Even Environmentalists Think “Keep It in the Ground” Activists Are Extreme

May 25, 2016 in Blog

The activists demanding that the President ban offshore drilling entirely are so extreme, they’ve got traditional conservation-minded environmentalists worried. But these “old-school” environmentalists are not the only ones concerned. Many, including officials in the Obama Administration and the President himself, have treated efforts to ban oil and gas development with a hefty dose of skepticism. After all, the campaign to ban development in the U.S. is not only out of touch with reality, but it would inevitably lead to an increased reliance on foreign oil as the logical conclusion.

As Bloomberg reported yesterday, some activists are now invoking an obscure law in their attempts to convince the President to ban offshore drilling permanently. If that reeks of desperation, well, this tactic is merely the activists’ latest one in their series of desperate and extreme stunts and gimmicks, choreographed for media attention, to promote their campaign to ban oil and gas development while President Obama is still in office.

You know the activists have crossed the line when even environmentalists are publicly voicing their concerns and reservations. “The idea pits old-school, conservation-minded environmentalists against activists focused on blocking development of fossil fuels that drive climate change,” Bloomberg wrote, describing the “escalating tension between a new generation of climate activists who have embraced a “’keep it in the ground’ approach to fossil fuels and traditional environmentalists who are focused on ecological safeguards, protecting certain species and conserving their habitat.”

But even as these “keep it in the ground” activists clamor about the need to move to a cleaner future, their campaign is directly at odds with their slogans: Stopping oil and gas development in the U.S. would only increase our reliance on other countries for energy – countries that may not have environmental and safety standards that are as high as ours when it comes to oil and gas development. President Obama said as much in an address last summer:

“Now even as we accelerate this transition, our economy still has to rely on oil and gas.  As long as that’s the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production than on foreign imports, and we should demand the highest safety standards in the industry – our own.”

In fact, in response to a petition asking the President to ban oil and gas development on public lands and waters last week, the White House wrote, in bold,

“But even as we move full steam ahead towards cleaner energy, the United States will still need to use fossil fuels in the near term.”

That’s why Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, has called “keep it in the ground” campaigns simplistic and naïve. In September last year, she said,

“I think it over-simplifies a very complex situation to suggest that one could simply cut off leasing or drilling on public lands and solve the issues of climate change.”

Earlier this month, she called the campaign “naïve”:

“It’s going to take a very long time before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, so I think that to keep it in the ground is naïve, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve. … We really have to have a blend over time, and a transition over time, that recognizes the real complexity of what we’re dealing with.”

Likewise, Adm. Robert J. Papp, the State Department’s Special Representative for the Arctic and former Coast Guard Commandant, said last month:

“I don’t accept as gospel that we have to leave all the carbon in the ground… the fact of the matter is that unless we come up immediately with another energy source, [the world is] going to continue to be dependent on carbon products.”

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which represents13,000 Iñupiat shareholders, agreed:

“Finally, for those that wish to prevent Arctic development in the name [of] reversing global carbon dioxide levels or addressing global climate change, we note that, with or without Arctic development, planes will still fly, trains will still run, and oil and gas resources will continue to be developed around the world and in the Arctic. Shutting down United States’ Arctic oil and gas development will not alter the world’s course, but will only negatively impact those who depend on development for their continued survival: our communities, our State, and our country.”

When “keep it in the ground” activists are condemned by environmentalists in addition to Alaska Natives, officials in the Obama Administration, and the President himself, that’s when you know how radical and extreme they really are.