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Build Back Fossil Free

Activists rally on January 19, 2021 in New York City to demand that U.S. President Joe Biden take immediate executive action to "Build Back Fossil Free." (Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Activists Say Biden 'Bamboozled' by Big Oil as Crude Export Ban Is Off Table

"But justice is coming and it's coming soon. Our movement will force this administration to make a choice: the people or fossil fuels."

Brett Wilkins

Climate and environmental campaigners on Tuesday expressed deep disappointment with the Biden administration after Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm assured a major fossil fuel lobby that a ban on crude oil exports is not under consideration.

"This is nothing more than feeding the beast in pursuit of profit, while Gulf Coastal communities of color continue to suffer the effects of pollution and social and environmental injustice."

Bloomberg reports Granholm told a virtual meeting of the National Petroleum Council that the administration is "not a bogeyman."

"I do not want to fight with any of you," Granholm told attendees. "I do think it's much more productive to work together on future-facing solutions."

Speaking to reports that the administration was considering a crude oil export ban, Granholm assured the Big Oil representatives that "we wanted to put that rumor to rest."

"I heard you loud and clear," she said, "and so has the White House."

Climate justice advocates called on President Joe Biden to choose between people and the planet or Big Oil profits.

Love Sanchez, co-founder of Indigenous People of the Coastal Bend in Corpus Christi, Texas, and a Karankawa Kadla Indigenous person, said in a statement that "based on what I have been reading and observing, our federal government does not have our backs."

"One minute Biden says he is going to tackle the climate crisis, the next he tries to illegally auction off our waters in the South," she continued. "The South is where predominantly Black and brown communities live. This is clearly environmental racism."

"I feel for my relatives in Louisiana. If you look at the sale, if it is finalized, these offshores will be built closer to Louisiana," she said, referring to the Biden administration's lease sale last month of 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico—the largest such sale in U.S. history. "Our Corpus Christi Bay area will also be damaged."

"We will continue to stand with those trying to stop this offshore illegal auction," Love added. "It's disrespectful to our Mother Earth. She is barely surviving, and the fossil fuel industry and corrupt politicians don't stop. Since they aren't stopping, neither are we. Expect us!"

John Beard, director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network and a Build Back Fossil Free steering committee member, said that "the story of this administration is 'promises made and promises unkept.' Despite claims to being the environmental president, Biden hasn't made good on his word to the millions of Americans demanding climate action." 

"The Biden administration continues to bend to the will of Big Oil and is bamboozled by its false solutions and misrepresentation of facts," he continued. "Exports and more drilling do little to affect domestic prices nor do they reduce dependence on foreign crude. This is nothing more than feeding the beast in pursuit of profit, while Gulf Coastal communities of color continue to suffer the effects of pollution and social and environmental injustice."

"But justice is coming and it's coming soon," Beard vowed. "Our movement will force this administration to make a choice: the people or fossil fuels."

Biden has acknowledged that human-caused climate change poses an "existential threat." Under the National Emergencies Act—enacted in the wake of the 1973 OPEC embargo—he also has the executive authority to limit or stop oil exports for up to a year, on a renewable basis.

Between 1975 and 2015, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act banned nearly all exports of U.S. crude oil. Congress ended the ban in December 2015; by 2019 the United States had become a net petroleum exporter.

According to a report published earlier this month by Oil Change International, Earthworks, and the Center for International Environmental Law, oil and gas exports from the Gulf Coast have surged by nearly 600% since the ban was lifted. A 2020 report by Greenpeace USA and Oil Change International found that reinstating the crude oil export ban could cut global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 181 million tons annually.

Shortly after Biden took office, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), demanded that he declare a national climate emergency. Biden has refused to do so; instead, he broke a major campaign promise as his administration approved thousands of new fossil fuel drilling permits on public lands.

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