We cannot combat climate change while exporting natural gas. It’s not only hypocritical, but it’s just nonsensical and counterproductive. And yet, the Obama administration was all-in on natural gas exports. As Kate Aronoff suggests, if Biden is serious about the climate change fight, he has to make the right choice here and not follow his predecessor down this unfortunate road.
The Obama administration proudly expanded fossil fuel exports. The question now is whether this White House intends to change course. The Biden administration has instructed the U.S. Export-Import Bank and International Development Finance Corporation to identify ways to “promote ending international financing of carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy.” Still, despite a drumbeat of warnings about a gas binge, whole government programs and departments—like the Department of Energy’s Office of International Affairs—remain devoted to pushing countries around the world to “encourage gas market development and access, including the development of infrastructure.”
Even an ambitious clean energy standard, a policy now being debated in infrastructure talks, could leave the door open to expanded gas infrastructure development in the United States. As the Greenpeace journalist arm, Unearthed, revealed last week, Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy was confident in May that such a standard could leave a significant role for gas over the coming decades, even incentivizing its production with tax breaks. And nothing about that policy would place restrictions on companies’ ability to export their products abroad as government officials continue to open new markets for them, against the efforts of some of their colleagues.
Like much of the fossil fuel industry, American LNG producers could before too long be facing a crisis. The Biden administration has a choice: prepare to replace gas producers with clean energy or bail them out—at the planet’s expense.
Fighting climate change really does mean ending the fossil fuel industry as soon as possible. That’s a process, no question. But not supporting failing companies is the least of the steps the government must take.