The ‘Planet-Wrecker in Chief’

Planned fossil fuel expansion in the U.S. accounts for more than a third of new oil and gas extraction projects through 2050, according to Oil Change International.

John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, at the U.N. climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 2022. (UNclimatechange, Flickr)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

The United States was called “planet-wrecker-in-chief” by a report released Tuesday that points out the nation’s plans for a massive expansion of oil and gas production over the next two and a half decades even as it postures as a climate leader on the world stage.

According to Oil Change International’s (OCI) research, planned oil and gas expansion in the U.S.— the largest historical contributor to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions — accounts for more than a third of prospective global oil and gas expansion through 2050. Much of the U.S. expansion is tied to fracking, the report observes.

The U.S. is one of just 20 countries that are projected to be responsible for nearly 90 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution from new oil-and-gas extraction projects between 2023 and 2050.

If those 20 countries follow through with their fossil fuel expansion plans, OCI noted, the projects will emit an estimated 173 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of the lifetime emissions of more than 1,000 new coal plants.

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“If that amount of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, then we’re in serious trouble,” Romain Ioualalen, global policy lead for OCI and a co-author of the report, said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Such emissions, Ioualalen warned, would blow through the world’s dwindling carbon budget and make it “mathematically impossible” to limit global warming to 1.5°FC by the end of the century.

“The planet-wreckers report presents unmistakable evidence of the peril of fossil fuel expansion while reckoning with the world’s historic polluters, namely the United States.”

Five rich countries — the U.S., Canada, Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom — account for more than half of all planned oil and gas expansion globally, even though they are far less reliant on fossil fuel revenues than other nations and have the resources for a renewable energy transition, OCI said.

The new report takes the Biden administration to task for “pledging climate leadership” while simultaneously facilitating “the continued expansion of fossil fuel production in the United States.”

“In 2023 alone, the administration greenlit the Alaska Willow Project; approved multiple LNG export facilities in Alaska and along the Gulf Coast, held a massive oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, fast-tracked the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and oversaw the weakening of bedrock environmental laws, making it easier for fossil fuel infrastructure to move forward,” the report notes. 

The research was released just over a week before United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ Climate Ambition Summit, which will be preceded by more than 400 mobilizations worldwide aimed at pressuring world leaders to urgently phase out fossil fuels.

“The planet-wreckers report presents unmistakable evidence of the peril of fossil fuel expansion while reckoning with the world’s historic polluters, namely the United States, and how we must hold them accountable,” Helen Mancini, a 16-year-old Fridays for Future activist from New York City, said in a statement Tuesday.

“The activism youth are doing is not radical,” Mancini added, “it’s a demand for survival that the planet-wreckers must heed.”

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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7 comments for “The ‘Planet-Wrecker in Chief’

  1. Richard A.
    September 13, 2023 at 20:16

    Meanwhile, here in the US, we have nasty trade restrictions on solar panels. Republicans in April and May voted overwhelmingly to force the Biden administration to increase trade restrictions on solar. Fortunately, Biden vetoed this bill. It appears that the friends of the fossil fuel industry are pushing green protectionism.

  2. Greg Grant
    September 13, 2023 at 19:36

    Science must make heroic assumptions to model things and they must model things to make predictions. So when somebody says it will be mathematically impossible to limit change to 1.5F over so many years, they cannot be reporting honest science. No honest scientist would make such a bold claim. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be prudent, but once we start overstating our case and the science behind it, we lose credibility. I speak as an Ivy League Scientist, not as a blowhard.

    • Bill Todd
      September 14, 2023 at 10:17

      “I speak as an Ivy League Scientist, not as a blowhard.”

      Dear me: You sound very much like those Ivy League scientists who supported tobacco and fossil fuel companies for decades simply by blowing distracting content-free smoke about the credibility of the clear threats associated with their products. No competent scientist would advance such content-free criticism without addressing in detail the underlying assumptions supporting the claim which s/he is attempting to dispute, let along castigate those making the claim by advancing such an absurd generalization about their honesty.

      By the way, does your area of specialization include serious knowledge of the specific areas in question here? Credibility and practicality of various proposed mechanisms for carbon sequestration? Persistence of the continuing effects of adding carbon to the atmosphere after the increased amount is brought back to some earlier level? Political willingness to force fossil fuel extractors to abandon the already-sunk costs of increasing extraction (there’s already a LOT of evidence of reluctance in this area, probably plenty to make its likelihood quite low)? Possibility of reaching tipping points in other factors increasing global warming if it has already reached certain levels?

      Care to try again using actual data that might make your assertions credible?

    • vinnieoh
      September 15, 2023 at 09:25

      So he (Romain Ioualalen – whom I know not except from the above article) can not be passionate, dedicated, or just overly animated, but he has to be dishonest? Is that what you really want to say? That he’s a liar?

      There is accumulating evidence that the alarms raised by the models used to date were actually underplayed, and the pace of change has accelerated beyond their guarded predictions. Guarded so as not to be mercilessly attacked by the status quo – whoops too late for that!

  3. Steve
    September 13, 2023 at 19:12

    Look at this trend line of coal production and then tell me again how the USA is the ‘planet wrecker’.



    America and the rest of the OECD countries could go to Net Zero tomorrow and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference as long as Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian coal production continues to absolutely explode. Pretty much all of Asia and the Pacific countries are in a coal boom the likes of which has been unseen in human history, and Africa has barely even begun to start their own boom that may put the present Asian/Pacific boom to shame. The developed western world is no longer driving the bus when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. The global south and east are the running the show and will determine the future direction of fossil fuels and emissions, regardless of what the west does.

    • Valerie
      September 14, 2023 at 11:39

      Well Steve those figures are alarming. But these are production figures. As far as i can tell, this coal mining is for export, not for local use. Please correct me if i’m wrong or haven’t grasped the data correctly.

  4. vinnieoh
    September 13, 2023 at 16:36

    Here in the Appalachian basin, the location of the Marcellus and the Utica shale deposits the shale gas boom was promoted widely as a “transition” fuel, cleaner than coal and oil, until we found adequate means to build out sustainable energy. It was all bullshit of course, right from the very beginning.

    If we did not produce another mcf of shale gas we already have in storage more than we could use in a decade. But investors (the investor/ownership class) insist on their right to make a profit on their investments, so we must sell as much as possible and as quickly as possible to satisfy their greed – damn the planet and all its inhabitants.

    Where do they think they’re going to go to escape the consequences of continuing along this course? And how do they expect to disguise themselves from the ones that remain and would see some justice done, even if done too late?

    Another line of bullshit used to promote the shale gas boom was all the jobs it would create. One of the dirty little secrets of this boom was the widespread use of illegal immigrants to do work that many others might refuse to do, or just get away with it (the employers) because their workforce could remain largely invisible from the general public.

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