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Sierra Daily

Jan 10, 2014

Saudi America


Bp-exxon-warming-2035In the last issue of Sierra, I wrote about how we are becoming the Carbon States of America. Our energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are falling, but we’re stepping up our exports of coal and natural gas. Oil, I noted, is another matter:

U.S. law currently forbids the export of domestically produced crude oil, a ban the industry is lobbying to overturn.

With the United States now experiencing an oil glut, that lobbying is becoming increasingly intense. Earlier this week, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R), urged her Senate Energy Committee to review the crude oil ban. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the oil industry predictably chimed in in favor.

"We should not be bound by past practices," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, in a speech at the Newseum in Washington. "It's a new day, it's a new time, it's a new America as it relates to oil and natural gas."

The United States, Gerard said, "should be working to 'figure out how to become the energy superpower in the world.'"

Environmentalists naturally oppose increasing exports of dirty energy from the United States. They have an unlikely ally in the refining industry, which is currently making a bundle by exporting gasoline and diesel that they make from cheap domestic crude.

The effort could bring in new lobbying firms to battle on the refiners' behalf and ultimately could expand to a broader coalition of crude export foes, including consumer advocates and national-security groups worried about squandering America's current energy advantage.

 So get ready for a bruising battle over gas prices, national security, and maybe even the environmental effects of using every last drop of fossil fuel before turning to renewables. In that interest, Barry Saxifrage at the Vancouver Observer has worked out--using data from ExxonMobil's global energy report The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040--the climate implications if the world uses all the oil and natural gas that fracking is making available.

ExxonMobil includes a colourful chart showing the surge in climate pollution that will result from burning all that extra oil and gas. They even provide the numerical data in a table at the end of the report.

What they don't talk about, however, is what all the climate pollution means for your future. They never mention how hot the planet will get or what changes that is expected to bring.

Saxifrage's graph of the result is above, showing the world on a path to a future that is 4 degrees Centigrade--more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit, an increase the World Bank calls "devastating." 

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise, he is a cyclist, cook, and dad. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber


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