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More drilling on public lands & waters will ultimately hurt our safety and security

Oil pump

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Renewable energy is the only path to independence and a livable planet

As Ukraine grapples with war and the United States faces high energy prices, the oil and gas industry claims—wrongly—to have the solution: more drilling. The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association, is especially pushing for more domestic fossil fuel production, particularly on public lands.

Here’s what’s wrong with this so-called solution: furthering our dependency on fossil fuels won’t actually solve our security and energy issues. It will eventually make them worse.

What industry spokespeople and their lobbyists forgot to mention is that relying on fossil fuels is actually dangerous—and always has been. Oil and gas companies have shown repeatedly that they will always prioritize making money over our safety, health and national security. They, and their CEOs, will always put their own interests ahead of the public’s, even if that means enabling aggressive foreign actors.

Oil and gas companies have shown repeatedly that they will always prioritize making money over our safety, health and national security.

For the same reason, we will never drill our way to lower energy prices.

Fossil fuel markets are notoriously unstable, largely based on profit, global supply and demand assumptions. Price spikes based on speculation are routinely passed on to everyday people at the gas pumps. More drilling on public lands would do very little to change these dynamics and bring down costs. More drilling on private lands could take months, if not years, to have an effect.

Wars and other destabilizing events also highlight this volatility. The U.S. has recently banned Russian energy imports as a stance against the war in Ukraine. While these commodities contribute a small slice of the country’s energy portfolio—roughly 8 percent in 2021—it shows the unpredictability of relying on this type of energy.

And that’s not all. Perpetuating a fossil fuel economy will lead to a slew of other problems.

Over 40% of the world's population is "highly vulnerable" to climate impacts and 14% of species are at risk of extinction.

First of all, continuing to burn oil, gas, and coal will only further the climate crisis that is already devastating communities and wildlife. The United Nations recently warned that over 40 percent of the world's population is "highly vulnerable" to climate impacts and 14 percent of species are at risk of extinction.

And let’s not forget: fossil fuels—the remains of plants and animals that died hundreds of millions of years ago—will run out. By the time your grandkids or great-grandkids are old enough to pay utility bills, we might be looking at the end of the nation’s natural gas reserves as we know them. Just imagine the instability that will cause at home and abroad--unless we put in the work right now to ramp up cleaner, more reliable solutions.

Clean, renewable energy is the safest future

Solar energy

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A much safer bet for our communities, climate, and maintaining peace is investing in renewable energy. 

Renewable energy sources like wind, sunlight and geothermal will never run out. With current technology, it's already possible to take a huge bite out of our fossil fuel dependence solely using responsible renewable energy production on public lands. What’s more, renewables don’t contribute to climate change, as they generate practically zero climate pollution.

European countries have taken note of all these benefits amid the war in Ukraine. Germany and Britain have promised to slow down the building of gas reserves and expand renewable energy development. While they can’t afford to abruptly cut off foreign oil and gas supplies, they know they have to start today to achieve a more sustainable tomorrow.

Public lands hold an opportunity

While oil and gas companies and their allies in Congress have been pressuring President Biden to increase drilling on public lands and waters, the president should follow Europe’s call and double down on renewables instead.

President Biden has actually issued 33 percent more drilling permits in his first year than Trump did in the equivalent time period and has continued to hold lease sales for fossil fuel development. Meanwhile, his administration has been surprisingly sluggish at approving permits for new renewable energy projects.

With Congress’ support, the president could be using public lands as the first big step in a responsible, fair and necessary transition away from fossil fuels.

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