Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

Democratic Platform must back up words with actions

By Collin Rees and Matt Maiorana

Last week, the DNC released the first public draft of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform, and there are many elements worth supporting. Perhaps most notable is the clear shift in rhetoric away from the “All of the Above” energy strategy championed by the party as recently the last election. Oil Change International thoroughly debunked this dangerous idea back in 2013, and we are glad to see the party has finally caught up.

Democratic Platform needs work

Moving past “all of the above” is great – but more work remains.

Other good pieces to note are a call to end the worst U.S. fossil fuel subsidies, a goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2050, and a promise to support investigations of polluting companies like Exxon that have deceived consumers for decades regarding the effects of climate change, many of which were amendments approved in the most recent round of edits.

But there are some key areas of the platform that need more work. Rhetoric moving beyond “all of the above” and a goal of achieving 100% clean energy by 2050 is well and good, but these goals must be backed up by more meaningful action in the short term to show they are serious about those goals.

Here’s what we would like to see included:

  • A Climate Test for all proposed fossil fuel infrastructure. When the Obama Administration was reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama promised to reject Keystone XL if the project was found to “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The application of this test to the Keystone XL pipeline resulted in the pipeline eventually being rejected, and a potential new precedent being set for future energy projects. Applying this “climate test” to all our infrastructure decisions is critical if we are going to properly align our energy policy with the realities of climate science.
  • Keep it in the Ground. Following the Paris Agreement, there has been a renewed focus on the remaining “carbon budget” that will allow us to limit warming to no more than 2° Celsius, and strive to limit it to 1.5° C. The fundamental truth governments around the world are slowly realizing is that this commitment means we must keep the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground. Ending the leasing program for fossil fuels on public lands is a step toward this goal, and it doesn’t even require Congressional action. It should be a no-brainer.
  • No Funding for Fossil Fuels Overseas. Greenhouse gas emissions know no borders. While it’s critical to keep fossil fuels in the ground in the United States, we must also do everything we can to limit extraction and carbon lock-in abroad. The fossil fuel industry is the richest industry in the history of the planet, yet the U.S. loans out $3.7 billion each year to help companies produce more fossil fuels. It’s time to shut off this spigot of taxpayer dollars and stop funding fossils immediately.
  • Fracking Ban. The fracking boom has been terrible for communities impacted by extraction and gas infrastructure – and it has been a disaster for the climate. We know now that methane is an incredibly dangerous greenhouse gas, and that its been leaking for years in far greater quantities than the industry admitted, eliminating any potential benefit it may have provided as a ‘bridge fuel’. It’s time to put a stop to the dangerous process of fracking until we can be sure it’s safe for communities and the climate.
  • No Eminent Domain for Private Gain. Right now, fossil fuel companies use eminent domain proceedings to put fossil fuel infrastructure on privately-owned land against landowners’ wishes – all to boost their own profits. Eminent domain was intended for projects that benefit the public, but there’s no excuse for letting massive corporations wreck the climate and make even more money by violating landowner rights.
  • Say No to the TPP. Bad trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a disaster for the climate. Not only would the TPP encourage natural gas exports that would blow past climate goals, but it would also allow fossil fuel companies to sue governments in non-judicial tribunals over the right to continue to extract and burn fossil fuels. This is already happening under NAFTA, and the TPP would expand these provisions and make it even worse. Meeting our climate goals means that Democrats must oppose the TPP.

The good news is that these amendments are still on the table – and very nearly passed during the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee’s voting process last week. In fact, most were voted down by the slimmest of margins: 6 to 7.

Each of the above priorities have been backed up by people all over the country taking action – from fracktivists, to pipeline fighters, to policy wonks. And we’re having a profound impact on our political process. Just a few years ago, many of these proposals would have been scoffed at as unrealistic and ignored. Now we’re nearly at the tipping point – and the climate movement has no intention of letting up the pressure.

Regardless of what’s in or out of the final platform, we fully expect the next administration to follow through with bold climate action.

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