US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on March 25 announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and "strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine." The press release states: "The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward." This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry.
A judge on the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Jan. 27 invalidated an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, finding that the Biden administration failed to properly account for the auction's environmental impact. In 2017, the Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program issued a five-year plan which proposed 10 region-wide lease sales. One of those was Lease Sale 257, for 80.8 million acres of Gulf waters, the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in United States history.
In Episode 106 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality—or, as it is now incorrectly rendered, "normalcy" (sic). The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020's pandemic-induced economic paralysis is now being squandered. As fossil-fuel prices soar, the Biden administration is continuing a Trump-era policy to aggressively open public lands to coal mining, refusing to return to an Obama-era moratorium on new leases. US greenhouse gas emissions dramatically bounced back in 2021, which was one of the five hottest years on record. A record was made for highest temperature ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. (The Northern Hemisphere record was reached in 2020.) The global mean sea level is rapidly rising, and will keep rising for centuries even if the Paris Agreement goals are met, as seems less likely each day. And all this as hospitals remain overwhelmed coast to coast, and the National Guard is being mobilized to keep them functioning. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Local indigenous peoples and their environmentalist supporters have rallied outside the federal courthouse in Reno, Nev., as they await a decision on their request for an injunction to stop the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project, set to be developed on public lands within the ancestral territory of the Paiute and Shoshone. Opponents have also established a protest camp near the mine site. If the injunction is denied, Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Canada-based Lithium Americas, will be able to move ahead with an archaeological survey in preparation for breaking ground on the mine.
In Episode 62 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg grimly notes that, even with 400,000 Americans dead to COVID-19, the worst potentialities of the Trump presidency were not realized. Trump never (quite) established a dictatorship, and we didn't (quite) go over the edge into civil war. The critical task now for the country's progressive forces is to push for a maximal and thoroughgoing detrumpification—akin to the denazification of Germany after World War II. We may truly hope that the Capitol insurrection will prove to have been the last gasp of Trumpism. However, it may have been his Beerhall Putsch—and, as last time, there could be a second act. The more thoroughly Trumpism is reversed, the more likely it will be defeated and broken politically—especially given its glorification of "winning" and denigration of "weakness." The risk of sparking a backlash is not to be dismissed, but the greater risk is that of appeasement. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Five Alaska Native tribes filed a lawsuit Dec. 23 challenging the Trump administration's move to allow logging in the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest. The tribes are represented by nonprofits Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and are joined as plaintiffs by other environmental groups, commercial fishing groups, and tourism businesses. In October, the Trump administration announced that it would exempt the Tongass from the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or the "roadless rule." The roadless rule blocks logging and road construction in specified forests. Alaskan state leadership petitioned for the reversal, which puts nine million acres of the Tongass at risk. According to the United States Forest Service, the Tongass is the "largest intact temperate rainforest in the world."
The Trump administration on Nov. 16 announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska State Office issued a call for "nominations" on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. The notice launches the beginning of a 30-day public comment period before the agency moves forward with lease sales.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 9 issued a ruling in favor of the US government, allowing oil drilling to proceed in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that a 2012 impact statement prepared for earlier drilling within the NPRA was inadequate to cover new planned operations by oil companies elsewhere in the reserve, a critical caribou habitat.