We’re Shipping Fracked Gas Abroad, Killing Our Wallets and Our Planet

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Climate and Energy

by Mia DiFelice

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we are yet again reminded of the dangers posed by our dependence on fossil fuels. Companies and countries too easily manipulate the market for profit and political gain.

Following new European sanctions against Russia, American fracked gas companies were only too happy to take advantage of the crisis. They’re touting fracked gas as an alternative to Russian fossil fuels. But if allowed to continue, the industry will lock in huge profits — as well as a supercharged trans-Atlantic fossil fuel trade and continued U.S. and EU dependency on fossil fuels. 

To export fracked gas, companies liquefy it and ship it overseas — such gas is known as liquefied natural gas (LNG). America began exporting LNG thanks to the glut of gas brought by the fracking boom, starting about eight years ago. In that time, the U.S. has gone from importing gas to, this year, becoming the largest LNG exporter in the world. We cannot allow this growth to continue.

Fracked Gas Companies Plan To Profit While Prices Hurt Families

At the moment, global prices for LNG are nine times more than they were just two years ago. Those prices, in energy terms, are comparable to a $200 barrel of oil. (Even now, with oil prices in the news daily, a barrel of crude has hovered around $100.) The new demand from Europe disrupted fracked gas markets, and prices rose as more competitors vie for supplies. 

That includes prices here in the U.S. The growth of LNG exports caused the soaring home heating prices that slammed low-income families last winter. In June 2022, an explosion at a Texas LNG export facility took 20% of U.S. export capacity offline. The result: market prices for fracked gas dropped in just a few hours. The explosion stopped exports that would have gone abroad. That unexpected supply flooded U.S. markets, and U.S. prices fell. Exporting domestic supply to the highest bidder has clear impacts on our energy costs at home.

The growing export industry has allowed U.S. LNG companies to pull in millions of excess profits from these high prices. In 2022’s first quarter, four of the biggest gas companies reported growing sales, profits and stock buybacks. This year, Cheniere, America’s largest LNG company, reported double the revenues compared to last year.

At the same time, exporters are using the crisis in Europe as an opportunity to build out infrastructure on our shores. In February, Cheniere’s CEO said to investors, “…the fact that there’s a scarcity of LNG these days is driving more and more conversation on how to increase our infrastructure and secure monthly contracts for our European customers.” 

Yet, these new export terminals won’t help Europe much when there isn’t enough infrastructure there to move fracked gas. On top of that, a May report by E3G found that the EU’s energy sector can transition off Russian gas by 2025 without the need for any new LNG infrastructure. Renewables are the clear winner when it comes to securing energy security.

Fracked Gas Presents Terminal Health Risks To People And Planet

LNG isn’t nearly as climate-friendly as its proponents want us to believe. LNG exports require liquifying, regasifying and transporting processes, which are energy-intensive and create more pollution. Plus, LNG creates pressure in the tanks it’s stored in, making it necessary to vent some gas. The resulting leaks make LNG more damaging for the climate than coal. The emissions of all these processes nearly equal that of burning the gas itself — in other words, exported LNG has double the climate impact of fracked gas used domestically. 

Fracked gas infrastructure also comes with a host of health and safety risks for nearby communities. Every step of the supply chain, from drilling, to pipelines, to transport, comes with risks of explosion. Between 2010 and 2019, our government recorded 1,226 gas pipeline safety incidents, including fires and explosions. These incidents killed 25 people, injured 108 and caused $1.3 billion in damages. But only 5% of fracked gas pipelines must report incidents. The number of casualties is surely higher. 

One region threatened by proposed new LNG infrastructure is the Gulf coast. The projects there are set to decimate wildlife habitats, desecrate Indigenous historical sites and disproportionately impact marginalized communities with toxic pollution. This pollution can create smog, cause asthma and damage lungs. The risks are disproportionately borne by people of color. 

Fracked Gas Exports: No Quick Fixes, Only Long-Term Consequences

Anything corporations do to expand LNG today will not change prices or stop shortages in the months to come. In fact, pipelines and export facilities take years to come online.

The industry shows its hand as it pursues long-term contracts. This isn’t about helping other countries in a short-term crisis — it’s about locking in decades of business at the expense of marginalized communities and planetary wellbeing.

Any investment in expanding fossil fuels is wildly out of step with the current science on climate change. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear that any such expansion “will rob us of our last chance to avert climate chaos.” 

And LNG infrastructure is no minor investment. A single export plant costs billions to build. If the industry has its way, the U.S. risks squandering enormous sums on a market that will likely dry up in a few years. The future of LNG is clear — billions wasted on stranded assets and ever more dependence on climate-wrecking fossil fuels. 

We already have the tools to face down climate change. The Future Generations Protections Act will stop fracked gas exports, among a host of other climate-saving measures. If we are to secure a brighter, greener future, we have to stop LNG exports now.

Tell Congress to support the Future Generations Protect Act.

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.