Greens: End federal fossil fuel production to cut emissions

Greens: End federal fossil fuel production to cut emissions
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Ending fossil fuel production on federal lands in the United States would prevent up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere, according to a study released Wednesday.

The analysis, from the group EcoShift and commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that the untapped supply of fossil fuels on U.S. federal lands represents between 349 and 492 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or about half the potential emissions from all U.S. fossil fuels.

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By contrast, the U.S. emitted more than 6.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most federal fossil fuels are in areas the government hasn’t leased for development, according to the study. The vast majority are in oil shale and coal stores around the country. 

The groups behind the study said the U.S. should not allow those fuels to be developed in order to cut carbon pollution enough to meet scientific standards for preventing global warming.

“Our climate can’t afford the pollution from more federal fossil fuel leasing,” said Taylor McKinnon, a campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The natural place for President Obama to start leading the global fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground is on our public lands and oceans.”

Energy development on federal and Indian lands increased just 0.2 percent in 2014, according to a July study from the Energy Information Administration, even as production has surged on private lands. Stagnant growth has lead some Republicans to call for more energy development, not less, on federal lands. 

“Our government has already leased more public fossil fuels than can safely be burned,” Friends of the Earth campaigner Marissa Knodel said in a statement. 

“Each new lease puts us farther down the path toward climate catastrophe, and is a direct contradiction to the president’s pledge to attack the climate crisis head-on.”