German Chancellor Olof Scholz opens LNG terminal in December 2022. (Photo: FOCKE STRANGMANN / AFP)
Joe Biden is like all of his party's predecessors. He talks a good game on environmental policy, but he is the front man for the fossil fuel industry and is even waging a proxy war in Ukraine to help their bottom line.
Support for the Russia/Ukraine war is experiencing a precipitous decline according to polls of United Statesians taken at the war’s one year mark in February. In fact, whereas 60 percent of those polled in May 2022 supported sending weapons to Ukraine, the February poll reveals support for the US military’s munificence plummeted to an all-time low of 48 percent. Moreover, the same poll demonstrated that less than 40% of United Statesians favor sending any government funds to Ukraine.
There are myriad reasons for waning support for this war, one of them is likely associated with the price tag. According to estimates, in just a little more than one year, President Biden has approved largess of the U.S. tax payer in the sum of $115 billion. To put that in perspective, this represents one third of the roughly $379 billion so called Inflation Reduction Act that will be allocated over ten years. Of course, many people also reject this war as proponents of peace. Brazilian President, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva recently offered, “The United States needs to stop encouraging war and start talking about peace; the European Union needs to start talking about peace so that we can convince Putin and Zelensky that peace is in the interest of everyone and that war is only interesting, for now, to the two of them.” While I agree with the overarching premise of Lula’s take, I would disagree with him in that there’s another entity who finds this war very interesting because it’s in their best interest for it to continue - fossil fuel cartels and corporations who are raking in record profits.
It’s incontrovertible that in the context of the Russia/Ukraine war, fossil fuel cartels/corporations are war profiteers, and Joe Biden’s policies of war and environmental entropy are giving them a crude cash credit line in perpetuity. A recent report by Friends of the Earth (full disclosure - I sit on the Board of Directors of their C4 arm), Bailout Watch, and Public Citizen entitled, “Liquefied Natural Cash: How Methane Exports Reverse Climate Progress” accurately declares, “Fossil fuel executives are exploiting the Russian invasion of Ukraine to justify contracts that commit the United States to keep exporting LNG into the 2040s.” The report continues, “After Russia invaded Ukraine, global benchmark prices for methane gas soared. Exporters and drillers generated windfall profits by redirecting shipments from Asia to Europe,” and further reveals that since the war commenced, there have been 45 long-term LNG contracts secured compared to 14 in 2021 and just three in 2020.
Instead of declaring war on environmental racism, President Biden is exacerbating it by fueling an unnecessary war of attrition in Eastern Europe while Indigenous, Black, Brown and poor folk are sacrificed via increasing approvals of fossil projects and infrastructure in their communities. In fact, numerous reports have revealed that President Biden has approved oil and gas leasing on public lands at a higher rate than his predecessor. It could be argued, with warrant, that Joe Biden’s cabinet, especially Secretaries Debra Haaland and Jennifer Granholm, look more like fossil fuel lobbyists than heads of federal agencies.
And for all the victims reported on in Ukraine, liberal news outlets, and many of the “progressive” ones, rarely feature reports on the victims residing in U.S. environmental justice communities who are being choked out by toxic emissions that result from Joe Biden’s toxic policies. This includes, but is not limited to, the so called Inflation Reduction Act and Biden’s recent approval of the Willow Project and a massive Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project, both throughout sovereign lands of Alaska Natives as well as permits for two LNG facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, just one day before he invited environmental justice leaders to the White House to celebrate his signing of an Executive Order (EO) to, “Revitalize Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All.”
To be clear, the new EO is not much more than a perfunctory soliloquy of existing laws like the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which, if actually enforced, would do much more for EJ communities than holding a meeting after they've been exposed to hazardous waste as the EO directs. Moreover, the new EO will not protect Alaska Natives from the aforementioned two environmentally racist projects Biden just approved, nor Gulf South communities from the environmentally racist LNG projects he is shepherding along. Biden’s new EO also offers no ability for EJ communities to protect themselves from the harmful provisions of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act including, but not limited to, 600 million acres of the Gulf opened up for fossil fuel extraction, as well as unproven mechanisms like so called carbon "capture" and sequestration and hydrogen combustion derived from fracked gas and nuclear power.
Biden releasing his new EO while contemporaneously sacrificing Indigenous, Black, Brown and poor communities to fuel a war in Eastern Europe, with no end in sight, further elucidates that his “commitment” to environmental justice is ostensible, and his approach to protecting EJ communities is insouciant. It further demonstrates that the U.S. government's definition of "environmental justice" is proof that the term has suffered from elite capture (as defined by the Brother Scholar Olufemi O. Taiwo), now that Big Green environmental groups and their political acolytes, aka centrist Democrats, have finally deigned to include the term in the larger climate and environmental lexicon, albeit meretriciously.
It’s been said that, “Government agencies, like the EPA, have been trying to coopt the "movement" by redefining environmental justice as “fair treatment and meaningful involvement,” something they consistently fail to accomplish, but which also falls far short of the environmental justice vision. The environmental justice movement isn’t seeking to simply redistribute environmental harms but to abolish them.” Biden’s new EO does none of that and continues the same weaknesses and ineffectiveness as Bill Clinton’s EO 12898, in that it also does not guarantee judicial review for actual enforcement of his new “policies” to protect EJ communities.
Joe Biden is blowing hot air with perfunctory “environmental justice” EOs, while his profligate approvals of fossil fuel projects will make the atmosphere even hotter at a time when the planet is racing towards the critical event horizon of breaching the 1.5 C warming threshold. The axiomatic nexus between militarism, environmental racism, and global warming can no longer be denied. It’s incumbent upon the environmental justice community and larger climate community to enter formation with anti-war collectives like the Black Alliance for Peace and call out Joe Biden’s tartufferous petroleum puppetry that’s pulling the strings of war and environmental racism, while also advancing the entire world into a calamitous season of climate catastrophe and additional casualties of war.
No Compromise, No Retreat.
Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright is a national racial and climate justice advocate. He is a proud member of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and is blessed to be the father of his seven-year-old son, Zahir Cielo. The opinions expressed in this piece are his own.