President Obama landed in Alaska last night to begin a 3-day trip though the 49th state, his first extensive visit there since entering the White House. The trip is fascinating, important, very historic — and highly hypocritical. Most of the visit is dedicated to highlighting the problem of climate change, and what better backdrop than Alaska, where glaciers are melting amid record high temperatures, while sea ice melts in the nearby Arctic at a rapid pace.
Nonetheless, there will also be a large-scale protest during Obama’s stay there – and understandably so. It was just a matter of days ago that his administration gave the final approval to the most ill-conceived environmental scheme during his presidency, granting a final permit to allow Shell to begin drilling in the frigid waters off the Alaska coast. I’ve written here before, on several occasions, what a horrific idea this is — that there’s little evidence that drilling for oil can be done safely under the extreme conditions of the Arctic. Past attempts have ended in near disaster. The administration has claimed its hands were tied by previous decisions on the Shell permits dating back to the George W. Bush administration, but if Obama was truly 100 percent committed to fighting climate change he would have gone to the mat on this one.
Still, in traveling to the Arctic — a region that has warmed twice as quickly as the rest of the world over the past six decades, with its northernmost reaches losing more than a football field a day of land because of coastal erosion and rising seas — Mr. Obama will also be implicitly making the case against the drilling he has authorized.
“The glaring, inconvenient truth is theat when you step onto ground zero and visit communities where they’re falling into the sea because of rapidly melting ice, you are witnessing the dramatic impacts of continuing down this path of fossil fuel development,” said Franz A. Matzner, director of the Beyond Oil Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Environmental groups and progressive activists have been quick to point out the incongruity in Mr. Obama’s Arctic trip. On Thursday, the social-change group Credo began a campaign attacking the president for what it called his “self-defeating hypocrisy” on the climate, calling for Americans to flood the White House with phone calls and petition signatures demanding an end to Arctic drilling.
Conservationists, native leaders and climate activists are holding a rally against Arctic drilling in Anchorage on Monday to coincide with Mr. Obama’s arrival.
When people look back on the Obama presidency, they will see that too many decisions on critical issues of energy and the environment were made for the sake of political expediency — to lower the price of gasoline at the pump by a few more cents at Election Day or to create a handful of jobs in America’s energy sector instead of sending the money overseas to Saudi Arabia. That’s human nature, perhaps, but now Obama is trying to pivot to climate change in the final act of his presidency, and his past decisions are haunting him.
Yes, America has become the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas, but at what cost to the future of the planet? The world needs a warrior on climate change, not a compromiser. The president’s support for expanding renewable energy like wind and solar power is admirable. But his “all-of-the-above” approach, which has led to much greater use of fossil fuels through fracking, off-shore drilling, and other approaches that have increased pollution and raised risk, has undercut that. Other developed nations have lapped America during the Obama years in their rate of renewable power growth. For Obama to tout his climate-change record just a stone throw from Shell’s crude-oil gambit is the height of hypocrisy.
Read more about the president’s trip to Alaska in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/31/us/politics/obama-to-urge-aggressive-climate-action-in-visit-to-arctic-alaska.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share
Read more about a lifetime of fighting Big Oil in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America: http://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice
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