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Make no mistake, the fossil fuel industry is for profit, not the people

Associated Press / Marcio Jose Sanchez

As gas prices soar and families struggle with rapidly rising costs, President Biden took the necessary step to ban energy imports from Russia acknowledging, “The decision today is not without costs here at home.” 

But you know who isn’t feeling those costs? Fossil fuel companies.

Fossil fuel companies hold unbelievable, yet largely unknown, power over our daily lives, impacting far more than they let on — from dictating your family’s budget, to funding a campaigner seeking your vote, to potentially sparking wars and geopolitical crises. 

Shares in oil and gas companies are on average about 20 percent higher than they were a year ago, thanks to record profits brought on by steadily rising oil and gas prices. But these companies aren’t using their surging profits to try and lower prices for the public or create “American stability.”

Last year, the four largest oil and gas companies made over $75 billion in profits, returned billions to their shareholders through record dividends and share buybacks, and handed out millions in compensation to their chief executive officers. 

So, it should come as no surprise that in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, the American Petroleum Institute called for the United States to become even more reliant on oil and gas by increasing drilling on public lands. But oil and gas companies have nearly 9,000 permits to drill on federal lands that they are purposely not utilizing to keep prices at a level that makes them the most profit.

More drilling isn’t going to help lower prices for families — it will only deepen our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. This dangerous cycle feeds a volatile global market that empowers authoritarian governments and fossil fuel CEOs.

None of us can afford the toll that increased fossil fuel production will have on our climate. Our communities are paying the price right now and will continue to in the future if we do not take the latest scientific findings seriously. 

The International Energy Agency has said that we must transform our economies to have a fighting chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius , prompting the organization’s executive director going so far as to declare, “if governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now.” We need our government leaders to resist what amounts to propaganda coming from the oil and gas industry and their enabling congressional allies.

Awaiting Senate action is a package of $555 billion in clean energy and climate funding, that would include billions to make electric vehicles more affordable and build electric charging stations. These investments would help transition us away from fossil fuels and provide long-term energy independence, while investing in conservation and natural climate solutions. Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry is mobilizing to block those investments, and it will take strong leadership from Congress and the president to get it done.  

When oil and gas industry CEOs, their lobbyists and their allies in Congress, lie and point to more fossil fuel dependence as the answer to energy independence, their motivation is more profit for themselves. 

At the end of the day, don’t be fooled, oil and gas companies do not serve the public. They don’t look out for the well-being of their workers, the communities they operate and extract in, or you.

Natalie Mebane is the senior director of Climate Solutions at The Wilderness Society.

Tags Climate change Energy Fossil fuels Joe Biden Natalie Mebane Russia Ukraine

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