"Now more than ever, we need real leadership from the Department of Energy to end fossil fuels," said one organizer.
Climate advocates on Tuesday donned Halloween costumes to greet attendees of the U.S. Department of Energy's "Justice Week," but the organizers assembled outside the agency will be urging guests to demand far more from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and the Biden administration, who they say are "greenwashing" efforts to further equity and environmental justice.
The department's Office of Economic Impact and Diversity is holding the five-day event, where officials plan to highlight efforts to move "toward a more equitable, clean, and just energy future."
The week will include discussions of the Low-Income Communities Bonus Credit Program, which pushes for more access to renewable energy facilities in underserved communities, and executive actions President Joe Biden has taken to promote environmental justice.
All those actions, however, have happened alongside the administration's push in favor of so-called climate "solutions" that scientists say are unproven and serve only to perpetuate fossil fuel extraction under the false assumption that it can do so while still addressing greenhouse gas emissions and planetary heating.
The DOE, noted Basav Sen, a climate justice project director at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) who took part in the action, is "the biggest funder of false solutions such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and direct air capture."
"These are scams. We know that the real solution to the climate crisis is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and make a rapid, just transition to real renewable energy controlled by communities," said Sen, wearing zombie face paint at the direct action. "Instead what were seeing from the Department of Energy is a continuation of the fossil fuel economy."
As Common Dreams reported in May, analysts say that just running the machinery to operate a carbon capture and storage project—like the ones the Biden DOE announced a $1.2 billion investment in earlier this year—would increase energy consumption by 20%, adding to carbon dioxide emissions.
Smog, benzene, and formaldehyde emissions also increase with carbon capture technology, biologist Sandra Steingraber said—three types of pollution that disproportionately affect people in low-income neighborhoods, the very communities the DOE says it's targeting with environmental justice programs and events like "Justice Week."
Additionally, noted Sen, the DOE is continuing to license exports of fossil gas.
"We are here today to tell attendees of the Department of Energy's Justice Week that the version of environmental and energy justice that they're going to hear from the Department of Energy in the event is greenwashing, pure and simple," said Sen. "The Department of Energy cannot pretend to be on the side of environmental justice while they are actively licensing more fossil gas exports, which means more fracking, more air and water pollution, more pipelines, more export terminals, more sacrifice zones in frontline communities."
Some of the campaigners displayed the organizers' message succinctly on a banner reading, "Real Solutions. No Bullshit."
"Now more than ever, we need real leadership from the Department of Energy to end fossil fuels, quit peddling climate scams and advance energy justice," said Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), one of the groups behind the action.
Addressing Granholm, the group added that the secretary "can't cover up [her] record with greenwashing events like Justice Week 2023 while undermining real climate and environmental justice with [her] actions."
"We demand an end to fracked gas exports, carbon capture, and hydrogen energy," CJA said.