Late Tuesday night the House voted in favor of a Democrat sponsored bill to allow oil companies to expand their offshore drilling operations. The bill has been hailed by some as a victory for the environment because it includes incentives for renewable and strips some tax breaks the oil industry currently enjoys. In addition to opening up fragile ocean ecosystems to oil drilling, the bill also lifts the ban on drilling for shale oil (which is as dirty if not dirtier than tar sands oil) on millions of acres in Western states, much of which is on public lands.
In the face of our climate crisis it is utterly unacceptable for Democrats, who proclaim their dedication to fighting climate change, to vote to expand fossil fuel production. For those hailing this as ultimately a victory for the environment I have some questions for you to answer:
- It is undeniable that we need to make a 100% transition away from fossil fuels as soon as possible in order to avoid the point of no return of runaway climate change (aka the tipping point). Even Al Gore, by no means an eco-radical, is calling for us to phase fossil fuels in 10 years. This new wave of oil drilling that the Democrats just pushed through won’t even hit peak capacity until around 2030. How can you seriously talk about fighting climate change and still be drilling for oil 20 years down the road? To put it simply, in order to avert the climate crisis we must immediately dismantle the fossil fuel infrastructure we are currently dependent on, not build a new wave of it.
- There are no doubt some good things in this bill such as taking away tax brakes away from the oil industry and pushing for renewables. But why must you hold these ideas hostage to drilling for oil. Any gains made in this regard will be canceled out by perpetuating our dependence on fossil fuels.
- Not only is oil drilling a threat to the climate but to ocean and coastal ecosystems as well. We all know what an oil spill will do to an ecosystem. Less talked about is the devastation that the network of pipelines that comes along with new drilling does to the environment. These pipelines have carved up thousands of acres of wetlands. In fact, the destruction of wetlands by the oil industry, which act as a natural buffer against severe weather, is partly to blame for the massive storm surge that flooded New Orleans. Wetlands are literally a frontline defense for coastal communities against hurricanes (which are only going to get worse as the Earth warms).
- Some people will no doubt say that the Democrats had to do this in order to maintain public support and win the elections. Which is basically saying that their political careers are actually more important than taking a meaningful stand on climate change. It is unacceptable, that while they control both chambers of Congress they are capitulating Republicans and the oil industry to “drill here, drill now.”
Folks, we are facing the very real possibility that in our lifetime, or our children’s lifetime a good majority of the planet will be uninhabitable for humans, and 50% or more of all species could go extinct due to global climate change. We cannot sit by and watch politicians push our planet closer to the brink in the name of saving their political careers. The time is now to organize in our communities and build real power at the grassroots. Lets hold these spineless politicians feet to the fire!