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The years of the Obama presidency were a time to say “no more” to dirty energy decisions that had once been business as usual.
Never before had a president rejected an infrastructure project on climate security grounds – it hadn’t even been a part of the discussion. That changed under President Obama. After the Keystone XL review process came to its ultimate conclusion, the President stood in the Oval Office to announce that he would deny the permit for a dirty and dangerous pipeline that would have carried 800,000 barrels of the dirtiest oil on the planet each day to the Gulf of Mexico. It soon became clear that this was not a one-time decision. In 2016, President Obama announced a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands, a decision that protects iconic landscapes and sensitive habitats while winding down the process of selling publicly-owned coal across the oceans even as the United States aims to transition to cleaner energy sources at home. These decisions will forever change the conversation on exporting dirty energy in the United States.
- The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have crossed sensitive waterways throughout the United States, including the critical Ogallala Aquifer, transporting 800,000 barrels per day of extremely dirty crude oil to the Gulf of Mexico for foreign export.
- The carbon locked in tar sands is enough to increase atmospheric carbon dioxide by 150 parts per million, a dramatic increase that would fuel devastating climate change.
- The US needs to keep the vast majority of its coal reserves in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands is a good start. Further, low royalty rates meant that taxpayers lost nearly $30 billion in coal leasing revenues over the last 30 years.