Who is the New York Times trying to kid with its recent news story titled “A Natural Gas Project is Biden’s Next Big Climate Test”?
The project in question, called “CP2,” is a proposed $10 billion natural liquified gas export terminal that Venture Global wants to build on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
It cannot go forward until the Biden administration’s Energy Department rules that it would be in “the public interest” for it to be approved. If — really when — that approval comes, that will signal that sixteen more proposed liquified natural gas export terminals will get a federal green light.
Times environmental reporters David Gelles, Clifford Krauss and Coral Davenport call the politics behind CP2 “complicated….highlight[ing] the tension between economic growth, geopolitics and the environment.”
On one hand, they note:
“Supporters of the project…say [it] would be a boon for the United States economy and help Europe decrease its reliance on gas imported from Russia… [At the same time, Biden] is …trying to keep gas prices from rising, wants to supply European allies with a replacement for Russian gas and must fend off Republican accusations that he is hampering American energy development… export terminals represent the culmination of America’s decades-long boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking…Starting in 2016, the United States began exporting liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G., and this year became the biggest exporter in the world. Several new terminals are under construction, and even without CP2, exports are poised to grow by more than 50 percent in the years ahead…The exports have given Washington new leverage on the world stage, allowing the Biden administration to impose sanctions on a new Russian Arctic gas project without threatening to raise global energy prices and to help power Europe as it weans itself from Russian gas…[and] an escalation of hostilities in the Middle East could threaten transit through the Strait of Hormuz, the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean, where nearly a quarter of the global natural gas supplies flow, making such projects all the more important.’ … Natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane, is cleaner than coal when it is burned. Michael Sabel, the chief executive of Venture Global LNG, said in an interview that natural gas was ‘the greatest tool the world currently possesses to combat climate change.’”
On the other hand, Gelles, Krauss, and Davenport report:
“a nationwide movement is working to stop the export terminal from ever being built. Opponents, including major environmental groups, scientists and activists, say that CP2 would lock in decades of additional greenhouse gas emissions, the main driver of climate change. They add that the project would be harmful to the people who live in the area, as well as the fragile ecosystem that supports aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico….’There is increasing public recognition that this project and others stand as the biggest new carbon sources in the world, and this is in the wake of an iconic global agreement that it is time to transition away from fossil fuels,’ said Manish Bapna, chief executive of the Natural Resources Defense Council. ‘This disconnect is capturing the public’s imagination and outrage.’… But while natural gas burns cleaner than coal, methane emissions are 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years in the atmosphere. And although methane dissipates more rapidly than other greenhouse gases, it can leak anywhere along the supply chain, from the production wellhead to processing plants to the stovetop. The process of liquefying gas to make it suitable for transport is incredibly energy intensive as well, creating yet more emissions…A new analysis by Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell, concluded that the emissions associated with exporting natural gas could be 24 percent to 274 percent greater than those associated with burning coal…approving CP2 would result in emissions 20 times greater than those associated with the Willow Project, a major new oil drilling development in Alaska that the Biden administration approved this year despite an outcry from environmentalists…. activists have lit up TikTok and Instagram, delivered petitions to the Biden administration and met directly with senior White House climate officials to urge Mr. Biden to reject CP2. Jane Fonda recorded a video for Greenpeace calling on the public to work against the project…The same activists were enraged at Mr. Biden this year after he approved the Willow project. But this time, they are hoping to bring another fossil fuel fight to the front steps of the White House and receive a different result. ‘The scale of this, it’s the single biggest remaining fossil fuel expansion on planet Earth,’ said Bill McKibben, an environmental activist who is leading a campaign to block CP2.”
By the Times’ account it’s up to Biden to decide how to navigate these “complicated” politics.
That’s Biden’s “next big climate test.”
Let me uncomplicate things here.
The “supporters of the project” are first and foremost profit-hungry investor-class fossil capitalists who could give a flying fuck about livable ecology.
The notion that natural gas is safe for the environment is another in a long line of lies that fossil capitalism has disseminated to justify its flooding of the atmosphere with heat-trapping carbon – a monumental crime that is speeding humanity and other living things past the thermal “Goldilocks Zone” that makes decent life possible on this planet.
US capitalism-imperialism has been leading this process of turning planet Earth into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber for more than a century. It has consistently done so whether the US president is a Republican or a Democrat, regardless of the fact that the fossil capitalist Democrats pay lip service to the warnings of climate scientists on “anthropogenic global warming” while the fossil capitalist Republi-fascists do not.
A longstanding corporate and finance capital toady and blood-soaked US imperialist, Joe Biden (thanks, Obama!) is first and foremost the chief executive of the US capitalist-imperial system. A recurrent and revealing capitalist Biden watchword has been “competitiveness.” Biden has been consistently chirping about making America more “competitive” across his dismal and unpopular presidency. Environmental concerns are for him secondary compared to his mission of “competitively” advancing American power on the world stage. A critical US imperial-economic-geopolitical goal under Biden has been to replace Russia as the leading supplier of natural gas to Europe – no small part of why he approved the destruction of the Nordstrom Pipeline. This is a guiding ambition behind Biden’s blood-soaked Ukraine policy.
Natural gas – sent in liquified form on tankers from the US to the far corners of the world – is a potent new source of American capitalist competitiveness as well as methane emissions. As the National Resources Defense Council reported two years ago:
“The commercial production of LNG in the United States began in 1941, with the first U.S. exports heading to the United Kingdom in the late 1950s. But the real boom for U.S. LNG kicked off far more recently. The increase in U.S. natural gas extraction—far beyond domestic demand for gas—has spurred the industry to build out LNG infrastructure, such as processing facilities and export terminals to ease shipping of the fossil fuel. And while Australia is currently the lead exporter of LNG, and Qatar the cheapest source of the fuel, this new infrastructure is expected to enshrine the United States as the world’s biggest exporter of LNG by the end of 2022 as peak capacity reaches 13.9 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). Some of that increase has to do with geopolitical issues. For example, because Russia supplies natural gas to much of Western Europe, the European Union imports LNG as a backup, should its energy supply be cut off or reduced in times of political conflict…. While the final destination of a U.S. tanker of LNG might be influenced by where the company can get the highest prices, in 2020, the majority of exports went to nations in Asia, followed by Europe, with the rest being shipped across Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.”
(So what if “these lucrative overseas exports” contributed to high heating home costs in the US? “As demand for gas has rebounded from pandemic lows,” the NDRC explained, “US fossil capital remained “focused on maximizing shareholder returns rather than meeting the domestic market demand…”)
At the same time, decades of fossil-capitalist propaganda have made climate change – arguably the biggest issue of our or any time – a relatively low priority (number 17 by a 2023 Pew survey) for US voters and Biden’s tenuous hopes for re-election (he is behind the open eco-fascist Trump in match up polls in the small number of states that absurdly determine presidential outcomes under the archaic US Electoral College system) depend largely on gas and other energy prices being kept stable. And Biden knows that deciding against CP2 will cost him campaign funding from deep pockets fossil capitalist interests and help Trump raise more money from those interests
Biden has showed his concern for humanity and life by waging a deadly imperialist proxy war that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people in a US-provoked war in Ukraine for the last 27 months and by embracing and backing US imperial pit bull Israel’s genocidal US-equipped/-funded/-protected war on the people of Gaza for the last 3 months. Like his Democratic presidential predecessors Lyndon “Crucify Vietnam” Johnson, Jimmy “Mujahideen” Carter, Bill “Bomber of Belgrade” Clinton, and Ba(f)rack “Copenhagen Climate Killer” Obama, “Genocide Joe”Biden has coldly betrayed one liberal and progressive-sounding campaign promise after another. It’s what capitalist Democrats do in the corridors of state power. Biden’s climate record is just another example, suggesting that he ought to be known also as “Ecocide Joe.”
To add to the likelihood of Biden bombing another one of his “big climate tests” from the perspective of “the public interest,” the US Energy Department has, the Times reports, “never rejected a proposed natural gas project because of its projected environmental impact.”
Taken all this into account, I find it very likely that Biden will sign off on CP2, with Energy Department officials claiming to justify this planet-cooking move by saying that natural gas is eco-friendly compared to coal.
Think of it as pass-fail. Biden will pass the test” from the perspective of fossil capital and fossil fuel-addicted capitalism and imperialism. He will fail the exam from the perspective of life on Earth, also known as the common good and “the public interest.”
Liberal and progressive environmentalists will voice outrage at the president and then go relatively quiet about Joe “Willow Project” Biden’s latest climate betrayal since his presidential opponent and likely successor, the eco-fascist monster Donald “Drill, Drill, Drill” Trump, is even worse on the climate.
We can blame Biden and Trump all we want but the real determinant eco-exterminist force isn’t any individual politician or even any investor bloc. It’s the underlying eco-exterminist system of US-led global capitalism-imperialism, which pits capitalist firms and nation states against each other in an endless competitive expand or die war for profits and power – a war that is bringing humanity perilously close to irreversible thermal catastrophe.
How horrific. There’s no love or justice or democracy or poetry or music or philosophy or sport or science or walks in the woods and the beach on a dead planet. If we don’t overthrow this capitalist-imperialist order soon, we can kiss a decent future for humanity and other living things goodbye.
My recognition that the Orange Fascist Menace Trump and Trumpism are, well, fascist and now openly channeling Hitler is not going to make me pull my punches on Genocide/Ecocide Joe in 2024. Hate me if you want to. We have two vicious giant and sociopathic attacks dogs menacing the nation, world and humanity itself. The fact that one of them contracts rabies does not lead me to coddle the other one, which enables the rabid dog and shows blue fashy foam in its own right. It’s the whole damn system that has unleashed these horrific animals on humanity.
A version of this essay first appeared on The Paul Street Report. Please see TPSR this Saturday to read a reflection on the third anniversary of January 6.