What John Kerry and Jennifer Granholm don’t say
At the same time, however, the Biden administration has spent the last month reassuring various groups that gas and oil will continue to be present in America’s energy system. After a tour of a liquefied natural gas plane in La Porte, Texas, Granholm boasted carbon capture and sequestration technology – a recent fad adopted by oil and gas companies hoping to cash in on it in the short term – as a potential way to decarbonize gas production. She repeated the same solution on KQED. Beyond the Department of Energy, the White House and Home Office have so far relied heavily on canceling projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and the recent suspension leases to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as proof of their commitment to climate-conscious action. But that hasn’t done much to hide the limits of that engagement, such as how the administration has stood on the sidelines as the Dakota Access pipeline transports oil across the Canadian border and to across native lands, or how the administration is actively defend the extractive development of the north Alaska coast.
Now is the time to bridge the gap between how the climate crisis is discussed by White House and Cabinet officials and how it is currently being experienced. In March, Kerry visited with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis for one of her first international in-person interviews. “If we don’t act now, over the next decade, we won’t have the ability to keep it at 1.5 degrees,” Kerry said. “We are losing the ability to have net zero by 2050.” Kerry chooses not to talk about the problem in a material and physical way. The response to “What if we don’t meet these goals?” Is horrible, as we have already seen. Species and entire ecosystems will disappear. Families, communities and entire nations will continue to be forced out of their homes, either through extreme heat, endemic and abnormally chaotic forest fires, increasingly frequent hurricanes, floods, drought or outright pollution. Talking about climate change without specifically and consistently naming the issues is leaving the door open just wide enough that fossil fuel companies and their conservative cronies can squeeze out a few more years of gas, oil and coal production.
A moment after Kerry spoke of missing 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) target, Maitlis – pushing Kerry on a comment he made about high-emission countries like America and China that need to take responsibility – asked if it was imperative that the United States come up with the most plan. ambitious to lead the way. “Well, it is imperative that the United States accelerate with a very realistic and achievable, measurable level of our cuts, and we will,” he replied. Inspiring.
To remind my colleague once again: the White House’s objective should be simple: “to do as much as possible, as quickly as possible”. There are countless combinations of public messaging, behind-the-scenes negotiations, and policy adoption that could achieve this, and not all of them involve playing the role of the local. But the window for this administration to oversee lasting and impactful legislation and policy is closing quickly. The mid-terms of 2022 are drawing closer with every passing minute, and the possibility of bringing in Joe Manchin to tip the Senate in close votes will most likely become moot on the other side of this election. If, in order to move away from fossil fuels quickly, the team has to cringe, make Americans a little uncomfortable and anger the Fox News crowd, so be it.