Environment | Opinion | Politics

Lydia Millett: End extraction of fossil fuels from federal lands

A march against fossil fuel development in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 6, 2015. Photo from Indigenous Environmental Network / Facebook

With the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline out of the way, author Lydia Millet calls on President Barack Obama to suspend energy development on federal lands:
Most climate debates have focused on cutting the use of fossil fuels. But besides a few high-profile scuffles over fuel extraction in vulnerable wild places like the offshore Arctic, political leaders have ignored fossil fuel production as a necessary piece of climate strategy.

In fact, under President Obama, oil and gas production in the United States has increased substantially. And that increase has been a major bragging point for the administration. “America is No. 1 in oil and gas,” the president boasted in his 2015 State of the Union address.

Globally, we will have to use far less of our already proven reserves of oil, gas and coal in the next 35 years if we are to even have a shot at avoiding the most disastrous warming effects. Some say we need to keep a third of the earth’s oil reserves, half its gas and 80 percent of its coal unused. We need to lock up those fuels that would push us past the tipping point. And the most logical place for the United States to start is on our public lands.

About half of all potential future global warming emissions from United States fossil fuels lie in oil, gas and coal buried beneath our public lands, controlled by the federal government and owned by the American people — and not yet leased to private industry for fuel extraction.

This amount — about 450 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — represents one-quarter of the total amount of carbon emissions that can be released in the coming decades if the world is to even have a chance of keeping global warming down to 2 degrees Celsius — a temperature increase that will itself result in extreme, dire consequences for people and natural systems worldwide.

Get the Story:
Lydia Millett: Obama Should Let Fossil Fuels Lie (The New York Times 11/11)

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