Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud: Anti-Pipeline Leader Admits True Motivation for Activism

In the echo chamber of “Keep It In the Ground” activism, the messaging rarely reflects the true goals behind the movement: to delay, weaken and eventually stop all oil and natural gas development and related infrastructure like pipelines. But recently, it appears that anti-fossil fuel leaders are getting bolder in saying the quiet part out loud.

Bill McKibben, one of the nation’s most prominent environmental activists, took to Twitter recently to announce he is stepping down from an active role in – an environmental group he helped found and that has actively fought against every facet of the oil and natural gas industry – from fracking to pipelines to natural gas use in homes and power generation.

These efforts have typically been under the guise of protecting air and water quality and preventing the impacts of climate change. But within McKibben’s retirement thread, he let slip the true motivation of the movement:

“And also: the fights I’ve been most engaged in–divestment, and infrastructure fights over things like pipelines–are starting to do what we hoped, weakening the power of the fossil fuel industry. That battle is far from won, but there’s more room now for new solutions to emerge.” (emphasis added)

While notable, McKibben’s admission isn’t the first example of anti-fossil fuel campaigners pulling back the curtain on what really motivates them.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has engaged in a years-long legal battle against at least one energy company, presumably based on deficiencies in disclosure related to climate change. But in June, Healey admitted her intention is actually to ban fossil fuel use in the state, stating that “we must transition away from fossil fuels.”

Similarly, a leaked memo from a secret strategy meeting of anti-fossil fuel activists, including McKibben and representatives of Greenpeace and the Rockefeller Family Fund, shows that they sought to “delegitimize [fossil fuel companies] as a political actor” and “call into question climate advantages of fracking, compared to coal.” The author of that memo later tweeted he wanted to reduce ExxonMobil “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Furthermore, as McKibben’s tweet demonstrates, the “you absolutely love to see it” activists are more interested in “weakening” the oil and natural gas industry – hurting millions of Americans – than actually protecting the environment. Remember the since-deleted tweet from New York Congresswoman and Green New Deal author Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?


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