Corporations Add Fuel And Fan Flames In Our Wildfire Crisis

by Mia DiFelice

Deep in an old growth forest some 100 miles from the Pacific coast, a storm is brewing. First the thunder, then the lightning. Deer run for cover. Birds shield their chicks in their nests. A fork of lightning taps the top of a Douglas fir older than anyone alive in the town just a few miles away. 

In a few minutes, a single lick of flame will turn into an inferno. In less than 24 hours, thousands of acres will have turned to ash. 

We know wildfires are unpredictable, scary and devastating. We also know exactly who’s behind the crisis that millions of folks in the West and across the country face each year. 

Water-hungry and climate-wrecking corporations are turning our forests into tinderboxes. One of the drivers is Big Oil. And if the industry is allowed to continue, we’re looking at a much hotter, more dangerous future for our forests and our communities.

Unprecedented Wildfires Extend Their Reach

Megablazes, the kind of fires that take out more than 100,000 acres, used to be a once-in-a-career event for firefighters. But now, “during the summers we are seeing them on a weekly basis,” a program manager in the U.S. Fire Administration told the Guardian. 

In 2021, California saw 2.6 million acres lost to fire, blowing past the previous five years’ average of 1.4 million acres. Across the country, 70,000 communities are at risk for devastation by wildfire. 

Wildfires are growing across both space and time. Fire seasons that were once contained in the late summer and fall are now stretching earlier into the summer and later, even towards winter. 

On top of that, fires are becoming harder to fight. The high winds and dry conditions create fires that behave unpredictably and thus more dangerously. If we continue emitting at our current pace, climate models show the risk of large wildfires will grow 600% by 2050. 

Climate Change Adds Fuels To Forest Flames

The story behind today’s wildfires begins centuries ago. Once, indigenous communities purposely lit and managed fires. This prevented devastating fires by thinning out trees and shrubs, which would fuel a large flame. 

By the early 20th century, federal forest policy aimed to put out any fire as quickly as possible. Fuels like shrubs, dead plants and fallen branches built up for decades. More fuel means any spark — lightning, downed power lines, campfires — can turn into an intense and fast-moving inferno. 

But the problem has gotten far worse due to climate change. Climate change means less snow and rainfall, more high winds and more hot, dry weather. The forest has less moisture, and fuels become drier and more flammable. 

Climate change has more secondary effects, as well. For example, in West coast forests, bark beetles have grown more active thanks to the milder winters and drier trees.

The beetles bore into trees, killing them. Though the trees’ sap can push the beetles out of their bore holes, less moisture in the environment means less sap. The dry, dead trees then provide even more fuel for flames. 

Large fires also create climate feedback loops. The smoke sends more emissions into the air, which worsens climate change. This creates ideal conditions for wildfires, which send more emissions into the air, and so on. 

Big Oil Is Turning Up The Heat

California has been front and center in the news on wildfires for the past several years. But despite the state’s twin crises of drought and fire, it’s still our country’s 7th largest producer of crude oil. This is a recipe for worsening disaster.

The fossil fuel industry contributes to the state’s climate crises in several ways. It pumps carbon emissions into the air. It’s also an incredibly thirsty industry that threatens the entire region’s water cycle. From January 2018 to March 2021, fossil fuel companies in California used 3 billion gallons of water for drilling. 

When it’s not sucking up water, Big Oil is polluting it. For decades, oil corporations have gotten rid of their wastewater by injecting it deep underground. They also inject water into oil wells for enhanced oil recovery, a method for pushing out the last stubborn dregs of oil from a well. 

California is home to 1 in 3 U.S. oilfield injection wells, numbering int he tens of thousands. Every barrel of oil drilled results in 15 barrels of wastewater, which is full of salt, trace metals and toxic chemicals like benzene. 

The wells that hold this wastewater are poorly regulated and often leak, threatening groundwater supplies. Oil corporations have even injected wastewater directly into drinking water aquifers. 

If allowed to continue, the state’s fossil fuel corporations will continue worsening the drought. Less water in the environment means less rain and drier conditions — the key ingredients for wildfire.

We Know How To Reduce Our Wildfire Risk

Industry has run roughshod over our water supplies and our environment for too long. Big Oil and Big Ag are driving the climate crisis and fueling growing wildfires. If we are to slow down climate change, reduce wildfire risk and save millions more acres from a blaze, our elected leaders must act now. 

Currently, California is laying out its plans to address the climate crisis through a process at the California Air Resources Board. The board, appointed largely by Governor Newsom, will be setting the state’s strategy for addressing climate change. 

It’s critical that this process directly confronts the fossil fuel industry and that Newsom and CARB act with urgency. This means stopping new permits for drilling and fossil fuel infrastructure, phasing out all fossil fuel production by 2030 and rejecting industry scams like carbon capture that will only extend our dependence on fossil fuels.

In doing so, Governor Newsom could show real climate leadership — while addressing the wildfire crisis threatening communities in California and across the country.

Learn more from our allies in the Last Chance Alliance. This clip breaks down the factors behind California’s wildfires and how you can help tackle the industry responsible.

People power is our greatest tool to tackle climate change and the resulting wildfires. Help us build it.

Cryptocurrency Is A Catastrophe For The Climate

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Kat Ruane

Cryptocurrency has taken the digital world by storm, with a single Bitcoin costing $68,000 at its peak last November. Despite recent price drops, many in the industry argue that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t going anywhere.

This promise does not bode well for the climate.

Cryptocurrency creates emissions and electronic waste at massive scales, all while paying fossil fuel corporations to continue drilling and revive dying coal plants. At Food & Water Watch, we know that cryptocurrency is not the solution to the world’s problems. We cannot “build a utopia” on an industry that worsens the climate crisis. 

Cryptocurrency Needs Huge Amounts of Energy To Continue Growing

Cryptocurrency refers to digital currency, the most influential of which is Bitcoin. While Bitcoin makes up 44% of the market, there are thousands of crypto options to choose from. 

Bitcoin rose as a decentralized currency out of the distrust toward government and banks following the 2008 financial crisis. This is where cryptocurrency’s climate problems begin. Because there are no banks or governments overseeing transactions, the industry developed methods to ensure the security and validity of exchanges. The most popular of these methods, used by Bitcoin and most other coins, is proof of work

In proof of work, coins are rewarded to the first and fastest computer to solve a complex math equation. Over the years, as competition has grown, cryptocurrency “miners” have needed more and more powerful computers to accomplish this task. Massive data mining centers have sprung up to meet this demand. But crypto mining is an extremely energy-hungry process. Mining a single Bitcoin requires the equivalent of a household’s electricity use over 9 years.

Proof Of Work Chugs Out Emissions Comparable To Whole Countries

With such high electricity use comes high emissions. Research has found that proof of work incentivizes crypto miners to use as much power as possible. For crypto miners to get returns on investments or turn major profits, computers need to run 24/7. This kind of power consumption overextends the grid and emits at scales comparable to mid-sized countries. 

Bitcoin uses an estimated 200 terawatt-hours of energy annually, equivalent to Thailand’s energy consumption. This translates to about 100 megatons of carbon emissions per year, comparable to that of the Czech Republic. U.S. Bitcoin mining in 2020 alone emitted 40 billion pounds of CO2.

Crypto Mining Is Creating A New Electronic Waste Market

Electronic waste, or e-waste, refers to electronics like computers or phones that have reached the end of their useful life. Globally, 50 million tons of e-waste is thrown away annually, and only 20% is recycled properly. The rest is tossed into landfills or dismantled by hand by workers in low-income countries, at extreme risk to their health. 

We are now beginning to understand how much crypto mining contributes to this. Annually, miners generate e-waste equivalent to that of mid-sized countries. This is because proof of work mining computers, known as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), cannot be reprogrammed and serve no other purpose. Once they reach the end of their useful life, they become e-waste. 

Additionally, computing power required for proof of work doubles every year and a half. These computers become obsolete within two years. One study estimated that at that rate, Bitcoin mining would produce 10,948 metric tons of e-waste each year. This averages out to 134.5 grams of e-waste per transaction, compared to negligible amounts per VISA transaction. 

Crypto Miners Are Teaming Up With Big Oil To Prop Up The Industry

In their never-ending search for cheap energy, miners have started going straight to the source: drill sites and power plants. At drill sites, Big Oil is capitalizing on flaring sell-offs. By flaring, oil drillers burn off excess natural gas that surfaces. They’d rather absorb the $1 billion annual loss than pay transportation and conversion costs. 

But now, with eager crypto miners waiting nearby, they don’t have to lose out. Miners park mobile trailers filled with ASICs next to these sites, paying the drillers handsomely to use the excess gas to fuel their operations.

Corporations like Exxon and ConocoPhillips are cashing in on the sell-offs, arguing it prevents flaring and therefore eliminates methane emissions. In reality, it only pads the pockets of Big Oil and incentivizes more extraction. Transferring emissions from one source to another will never solve what we know to be the root cause of climate change: drilling. 

Crypto miners are also helping to prop up fossil fuel plants across the country. They partner with floundering, broke coal plants to direct the polluting energy toward mining. After one such partnership in Pennsylvania, a single coal plant’s emissions rose from 12,000 tons in 2020 to 495,000 tons in 2021. 

We Need To Shut Down Big Oil’s Collaborators And Support Local Fights Against Crypto Mining 

It’s now clear that crypto miners are playing an oversized role in worsening the climate crisis. They’re pursuing profits at the expense of our planet and our future. For these reasons, Food & Water Watch does not accept cryptocurrency donations. We’re also joining the fight against crypto in New York, where communities are rallying for a moratorium on crypto mining collaborations with fossil fuel plants.

From New York and beyond, we won’t let the cryptocurrency industry mine our future for profit. And we won’t let corporations cling to another scheme to keep us hooked on fossil fuels. 

More people need to know about crypto’s climate consequences.

Big Oil’s Bet On Plastic Is Gambling With Our Future

Categories

Climate and Energy

CC BY 2.0, Dying Regime / Flickr
by Mia DiFelice
Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared on Food & Water Action’s website (our affiliated organization) at an earlier date.

Although we have a long fight ahead of us to transition off fossil fuels, the tide is turning. Consumers around the world are demanding greener power and more action on climate change. 

Big Oil has read the writing on the wall and has added a new tool to its arsenal — plastics. While public opinion turns against dirty energy, corporations are pushing petrochemicals to keep us hooked on fossil fuels.

Big Oil Is Betting Billions On Plastic

In the 2010s, the fracking boom created such a glut of natural gas that the industry scrambled to find new markets for it. Petrochemical companies were happy to step in. Ethane, a main raw material in many plastics, has doubled production in the U.S. from 2013 to 2021. Desperate to offload the surplus, U.S. companies send it around the world, often at bargain-bin prices. Ethane exported from the U.S. has gone from nonexistent to 300,000 barrels a day. The result — an explosion of plastic. Now, experts expect plastic production and consumption to triple by 2060.

The construction planned to expand the industry needs to stay in the blueprints. From cracker plants to pipelines, this infrastructure is expensive and dangerous. If all the planned projects are completed, emissions from plastics will double by 2050. These projects include 350 chemical plants that would introduce health risks to nearby communities. But since 2010, petrochemical companies have already spent $200 billion to expand plastics manufacturing infrastructure. 

At the same time, public opinion is getting hip to our plastic problem. Cities and states across America are banning certain kinds of single-use plastic. On a global level, Canada, India, France, and many other countries have placed their own bans just this year. Such measures predict shifting prices and future failure. Big Oil’s bet on the industry will entrench billions of dollars into infrastructure that will likely become unprofitable in a few years. 

Plastic Pose Growing Public Health Problems

If allowed to grow, the plastics industry stands to harm our families and communities in so many ways. For one, plastics release toxic chemicals all throughout their life cycle. From volatile organic compounds emitted during fracking, to heavy metals released during recycling, we absorb these toxins by breathing, eating or simply touching them.

Then, there are the pipelines. To make plastics, companies first extract ethane from natural gas liquids. Moving those NGLs requires miles of new pipelines. But NGLs are volatile and flammable, meaning pipelines have a host of health, safety and environmental risks. Yet, most of these lines aren’t regulated, sited or permitted by the federal government. Many states don’t step in, so miles and miles of hazardous pipelines have no oversight at all.

On top of that, the petrochemical industry has a long history of environmental racism. Companies have often cited polluting plants near low-income communities and communities of color. In Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” dozens of petrochemical plants dapple the shores of the Mississippi for 80 miles. The emissions from those plants rain yellow droplets of pollution and kill birds mid-flight. The mostly black and brown residents in the region have some of the greatest risks for cancer in the country.

Despite What Big Oil Tells Us, Recycling Doesn’t Work

For decades, petrochemical companies — often owned by the same oil and gas giants — touted ad campaigns (to the tune of $50 million a year) to keep us buying more plastic. They funded projects and created regulations, signaling that we could solve our plastic problem with some blue bins. But most of what we throw in those blue bins will never see a recycling facility. Only 1 in 10 plastics made from 1950 to 2015 have been recycled. In 2021, that number dropped to 1 in 20. 

Even the plastics that make it to a recycling center can’t be properly recycled. Instead, they’re downcycled, or turned into a lower-quality plastic. After that, they can only be downcycled once or twice more before they have to be tossed into a landfill. 

The newest flavor of the recycling myth goes by “advanced recycling,” which uses chemicals and high heat to break down plastics. The process, which is expensive and emissions-intensive, usually just results in a low-grade fossil fuel. Advanced recycling actually creates more greenhouse gasses than sending the plastic to a landfill or incinerating it. 

Yet, the plastics industry has pushed several states to loosen advanced recycling regulations, or even subsidize them. Taxpayers are funding Big Oil’s schemes to make plastic socially acceptable — when in fact, they’ll just create more problems and worsen climate change. 

We Can’t Let Big Oil Get Away With Plastics

Plastics are a danger to human health and climate. While they have a few important uses, Big Oil is pushing way more plastic than we need. The lie of consumer demand needs to be unraveled. In reality, packaging makes up 40% of produced plastics — which consumers have little say in.

The more Big Oil builds out its infrastructure and floods the market with plastics, the bigger the problem becomes. 

We can stop them in their tracks, starting with:

  1. Banning single-use plastics. These include water bottles, packaging and utensils, and they make up most of plastic waste. They end up in landfills, incinerators and our waterways. Like all plastics, they break down into microplastics, where they move much more easily and stealthily. Now, we find plastic in our sea salt, seafood, beer, honey, sugar and so much more.
  2. Banning fracking and new petrochemical facilities. We’ve known for years that fracking does irreparable damage to our environment and our communities. Petrochemical facilities are just as harmful. They’re also feeding the plastic problem, and stand to make it much, much worse. 

We need all hands on deck to stop Big Oil’s Plan B.

Drilling Won’t Lower Gas Prices. Here’s What Will.

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mia DiFelice
Editor’s Note: A version of this content originally appeared on Food & Water Action’s website (our affiliated organization) at an earlier date.

It’s the hallmark experience of summer 2022. You’re rolling down your local street, heat waves shimmering off the asphalt, breeze blowing through open car windows. But when you stop at the light, an impossible number catches your eye. Huge and stark, the sign proclaims “REGULAR: $4.95.” It was $4.70 just last week!

Gas prices have been rising for months. Experts first pointed to an unexpected, rapid demand as global COVID lockdowns lifted. Oil and gas corporations saw bankruptcies and negative gas prices in the worst months of the pandemic. But rather than respond to returned demand, industry titans doubled down on profits.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, countries around the world began sanctioning Russian oil. Eye-watering gas prices have piled onto a seemingly endless list of crises and pain points for consumers. 

So of course, gas has become a political tool that Republicans use to condemn the climate policies of the Biden administration. Pointing at the president is a convenient pretense as they defend the interests of fossil fuel corporations.

But media coverage of gas prices swings between incomplete, misleading and downright false. The truth is, gas prices have little to do with White House decisions, and there are few quick fixes.

Consumers — especially the most vulnerable — need relief. But that won’t come from more drilling, as many politicians are demanding. In fact, more drilling would keep us at the mercy of future oil shocks. And it would attach our economic and environmental health to an industry with a long history of volatility and corporate greed.

Let’s break it down. 

White hand pumps gas into a white car.

More Drilling Is Not A Quick Fix For Gas Prices

Citing economic principles of supply and demand, political pundits call for Biden to increase the U.S. oil supply — that is, to drill more. We need more gas than we’ve got, the logic goes. Prices have risen. If supply grows to meet demand, prices will drop.

This argument misses key facts. First, Biden is not blocking the flow of American oil. In fact, he’s opened the tap more than Trump. The current administration issued more than 3,500 drilling permits in 2020 alone; that’s a third more than during Trump’s first year. And under Biden, U.S. oil production has grown from 9.7 million barrels a day to 11.6 million.

Yet oil and gas corporations are staying away from new drilling projects. Currently, 4,400 approved and drilled wells have yet to produce oil. Oil and gas executives show no sign of ramping up production. 

High Gas Prices Are A Boon For Investors

Oil executives themselves have revealed the reason for their inaction — profits. The oil and gas industry is seeing record cash flow. In the first quarter of 2022, the five biggest fossil fuel companies made their highest profits in more than a decade. Last year, four major companies (Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon) made $75 billion. 

Their investors are demanding more of that windfall. So, instead of investing record profits in more drilling infrastructure, oil corporations are sending money back to investors through stock buybacks and payouts. In a March poll, 59% of oil executives admitted that investor pressure for profit, not government regulation, is the real reason they’re not drilling.

But blabber about drilling misses the mark. And it’s not like we usually use lots of Russian oil that we’re now missing. Of all the petroleum products used in the U.S. in the last decade, only 2% were Russian imports. So how do Russian sanctions affect U.S. gas prices?

The Oil Market Is A Complex Rollercoaster

Oil is a global market, which means prices are set by global supply and demand. The market could be rocked by tons of factors outside of U.S. control. Factors like natural disasters near production centers, the whims of oil-producing states and war. Such events create uncertainty about the future of supply and demand, which leads to more volatile prices. On top of that, speculators and their fleet of AI routinely bet on the future of the oil market. When prices go up, investors see dollar signs — and the more money they put down, the higher prices fly. 

In 2021, the U.S. exported more oil than it imported for the first time. Our crude oil production is soaring to record highs. Yet the price we pay for oil has still fluctuated wildly over the past few years. We are still vulnerable to oil price shocks.

The additional drilling pundits have proposed are a drop in the bucket of global supply. Far more influential are international disasters that clog supply chains, worry investors and prevent new development. Domestic production won’t insulate the U.S. from the global oil market. In fact, if more of our economy ran on fossil fuels, it would make us even more vulnerable to turbulent markets.

Price Controls and Renewables Are Real Solutions to Rising Gas Prices 

In the short-term, our government can help consumers with two tools. First, price controls would keep gas prices low, especially for those who need it most. Our country’s dirty oil addiction should not hurt workers and families. Second, we need an export ban on gasoline and other fuels. Despite the current crisis, U.S. exports on gasoline and diesel are nearing record-highs. With such exports, corporations send our domestic supply to the highest bidder. This ramps up market prices for everyone — including those of us who depend on gas for daily life and work.

Looking ahead, we need long-term solutions that will get us off the oil market rollercoaster. That means ramping up renewable energy. Renewables will insulate us from global oil shocks much more than domestic drilling ever could. But we have to pick up the pace of development while stopping new oil and gas. Our infrastructure and investment decisions today will have ripple effects for decades. More drilling won’t help struggling Americans tomorrow or even this year — but it will lock us into a future of dangerous emissions, climate disasters and high prices. 

Help us fight misinformation on gas prices.

Pandemic Profiteering: How Corporations Are Capitalizing on the Crisis

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

by Peter Hart and Mia DiFelice
Editor’s Note: This content originally appeared on Food & Water Action’s website (our affiliated organization) at an earlier date.

From the beginning of the COVID crisis, corporate oligarchs manipulated markets to maximize profits. The giants that control the meat industry stoked bogus fears of a shortage to jack up prices on consumers — with lies so egregious that we filed suit against one of the worst offenders, pork giant Smithfield.

Of course, the problems mounted. Inflation spiked across the economy. Shops swung between long waits and huge shortages. Big companies blamed supply chain shocks and increasing production costs, which were certainly part of it.

But when a handful of corporations control markets, they can essentially name their price — and shovel obscene profits to CEOs and Wall Street speculators.

Oil Companies Are Winning

The squeeze on working families intensified with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Suddenly, global dependence on fossil fuels reached a breaking point. U.S. gasoline prices soared while gas supplies to Europe plunged into chaos. 

In response, politicians and their media enablers demanded a dramatic increase in fracking. But energy giants quietly rebuffed these drilling demands. Not for any new concern for the environment — but rather because they are pulling in billions in record profits. Twisted market logic meant that limiting supply would pay off for their Wall Street investors.

From January to March this year, CEOs of eight fossil fuel corporations saw their share values grow by nearly $100 million. Windfall profits have not resulted in lower prices or better conditions for workers. Instead, these CEOs sold their shares for millions of personal profit.

The horror in Ukraine has created a new global energy crisis. Unfortunately, too many political leaders are clinging to the wrong solution. They want to “fix” a fossil fuel crisis by pushing more fossil fuels. That political support has given frackers a license to spring for long-term gas export terminals. American company EQT even called their mega-polluting gas export scheme “the Largest Green Initiative On the Planet.”

As a result, 25 new LNG projects are currently underway in our country. Fossil fuel companies are not only profiteering from today’s misery — they’re locking us into decades of pollution and emissions. We can’t let this continue. The International Energy Agency warned just last year that fossil fuel production must stop growing immediately if we’re to avoid the worst effects of climate change. 

Cornering the Market at The Supermarket

At the start of the pandemic, broadcasts and news feeds were fixated on one recurring image: empty grocery store shelves. Periodic shortages kept some consumers on our toes, while many were simply forced to go without.

As with oil and gas, we face giant corporations that would rather gobble profits than prioritize the needs of families. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen the cost of meat rise while small farmers’ and ranchers’ profits fell. While COVID ran rampant, we saw corporations limit hazard pay for workers, while investing in stock buybacks to line the pockets of executives.

The meat industry is one of the core players in this problem. A mere four corporations process 85% of all beef and 70% of pork in the U.S. This extreme concentration gives these companies the power to control supply chains, prices and wages. Experts suspect they’re using inflation and supply chain problems as a cover to boost profits. In fact, net profit margins for those top four companies are up over 300%.

Plus, lean supply chains in any industry are dangerous for crises. With one disaster, a few broken links send huge ripples throughout a system without the backups and resilience to recover. For example, a COVID outbreak in a single Smithfield hog plant took out 5 percent of the nation’s hog processing capacity. 

Corporations Are Selling Us Misery

It’s never been clearer: When the essentials for life itself are controlled by corporate cartels, the future of our communities, our families and our planet are at their mercy. For decades, corporate America has told us that bigger is better, that consolidation would lower prices and eliminate inefficiencies. 

We know this is a lie. 

The latest heartbreaking example: the wealthiest nation on Earth is running out of baby formula because of problems at a single factory, thanks to a market controlled by four corporations.

At Food & Water Watch, we know that these problems have solutions. That’s why we’re fighting to break up the grocery cartels and stop corporate water profiteers. It’s why we’re demanding an end to the polluting factory farms that harm communities and farmers. Why we fight on the ground across the country to stop the fossil fuel projects driving the climate emergency. In an era of compounding crises, we must fight to transform the present and protect the future.

We can’t fight Corporate America without you.

Big Oil’s Lies Are Killing Our Planet — And Us

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Mia DiFelice

For decades, the fossil fuel industry has lied to us and covered up their climate impacts. Thankfully, Big Oil is finally facing consequences. Several cities and states have sued fossil fuel corporations for their lies. For instance, Massachusetts’ attorney general alleges Exxon broke consumer protection laws and lied to investors about the risks climate change poses to their business. 

But as the industry faces new heat, it’s turning to new lies to keep us hooked. Here are five myths Big Oil is pushing on us, and the reality they don’t want us to know.

Lie #1: Good Food Needs Gas

The best cooking is done on an open flame. This line has been pushed by the natural gas industry for decades. Gas stoves have become symbols of food and family, hearth and home. But whatever merits gas has for cooking, they don’t outweigh its dangerous health and climate impacts. 

Just an hour of running a gas stove and oven creates unsafe pollutant levels in the whole house, not just the kitchen. Nitrogen oxides, a family of such stove-emitting pollutants, are linked to heart and respiratory problems. In fact, children in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to have asthma than those in homes that use electric. And a whopping 10% of all U.S. emissions come just from burning gas in commercial and residential buildings. 

Despite these hazards, new single-family homes built with gas hookups increased by 20% from the 1970s to 2019. That’s because the gas industry has flooded our airwaves, our magazines and even our social media feeds with ads. For example, the American Gas Association’s #cookingwithgas campaign pulled chefs from around the country to drum up support. It’s also paid influencers to “gush” about gas stoves on Instagram. 

The fossil fuel industry has a vested interest in keeping gas in our homes. But the fact is electric stoves are way more efficient, less polluting and kinder to the planet.

Lie #2: “Natural” Gas Is Our Bridge To Clean Energy

When the fracking boom arrived in the 2010s, the industry claimed that gas would be a bridge to clean energy. By replacing dirty coal, the story went, gas could get our emissions in check while renewable technology grew cheaper and scalable. 

But fracked gas has barely tipped the scale on emissions. In the past ten years, emissions from coal and gas fell by only 10%. Methane leaks from fracking infrastructure counteracts any claim of a benefit. In 2020, we did the math and found that if gas remains our dominant source of electricity, emissions will actually rise in the coming decades. Meanwhile, we know that renewables are ready to scale, affordable and critical to eliminating fossil fuels in the electricity, building and transportation sectors. We just need the political will to build them as quickly as possible.

As fossil fuel companies build out new fracking infrastructure, they’re locking us into gas for another generation at least. The average lifespan of a gas power plant is 4 to 5 decades. By investing in new gas plants, we’re either dooming the Earth to runaway climate change or wasting billions (often subsidized with public money) on facilities that must be decommissioned in just a few years. 

Lie #3: More Fossil Fuels = More Jobs

Opponents to decarbonization love to say that slashing fossil fuels will slash jobs. In 2021, the American Petroleum Institute claimed 2.5 million people work directly in oil and gas. But we checked their work and found that their report double-counted and overcounted by over 2 million jobs. 

Moreover, fossil fuel companies are not genuinely concerned with preserving employment. Even as production and profits increased in the U.S. over the years, the industry has hemorrhaged jobs. This is because oil and gas companies eagerly pursue automation to cut costs.

On the other hand, growing green industries like efficiency, ecosystem restoration and renewables will create more jobs than doubling down on fossil fuels. Fossil-fuel reliant communities shouldn’t be tied to dying industries that’ll leave pollution for decades to come. Rather, they need — and demand — a just transition that creates good jobs in clean energy. 

Lie #4: Carbon Capture Will Solve The Climate Crisis

The new darling of the fossil fuel industry is carbon capture and storage, which pulls carbon out of power plant emissions. Proponents say this will change the game on lowering emissions, as it prevents emitted CO2 from ever reaching the atmosphere. CCS has received a lot of press recently — and a lot of cash. The Biden administration has dedicated more than $10 billion of taxpayer funds through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to build out CCS infrastructure. 

But CCS demonstration projects have already received $6.9 billion of our money. And these projects actually proved that carbon capture is not a viable climate solution. Plagued with budget overshoots and underperformance, by 2016 only 4% of planned CCS capacity saw operations.

We’ve seen plenty of proof that these projects require new, expensive infrastructure and way too much energy to justify ever building them. Carbon capture systems essentially need a whole new power plant to fuel them. As a result, CCS projects in the U.S. have been net emitters, rather than reducers. And, in an outrageous turn of events, much of the carbon captured in CCS is used for enhanced oil recovery. This practice injects carbon into wells to help extract even more fossil fuels.

Ultimately, the best and fastest solution to decarbonize is to transition to 100% renewable energy. This, plus energy efficiency and rolling back demand, are our best bets to soften the blow of climate change. Oil companies saying otherwise are trying to distract us from the solutions that threaten their bottom line.

Lie #5: Oil & Gas Wants To Help Us Get Green

Since the Paris Climate agreement was signed in 2015, Big Oil has spent hundreds of millions of dollars rebranding itself. They’ve touted algae biofuels, recycling programs, clean energy investments and more to portray themselves as partners in a green transition. But while they loudly talk the talk, they, unsurprisingly, have failed to walk the walk. 

This year, researchers dug into the financial statements and annual reports of four major oil companies. Even though the companies sprinkled reports with phrases like “low-carbon energy” and “clean-energy transition,” they’ve actually increased fossil fuel production and barely dipped their toes in clean energy investments. 

Instead, as another report found, the five biggest oil and gas companies spent $200 million a year lobbying against climate legislation in the five years after Paris.

To make matters worse, the 12 largest oil and gas companies have committed to pouring $387 million a day on oil and gas extraction through 2030. Their planned projects (60% of which have broken ground) total 646 billion tons of emissions. That doesn’t sound like a “clean-energy transition” to us.

Big Oil’s Lies Are Ugly, And The Consequences If We Believe Them Will Be Uglier

Big Oil is trying to paint itself as part of a new, green future. But the industry has not substantially pivoted to clean energy, halted development or meaningfully reduced emissions. Instead, it’s doubling down on fossil fuels while pushing false narratives and pretending to develop “solutions.” 

We have to make it clear that Big Oil can no longer get away with misleading us. Our planet don’t need expensive technology or feel-good stories. It needs us to abandon fossil fuels now.

Knowledge is power.
Take it back from Big Oil.