[Vision2020] Bonn, Germany: State Leaders Diss Trump Coal Revival: US Pushes 'Cleaner' Fossil Fuels at Climate Talks
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Fri Nov 17 19:50:18 PST 2017
Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
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'Cleaner fossil fuels' in the final analysis translates to business as
usual for fossil fuel corporations who may make small efforts to lower CO2
emissions, while fundamentally not progressing toward the zero emissions
goal for this century, which science indicates is required to prevent
catastrophic global warming.
State Leaders Diss Trump Coal Revival as US Pushes 'Cleaner' Fossil Fuels
at Climate Talks
Ashley Braun <https://www.desmogblog.com/user/ashley-braun> | November 13,
BONN, GERMANY – From the United Nations climate summit in Bonn, Germany,
Arnold Schwarzenegger declared he wasn’t worried about Donald Trump
<https://www.desmogblog.com/donald-trump> — not his threats to withdraw
from the Paris agreement or his plan to bring back coal.
“Imagine bringing back coal,” laughed the former California governor. “In a
time when coal is plummeting in the United States and all over the world …
It’s like bringing back Blockbuster
But that is exactly in line with the plan embraced by the Trump
administration at these climate talks — where coal deals are even rumored
to be a possible outcome. Today the administration held its only organized
event of the summit, a “side event” which promoted “cleaner and more
efficient” fossil fuels and nuclear power as “vital” ways to reach the
goals of the Paris accord.
But not everyone here from the U.S. is on board with this view.
“This is a sideshow, a blip,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee just
before the U.S. event. “The world is not going to listen to someone who
says climate change is a hoax.”
World’s Largest Coal Company at Climate Summit
In addition to two White House representatives, the controversial U.S.
“side event” featured speakers from Peabody Energy
(the world’s largest private coal company, which filed for bankruptcy in
Tellurian <https://www.desmogblog.com/topics/tellurian> (a natural gas
company investing big in exporting liquefied natural gas, or LNG), United
States Energy Association
(a trade group for energy companies, utilities, and organizations such as
ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute
<https://www.desmogblog.com/american-petroleum-institute>, and of course
Peabody and Tellurian), and NuScale Power (a small-scale nuclear
More than an hour before the event began, hundreds of people lined up in an
attempt to get one of the 180 seats in the room.
Among those who were successful was a large group of youth and multiracial
protesters from Indigenous Environmental Network, SustainUS, It Takes
Roots, and 350.org, who filled about half the room. Early into the event,
they disrupted the presentation for eight minutes by standing and singing,
which included adapting the song “God Bless the USA” with lyrics
<https://twitter.com/KateAronoff/status/930142011658788866> about standing
up against coal mines and greed.
Meanwhile, those protesters who remained outside staged a sit-in blocking
the entrance to that part of the building. They chanted phrases such as
“Keep it in the ground. Climate justice now” until their counterparts
marched out of the event. The group converged on a nearby stage to sing
lyrics including, “We the people are ready to lead.” That afternoon, the
watchdog group Corporate Accountability International and a network of
Pacific Islanders <http://350pacific.org/pacific-climate-warriors/>
delivered a petition signed by 100,000 Americans asking the U.S. delegation
to step aside from blocking progress at the climate talks.
Cleaning up Coal and ‘Anti-Fossil Fuel Bias’
But back inside the U.S. event, the people speaking were mainly repeating
the same types of messages for using fossil fuels that have been used
before, though, depending on the speaker, the message became a little
disjointed. A common assertion was that the world is using fossil fuels now
and into the foreseeable future and should therefore continue investing in
infrastructure to use coal more efficiently.
“Some people believe there is no path forward for fossil fuels in a carbon
constrained world,” said Holly Krutka, Peabody’s Vice President of Coal
Generation and Emissions Technologies. However, she holds that current
technologies and those in the pipeline such as high-efficiency coal plants
can help coal reduce its emissions, which is vital to achieving the goals
of the Paris Agreement.
Both this event and one earlier in the day on carbon capture and
sequestration (CCS) pointed to forecasts that nations could only limit
global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius with CCS. Yet the majority of
CCS projects around the world use captured carbon dioxide (CO2) to pump
more oil out of already drilled oil wells
Barry Worthington of the United States Energy Association was very keen on
the future of CCS. He commented how worried he and his colleagues at a
United Nations committee on cleaner fossil fuel electricity were that this
approach would be left out or discouraged in the final language of the
Worthington also lamented what he considered an “anti-fossil fuel bias”
from U.S. and international financial institutions such as the
Export-Import Bank and U.S. Agency for International Development (AID).
Alex Doukas at Oil Change International <http://priceofoil.org/>, who was
in the audience, was incredulous at this framing and questioned
Worthington’s numbers, countering that in recent years U.S. institutions
have been funding fossil fuel projects
— though perhaps less coal — at a six-to-one ratio.
Other justifications for continued fossil fuel use included the need to
increase energy access for developing nations, an argument frequently made
by but with little to show
from energy executives, including now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
<https://www.desmogblog.com/rex-tillerson>. That argument is perhaps at
odds with both Trump’s “America First” policy of focusing on domestic
issues as well as the idea that U.S. investment in LNG exports is a national
security issue for other nations relying on one source of oil or gas
Happy to supply the world with U.S. natural gas, Tellurian’s Amos
Hochstein, a former Obama administration official, was making an effusive
case for LNG. However, he was operating under the assumption that natural
gas was a “cleaner” fossil fuel despite the climate-damaging methane
pollution released during the full lifecycle of gas production
Marching Forward Even with Trump
When asked by a Chinese journalist, George David Banks, the president’s
energy advisor, defended Trump’s 2012 tweet about climate change being a
hoax from the Chinese. He said that people forget about the rest of the
tweet, that it was a hoax from the Chinese meant to undermine U.S.
manufacturing, and that this defense of American competitiveness was the
point of it.
Again, U.S. governors at the climate talks would have disagreed strongly
with this point.
In a statement to the press before the U.S. event, Oregon Governor Kate
Brown said, “President Trump is rejecting the economy of the future,” and
went on to cite executive orders she recently signed supporting green
buildings and electric vehicles.
That morning, Gov. Inslee said that he understands climate change is more
than just an environmental challenge: “It is the largest economic
opportunity since the invention of the steam engine.”
At the same U.S. governors event, Schwarzenegger reminded the audience that
in light of the climate action coming from U.S. states, cities, and other
local organizations — a common message at the Bonn summit — relying on the
federal government was a mistake. California had cleaned up its notorious
smog, and saved lives, by taking matters into its own hands. He expected
“I don’t wait for the next election. I don’t hope there’s a different
president,” he said. “We can march forward even with Trump being out there
living in the Stone Age and thinking he has to bring back coal.”
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