A group of community leaders from the Gulf Coast backed by a diverse coalition kicked off a new campaign this week demanding President Joe Biden stop fossil fuel exports to help put the brakes on the climate crisis and "build an economy that works for people, not polluters."
"Fossil exports shifts the burden to those least able to transition, reduces domestic resources, and increases our dependence, while further endangering coastal communities," said John Beard, founder and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network.
"We must stop the fossil fuel madness," he added.
One of the first acts of the Stop Fossil Fuel Exports campaign—part of a "Defend the Gulf" week of action which began Monday—was to deliver a letter calling on Biden to declare a national climate emergency and reinstate the ban on crude oil exports. The letter was signed by hundreds of organizations including Sierra Club, Another Gulf Is Possible, and Global Witness.
The 2015 lifting of that ban, along with fracking boom, is to blame for the rise in oil and gas exports, the groups say.
The letter also calls on the Biden administration to stop gas exports to "the fullest extent possible" and reject any permits for fossil fuel infrastructure.
The US can't lead on climate as the world’s largest fossil fuel dealer.— Earthworks (@Earthworks) April 19, 2021
That’s why Gulf Coast residents and 230+ groups are urging President Biden to #StopFossilFuelExports!
Tell the President what’s what at https://t.co/eCqnAl3DuU#DefendTheGulf #BuildBackFossilFree pic.twitter.com/WsflbVBEts
Beyond oil and gas, the letter notes that the "U.S. is a net exporter of coal, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels." In addition to stopping coal exports, the groups further urge the administration to stop "overseas finance for fossil fuel exports and infrastructure."
"The United States must be a global leader in advancing climate, racial, and economic justice, end the era of fossil fuel exports, and build back fossil free, delivering jobs, justice, and opportunity for all," the letter says.
The launch of the campaign comes as Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are set to reintroduce their Green New Deal resolution in Congress on Tuesday and ahead of an international summit on climate hosted by President Biden, which begins Thursday.
The new campaign's website makes a four-part case for stopping fossil fuel exports.
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First off, the fossil fuels worsen the climate emergency, and the "U.S. can't be a climate leader if it's also the world's largest fossil fuel dealer," the campaign says.
The exports are also "bad for jobs," the campaign argues, because while Big Oil is enjoying profits, the companies are cutting jobs and lobbying against a clean energy transition.
Fossil fuel exports worsen U.S. security as well, the campaign argues. "We need to build an energy system that keeps the lights on when climate disasters strike," the campaign says alongside a photo of icicles hanging from a ceiling fan in Texas in February amid widespread power outages after Winter Storm Uri struck.
Further driving the campaign are the adverse impacts on frontline communities of fossil fuel export infrastructure and operations, which local organizers say "pollute our air, poison our drinking water, and put our families at risk," organizers say.
Such impacts are well known to people like Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimper and environmental activist. Two weeks ago, she began a hunger strike at the waterfront of Lavaca Bay, Texas to protest an oil export dredging project in the mercury-contaminated Matagorda Ship Channel.
HUNGER STRIKE DAY 13— Diane Wilson #StopTheDredging Hunger Strike DAY 13 (@unreasonabledw) April 19, 2021
well, riding on a pony into Day 13. Days and nights a little rough, but during the day I’m raring to go. Somebody told me it was the adrenaline. (1/3) #StopTheDredging #StopOilExports pic.twitter.com/wtzU9ZoCtp
"I am risking my life to stop the reckless destruction of my community," Wilson said in a statement. "Oil and gas export terminals like the project I am fighting pollute our air, water, and climate—only to pad the pockets of fossil fuel CEOs."
"The Biden administration needs to stop the dredging and stop oil and gas exports," said Wilson.
Another Gulf resident and advocate calling for Biden to enact the bans is Melanie Oldham of Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water in Freeport, Texas—a community she notes is facing two oil export projects, the Sea Port Oil Terminal and Texas GulfLink.
In a statement, Oldham called attention to what she said was "a dramatic disconnect between President Biden's climate and environmental justice ambitions, and the reality of our oil and gas exports market run amok."
"To protect our communities and make good on his promises, Biden needs to end fossil fuel exports now," she said.