Today, the movement for climate justice has never been more powerful, and the fossil fuel industry is facing some serious opposition. We, all of us, together, are winning.
In September, as world leaders to gathered at the United Nations to (only) talk about climate change, nearly half a million people turned out to fill the streets of New York and demand action on climate change. The People’s Climate March was the single largest climate justice demonstration in world history. A “Flood Wall Street” demonstration the next day earned worldwide media attention for dramatizing the connection between investors, the fossil fuel industry and rising sea levels. Throughout, we pushed our message of #stopfundingfossils to the fore.
Oil Change International was proud to devote significant staff and resources to help organize the march. But we didn’t get any specific support to do this – we did it because we recognized it as an opportunity to move everything forward. To continue to have the freedom to use our decades of campaign experience and jump on opportunities quickly, we need your support.
As the Guardian reported in October, our work is hurting Big Oil in a big way. Opposition to tar sands has cost the industry a staggering $17 billion in lost revenues. Industry officials hoped to get rich off this risky and environmentally hazardous form of oil extraction; they never expected the level and intensity of public opposition to their plans. Protest has become a quantifiable and predictable risk for investors interested in profiting off of fossil fuels – particularly the extreme forms of fracking, tar sands, and Arctic drilling.
If that wasn’t bad enough news for Big Oil, it’s about to get worse. As the economics of resource extraction begins to shift, Oil Change International has launched a campaign to urge private investors to end their dependence on fossil fuel reserves growth and play a greater role in preventing climate disaster. If you understand climate science – there is no debate. We have to stop searching for more fossil fuel reserves immediately, and we have to find a way to leave 80% of the already discovered reserves in the ground. If decision makers can’t accept that, they’re in climate denial, and its our job to tell them that.
Climate justice advocates scored an important victory this fall when we stalled the menacing Keystone XL pipeline. Throughout the year, Oil Change has analyzed key votes in Congress, responded to delays in the approval process, and revealed how lobbying and gifts to lawmakers produced decisions counter to the public interest. We documented twenty million dollars in industry contributions helping to grease the path for the pipeline. Our analysis shaped the public debate around Keystone, and reverberated in the media and the environmental movement. In Burma last month, when President Obama referred to Keystone as an export pipeline, we knew our message and analysis had reached the White House. (We’ve been saying the same thing for three years.) The battle is far from over, but when the vote in the Senate failed in November, it was a proud moment for environmentalists.
All year long, Oil Change has documented the public subsidies that underwrite the oil, coal and gas industries, and exposed the taxpayer dollars funding pollution and climate change. Under the president’s “All of the Above” energy policy, we concluded, there has been a massive increase in public subsidies going to the fossil fuel industry. In 2013, the U.S. government gave away $21.6 billion in subsidies for oil, gas, and coal exploration and production – 45 percent more than when President Obama took office.
We track subsidies abroad, too. Oil Change International’s report released this fall, the Fossil Fuel Bailout, shows the G20 governments are spending $88 billion every year to support further fossil fuel exploration. This is a ‘triple-lose’ scenario: the world’s richest nations are putting their financial resources into high-carbon assets that can’t be exploited without catastrophic climate effects. They are diverting money from clean alternatives like solar, wind and hydropower. And they are undermining the prospects for an international climate deal in 2015.
Science is clear that we must stop burning fossil fuels rapidly to limit global warming to two degrees. With this fact in mind, it is crystal clear that the whole world urgently needs to stop spending public money to support the oil, coal and gas industries. We are building an international campaign to say that loudly and often.
At the local level, communities are fighting back to resist hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In California, Oil Change and our allies targeted Governor Brown as Big Oil Brown and satirized him with a mock cologne ad for “Frack Water,” covered in Grist and the San Francisco Chronicle. The campaign exposed the climate implications of fracking for oil in California, highlighted the influence of fossil fuel money in state politics, and branded the Governor as “Big Oil Brown” for his connections to the oil industry. In Denton, Texas, the birthplace of fracking, Oil Change worked with grassroots activists as they stood up to the oil industry, organized their neighbors and educated their community about the health risks. On November 4th, Denton voters successfully passed an unprecedented ban on fracking.
And throughout it all, we kept our sense of humor. Oil Change celebrated the 4th of July with a satirical ad campaign – Exxon Hates America – that connected environmental and public health damage with the $20 billion in public subsidies the company receives from the U.S. government every year. We followed it up with a similarly cheery message in the fall: Exxon Hates the World. Needless to say, the ads were not popular in the corporate boardrooms of fossil fuel producers.
Oil Change commemorated the deadly 2013 explosion of a freight train carrying crude oil by releasing Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude-by-Rail in North America. The report documented the safety and environmental hazards of transporting crude by rail, and included an interactive map that quickly became one of the most visited pages on our website. Less than two months later, after hearing from more than 15,000 of our activists, the administration announced new stricter rules for carrying crude by rail. There is still much more work to do on that front, but we’ve made important progress.
And we helped stop American oil producers from selling crude oil to other countries. The industry made a strong push in 2014 to lift the ban on exports of crude oil. Oil Change exposed the consequences. Our report Lifting the Ban, Cooking the Climate showed that U.S. crude oil exports would likely increase oil production and release the equivalent of the lifetime CO2 emissions of 42 coal plants. So far, the crude export ban survives.
Climate justice advocates have every reason to celebrate this winter. We are stronger and more persuasive than ever before. The campaign against tar-sands has stopped projects, costs the industry billions in lost revenue, and kept tremendous amounts of carbon from entering our atmosphere. Communities across the country have made new coal plants nearly a thing of the past. Fracking bans may be the next wave. Grassroots activists have pushed elected leaders to listen to us, and take action. Thanks to their work, and yours, we may be approaching a tipping point, where a clean energy future begins to look possible.
Oil Change International is proud to serve and empower this movement. We look forward to more success in years to come. Please join us.