In the wake of the COP28 climate summit, 170 scientists from the US and around the world sent a letter Tuesday calling for the Biden administration to reject a massive natural gas export facility proposed for Louisiana, as well as similar pending projects.
The facility, Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2), would be the largest liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal in the Gulf, spanning about 546 acres and shipping up to 24 million tons of LNG to other countries each year.
CP2 would be the second LNG export terminal built in the Gulf region by the company Venture Global and would result in annual emissions equivalent to 42 million gas-powered cars – 20 times more than the recently approved Willow oil project in Alaska.
“You have often said that your policies will be guided by listening to the science,” the letter says, addressing President Biden. “As scientists we are telling you in clear and unambiguous terms that approving CP2 and other LNG projects will undermine your stated goals of meaningfully addressing the climate crisis and put us on a continued path toward escalating climate chaos.”
The letter to President Biden follows a Dec. 11 letter from over 230 organizations that also implored President Biden and Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to halt the project.
“I think what we’re seeing is the logical response to continued and repeated inaction from the Biden administration to meaningfully address any platform to phase out fossil fuels,” said Jim Walsh, policy director for the environmental group Food & Water Watch.
While the US only began exporting LNG in 2106, today it is the largest exporter of the fossil fuel in the world, with the Biden administration largely supporting US LNG exports. Those exports are expected to double by 2035. In addition to the seven LNG export terminals already operating in the US, three are under construction, 10 have been approved, and five, including CP2, are under review.
Most new LNG export facilities are planned for the Gulf region, where existing terminals are already impacting quality of life for frontline communities. CP2 is planned for Cameron Parish, Louisiana, where current LNG operations are jeopardizing a generations-old fishing industry. Federally-funded LNG buildout also threatens communities in the US territory of Puerto Rico, where a move to gasify the island’s hurricane-rattled grid is underway that environmental justice advocates fear will worsen its reliance on fossil fuels while hindering efforts to switch to renewables.
While industry groups have called LNG “the cleanest of the fossil fuels,” new research from Cornell University suggests otherwise.
“While some proponents of LNG have argued it has a climate benefit by replacing coal, the analysis presented here disproves this,” writes study author Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell who signed the Dec. 19 letter. “Across all scenarios considered, total greenhouse gas emissions from LNG are larger than those from coal, ranging from 24% to 274% greater.” The study was published as a preprint in October and is undergoing peer review.
Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure when climate change calls for dramatically reducing emissions is “misguided,” said Michael Mann, a Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania who also signed the letter.
“Despite what some claim, fossil gas is no bridge to a fossil fuel free future, and dollars that are being invested in the underlying infrastructure would better be spent on new clean energy infrastructure,” said Mann.
CP2 is still currently awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). After that, the Department of Energy (DoE) will make the final call on whether the project goes through.
“A lot of that is up to President Biden,” said Walsh. “He actually has some authority to direct DoE to take a broader look at what actually does constitute the national interest. In this determination, they could very well look at the climate impacts, the environmental justice impacts that the Biden administration claims to be concerned with.”
“You cannot build renewable energy and expect to address the climate crisis while you continue to dump tremendous amounts of fossil fuels, and the greenhouse gases with them, in international markets,” he added.
(Featured Image: An LNG tanker passes by Venture Global’s existing Calcasieu Pass facility in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Photo by Courtney O’Banion for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.)