[Note from BenIndy Contributor Kathy Kerridge: We’ve just gone through the hottest summer ever and are seeing severe weather disasters almost daily. Biden canceled drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Now he must stop more drilling in the Gulf. Please read this excellent op-ed by Gulf Youth Activists.]
Houston Chronicle, by Armon Alex and Maggie Peacock, September 9, 2023
This summer set all kinds of records, but they aren’t the kind of records we should be proud of.
First, we had the hottest June ever recorded on Earth. July 4 became the globe’s hottest day in history — until that record was shattered in the following days. And here in Texas, we’ve just finished the most extreme summer yet, with weeks straight of unusually high temperatures.
The reality is, we know exactly what’s making these life-threatening heat waves worse and more common: fossil fuel-driven climate change. And despite the widespread data, reports and studies that all confirm the root of the issue, we have leaders in the United States and across the world ignoring the solutions and continuing to push us to the point of no return.
We’ve been given a dire warning — the continued reliance on fossil fuels is incompatible with a liveable future. But despite this clear instruction from the world’s leading scientists, the Biden administration has issued numerous oil and gas permit approvals, including liquefied natural gas projects, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Willow project and multiple leases for offshore drilling.
Despite receiving the necessary approvals to begin construction, these projects will cause irreparable damage to the public’s health and the climate. The estimated emissions of the Willow project alone — the equivalent of about 4 percent of U.S. annual emissions — should be enough of a concern to stop all other oil and gas permit approvals. Unfortunately, there’s another looming carbon bomb on the Biden administration’s list.
This month, the Biden administration will release its Five Year Plan for offshore oil and gas drilling in Alaskan and Gulf waters. The draft plan proposed anywhere from zero to 11 potential leases — 10 here in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Cook Inlet of Alaska — which is in direct opposition to President Joe Biden’s campaign commitments to end new drilling on our public lands and waters. If Biden and his administration decide to move forward with all 11 leases, the result could be anywhere from the same amount of carbon emissions as the Willow project to 10 times as much.
Even though Biden has the authority to include no new leases in the final plan, many — including us — are worried that this won’t be the case, especially given recent remarks by the plan’s head. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that when it comes to drilling for oil and gas, “I’m not running this department for the progressives who want to keep it (oil) in the ground. This is for the whole country.”
In response to Haaland, we respectfully say that this country cannot afford more oil and gas drilling while we face this urgent moment in the climate crisis. The oil and gas industry doesn’t need access to any more of our public lands and waters; they already hold nearly 12 million acres of non-producing federal land with 9,000 approved but unused production permits. Any new leases for offshore drilling could lock in additional oil and gas production for decades to come — going way beyond Biden’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The vast majority of us will not experience any benefits from new leasing in the Five Year Plan. Instead, the oil and gas companies that are driving our planet to destruction and making record-breaking profits while doing so will win from the continued use of fossil fuels. Coastal communities such as ours in the Gulf will still be forced to live with the consequences. We will face the brunt of the pollution — swimming in oil-slicked water, eating contaminated fish, and suffering from devastating consequences to our health and environment.
We cannot continue to accept the status quo of drilling for oil and gas, especially when our communities here in Texas and nationwide face record heat, extreme weather disasters and deadly air conditions exacerbated by the continued use of fossil fuels. Biden must listen to the United Nations secretary-general, who has called for “ceasing licensing or funding of new oil and gas” to avert the most catastrophic climate change impacts. He must heed the call of the majority of Americans who oppose new offshore drilling off of our coasts.
We urge Biden, Haaland and the rest of the administration to choose to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels and finalize a plan with no wiggle room for new leases for offshore drilling. Our oceans, climate, communities and future depend on it.
Armon Alex and Maggie Peacock are co-founders of the Gulf of Mexico Youth Climate Summit and Youth Leadership Council, and are members of EarthEcho International. They live in Corpus Christi.