New Report Details Impacts of Oil and Gas Development on Public Lands
By Carla Ruas
The American Petroleum Institute has rolled out a multibillion-dollar public relations campaign stating that oil and gas can help to solve climate change. The association is claiming that expanding the use of fossil fuels can lower climate emissions that are trapping heat on our planet.
If that sounds fishy, it's because it is.
The campaign, which includes online ads, airport displays and billboards, credits oil and gas for the recent dip of 2.1 percent in the U.S. climate emissions. It also pushes the false narrative that fossil fuels — especially natural gas — are the energy sources of the future.
Our new report, The Climate Report 2020: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Public Lands, shows that couldn't be farther from the truth.
While climate emissions went down slightly in 2018, the decline has more to do with the country's shift away from coal, a notoriously dirty energy source. And although the gap left by coal has been partially filled by oil and gas, to say dirty energy can stave off climate change is just plain wrong.
Our experts found that on public lands alone, oil and gas development is set to generate a massive amount of climate emissions. Federal lands leased to the industry in the last three years could produce as much as 5.9 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gases. That's more than half the emissions that China — the world's largest emitter — releases per year.
You won't see that number in the industry's advertisements.
The problem is that oil and gas are far from being clean energy sources. Even the most efficient natural gas plant still emits about half of the carbon dioxide emitted by a coal plant. That's still high considering the world needs to slash carbon emissions to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis, according to the United Nations
Federal lands leased in the last three years could generate half of China's annual climate emissions.
That's not all. The extraction of natural gas also releases methane, widely known as a climate change accelerant. The gas is released in smaller quantities than carbon dioxide, but it's 87 times more powerful in trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere.
It's clear that by investing in oil and natural gas instead of coal, we're just replacing one emissions problem with another.
It's also clear that oil and gas companies are not interested in solving climate change. For instance, methane leaks could be easily cut with cost-effective solutions. But the industry has done the opposite, spending heavily to block the passage of any regulations.
The Federal Government Has the Industry's Back
The federal government has been supportive of the oil and gas industry. Mason Cummings / The Wilderness Society
As fossil fuel companies attempt to rebrand themselves as "clean" to expand operations, the federal government has been giving them full support. So far, the Trump administration has offered 461 million acres of American public lands and waters for the development of oil and gas — an area technically bigger than the state of Alaska.
Catering public lands to fossil fuel extraction is highly irresponsible. They already contribute greatly to the climate change problem: Over 20 percent of total U.S. climate emissions come from oil, gas and coal extracted on those lands.
But from the very beginning, the Trump administration has managed public lands on behalf of corporate interests instead of the public. They have been offering sites to the industry at below-market rates and have purposely hidden the climate impact of fossil fuel developments.
As the world strives to solve the climate crisis, we seem to be going in the wrong direction. The results could be catastrophic — especially for lower-income and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather events including hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
The Real Solution: Healthy Lands
Instead of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound by investing in dirty energy to solve climate change, we need a long-term plan to reduce climate emissions.
We can start right here in our backyard: our shared public lands.
The federal government can easily reduce emissions stemming from public lands. They just have to reinstate limits on methane pollution, restrict the number of acres available for the oil and gas industry and charge a fair price for the land that is leased.
It gets better.
We can use this land to build responsible renewable energy projects such as wind turbines and solar panels. You know, the type that's actually clean. We can also foster natural carbon sinks—magical landscapes like the Tongass National Forest in Alaska that have the power to absorb carbon emissions. With this recipe, we can reach net-zero emissions on public lands and waters by 2030.
What's more, this approach is good for both the environment and people.
Less fossil fuel development on public lands will reduce air and visual pollution that so often burden local communities. Responsible renewable energy projects will put people to work. And healthy landscapes will strengthen climate resiliency for all and preserve our shared air, lands and waters.
The Tongass National Forest is a natural carbon sink. Nelson Guda / The Wilderness Society
Reposted with permission from The Wilderness Society
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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