The 350.org letter notes that over the full life-cycle of fracked natural gas, exported as LNG and eventually burned, produces "huge levels of carbon emissions and widespread leakage of methane." Methane is a more virulent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and the whole process has a bigger environmental footprint than coal.

Plans for major new LNG export terminals would "lock in place infrastructure and economic dynamics that will make it almost impossible for the world to avoid catastrophic climate change," according to the letter.

The letter also notes a 2011 report from the International Energy Administration, "Are We Entering a Golden
Age of Gas?", saying that plans for a major scale transition to natural production and consumption "puts emissions on a long-term trajectory consistent with stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at around 650 ppm, suggesting a long-term temperature rise of over 3.5°C.”

In his 2014 State of the Union address, in January, President Obama took a strong stand on Climate Change, saying that there is no debate over whether it's happening. "Climate Change is a fact," declared President Obama, but in almost the same breath he bragged about increased oil and natural gas production under his administration. Increases that came thanks to fracking. That hypocrisy prompted the Sierra Club to issue a statement saying "Mr. President, you can't have it both ways. We applaud your leadership on vehicle fuel standards and dirty carbon pollution from coal plants, but drilling your way out of our energy and climate challenge is a recipe for disaster."

A climate trajectory with a 3.5C rise in temperatures is way beyond the level where major catastrophic changes will occur. According to James Hansen even the 2C level of temperature increase will result in major catastrophes. In December, Hansen and a group of scientists filed suit against the US Government seeking immediate action on climate change.

The 350.org letter calls for an immediate course-change on the LNG export terminals, because this would be consistent with a statement in February by Secretary of State Kerry that "Climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.... Industrialized countries have to play a leading role in reducing emissions.”

As a first step in steering US Government policy towards a real low-carbon economy, the group calls on the Obama Administration to "tell FERC to drop its shameful and unacceptably weak permitting process for Cove Point in Maryland" and instead push for a full Environmental Impact Statement on that specific LNG export terminal. The EIS will, according to the letter, show that "a pell-mell rush to export gas is a pell-mell rush to global climate ruin."

Instead, the letter calls on Obama to "double down on your ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency and expand wind and solar power nationwide," and to make that his legacy.

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