Video Shows Sierra Club Pushing ‘None-Of-The-Above’ Energy Plan In Nation’s Capital
Despite the outcome of the 2016 election, the Sierra Club is leading a new charge in the nation’s capital to ban oil, natural gas and coal development on federal lands.
But the reintroduction of the Keep It In the Ground Act this week has drawn attention to the first version of the bill, introduced in 2015, and an embarrassing gaffe from the Sierra Club’s president, Aaron Mair.
When the bill was first introduced in late 2015, U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called a press conference featuring Mair and Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org. The Sierra Club is “one of the forces behind shutting down coal and coal-fired power plants throughout the country,” Mair told the audience.
Then he added: “More importantly, [the Sierra Club is] pushing the argument to leave it all in the ground, the argument of none-of-the-above.”
The objective of the 2015 bill was to “ban new drilling on public land” and prohibit new federal coal leases. Environmental activists endorsed the bill as a major step towards their ultimate goal of banning all fossil-fuel development across the country.
For Sanders, the proposal was also a central plank in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders lost to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but not before his supporters moved Clinton to the left on energy issues. Under pressure from 350.org and other “keep it in the ground” groups, Clinton said banning oil, natural gas and coal production on federal land was “a done deal.”
An economic analysis by the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found such a ban would cost the nation roughly 380,000 jobs, $70 billion in annual GDP and more than $11 billion in tax revenue every year.
Mair’s “none-of-the-above” comments were not reported by news outlets that covered the 2015 press conference. But they were noted in a follow-up report from the U.S. Chamber, released before the 2016 election, which ultimately led back to the video of Mair, McKibben, Merkley and Sanders.
When Merkley and Sanders reintroduced the Keep It in the Ground Act this week, the Sierra Club was back again to endorse the bill – although the group chose a different spokesman this time.
“The Sierra Club applauds Senator Merkley for providing a road map to help tackle the climate crisis while protecting our publicly-owned lands,” said Michael Brune, the group’s executive director. “By keeping dirty fuels in the ground and furthering the transition to clean, renewable energy, we can protect our clean air and water and ensure a livable future for our children’s and future generations,” Brune said.
While stating its support for wind and solar, the Sierra Club has a history of opposing renewable energy projects, too. For example, the group has opposed some major solar projects in the Mohave Desert, a region of the Southwest United States with some of the best solar energy potential in the world. The group also opposes nuclear energy, which is the nation’s largest source of carbon-free electricity.
Such opposition has prompted the group’s critics, including the Institute for Energy Research and Republicans on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, to charge that the Sierra Club’s real agenda is “none of the above.”
During last year’s election, environmental groups spent record sums trying to win voter support for anti-fossil fuel policies and put a Democrat in the White House to continue the programs of former President Barack Obama. But the effort failed, with Republicans winning the presidential election and keeping their majorities in Congress.