Think about it: Why are we involved in wars in the Middle East? Why are we on the brink of war with Russia? Why are Native Americans being violently arrested by a militarized police force, their sacred sites mutilated, the water supply of 17 million Americans endangered? Why are the waters in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma being polluted as we speak? Why is our environment being damaged to the point of bringing us to the brink of extinction? All because of fossil fuels.
Of the 7 countries the US is currently bombing, our attacks on Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are largely due to US government support of fossil fuel interests. We are supporting Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen that is starving 14 million innocent civilians so we can stay on the Saudi’s good side; the US wants a gas pipeline built from Qatar to Europe via Saudi Arabia and Syria. And because Syrian president Assad favors a different Russian-backed gas pipeline, refusing to allow the US-backed project to go through Syria, the Obama administration is hell-bent on bringing Assad down. It’s got nothing to do with human rights. As usual, it’s all about the oil and gas, and it is the poor and defenseless who suffer most.
Closer to home, why do you think there has not been a peep of support or intervention from Obama, Clinton, or Trump in the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)? Because the banks and the oil industry, which have paid millions to put these people in office, want to safeguard their expected profits. Trump has approximately $1 million in investments with Energy Transfer Partners, the builders of the DAPL who are responsible for more than 200 pipeline leaks since 2010. Meanwhile, Clinton has taken $1.175 million in donations to her campaign from the oil industry. It’s no wonder then that Jill Stein, who has received $250 in oil industry donations (barely enough to pay for a few yard signs), is the only candidate for president who has shown up to protest the DAPL.
After arrest, they are being strip-searched, numbers inked on their arms like prisoners in a concentration camp, and confined in dog kennels with no furniture or bedding. No, this is not Syria, it’s North Dakota.
Peaceful water protectors, including everyone from medics to 90-year-old grandmothers, are being assaulted by militarized police with batons, stun guns, pepper spray, rubber bullets, sound cannons, and concussion grenades. Some are being ripped from peaceful prayer circles being held on a public road, and others have been interrupted in the middle of sweat lodge ceremonies and dragged in minimal clothing into the cold. After arrest, they are being strip-searched, numbers inked on their arms like prisoners in a concentration camp, and confined in dog kennels with no furniture or bedding. No, this is not Syria, it’s North Dakota.
The number of militarized police descending on Standing Rock from 5 states is absurd. A 1996 law passed by the Clinton administration allows states to share their law enforcement personnel during a “state of emergency.” I hardly think people protesting an oil company’s pipeline counts as a state of emergency. Nonetheless, militarized police have shown up in jackboots and riot gear to arrest people wielding nothing more threatening than a prayer stick. And Obama has still done nothing to intervene in this flagrant violation of human rights.
According to an article in The Hill, despite President Obama’s signing of the Paris Climate Agreement last year, “he continues to allow new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters. That’s on top of the existing leases that are on track to release 30 to 43 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere. The Federal government itself continues to be powered by the very energy sources that are driving us over the climate change cliff.” Quite the legacy for him to leave behind.
These oil and gas pipelines are responsible for situations such as the one in North Dakota; causing significant risk to the environment not only from possible fuel line breaks, but from the consumption of these polluting fuels, which will lead to irreversible climate change. This is madness, particularly when the use of fossil fuels for energy is completely unnecessary.
Just think, if tomorrow we were to give up our dependence on fossil fuels and turn to 100% renewable energy, most of these problems would disappear. There would be no point in sending our troops to kill and be killed in the Middle East. Once oil and gas are obsolete, the banks and energy companies’ profits from it will be nonexistent. And those investors who refuse to look to the future and switch from investments in fossil fuels to those in clean energy will be left holding with worthless companies.
Unfortunately, renewables currently account for only 5% of the US energy supply. There is an abundance of clean, renewable energy available from solar, wind, geothermal and tidal sources. We need only tap into it. But because it is not in the best interest of those with investments in the fossil fuel industry, its development has been thwarted. The US also needs to become more energy-efficient. Other Western countries receive far better energy efficiency ratings. The technology currently exists for all these clean energy solutions, we just need to implement them.
Following the lead of Burlington, Vermont, a town that became 100% reliant on renewables in 2014, other cities are also pledging to become 100% fossil-fuel-free. Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah, as well as Boulder, CO, and Los Angeles are aiming to rely completely on clean energy by around 2030. Imagine the impact if other cities across the country joined them.
We must immediately stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $20.5 billion a year. Rather than subsidies, these polluting industries should instead receive fines for each unit of fuel sold, to be put toward investment in renewables and in efforts toward retraining fossil-fuel industry workers for jobs in wind, solar, and geothermal. It’s not an impossible task.
The Climate Reality Project has shown that in 2015, 99% of Costa Rica’s electricity came from renewables. In the same year, Scotland produced 97% of its household electricity needs through wind energy alone. And should anyone doubt that solar is not practical in cloudy countries, Germany produced a whopping 83.2 gigawatts of energy from solar in 2014, far surpassing its sunnier neighbors Italy (18.5%) and Spain (5.4%). A full 78% of Germany’s electricity needs came from renewables.
The only thing keeping America from generating 100% clean energy in the near future is the reluctance of our politicians to set ambitious goals and to support those goals with significant investments in renewables. In this, the people must lead. We must demand the government provide immediate incentives for the development of these clean technologies just waiting to be implemented.
And we must continue to protest pipelines wherever they are being built, not only the DAPL. Fossil fuel is a dying industry, and there is no reason to keep supporting it if we want to stop fighting wars for oil and if we hope to continue living on this all-too-fragile planet.