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Sierra Snub: ‘Climate Champion’ John Kerry Touts Natural Gas

Just when it appeared that the Sierra Club couldn’t be any further marginalized, it happened: Secretary of State John Kerry – who, throughout his career, has made climate change one of his top issue priorities – officially disagrees with the Sierra Club’s position on natural gas.

Here’s what Secretary Kerry said earlier this week:

“If we harness the power of the wind in Mexico and the biomass in Brazil, the sunshine in Chile and Peru, the natural gas in the United States and Argentina, then the enormous benefits for local economies, public health, and of course climate change mitigation could reach every corner of the Americas and beyond.”

Let’s take a moment to recognize why this is so important. The Sierra Club has lauded Secretary Kerry as “one of the strongest champions for climate action,” while the Natural Resources Defense Council said he is a “champion for action against climate change.” Both of these groups are critical of future natural gas production, claiming it is inconsistent with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most scientists and energy experts disagree with that position, but Secretary Kerry’s rebuke still holds enormous significance.

Little wonder, then, why National Journal recently made this observation:

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club is setting an even more ambitious goal for ending the use of natural gas in order to reduce global warming. That puts the nation’s oldest and largest environmental group at odds with Secretary of State John Kerry, who said earlier this week that natural gas from the U.S. and Argentina can help combat climate change.

Actually, they’re at odds with more than just Secretary Kerry.  President Obama’s former climate czar Carol Browner also said this week that “there are a lot of reasons” to support natural gas as a path to a clean energy future. Other officials in the Obama administration have made similar comments about natural gas. For example:

  • EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: “Responsible development of natural gas is an important part of our work to curb climate change and support a robust clean energy market at home.”
  • President Barack Obama: “It not only can provide safe, cheap power, it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”
  • Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: “It’s been a big contributor to our carbon reduction.”

Getting snubbed by their hero is only the latest challenge for the Sierra Club as it relates to natural gas. Just a few years ago, the Sierra Club touted natural gas as a path toward a cleaner energy future.  But as American natural gas production grew (and the price dropped), the Club suddenly decided that natural gas is “environmentally damaging and harms public health.”

As Obama administration officials, geologists, engineers, and environmental regulators increasingly acknowledge that hydraulic fracturing is safe and natural gas is providing immense benefits, the Sierra Club has become more and more aggressive in its push to stop natural gas. In fact, the Club recently announced that it wants the United States to be completely off natural gas 20 years earlier than it had previously called for.

Every organization has a right to push for whatever policies it wants – but in the case of natural gas, it appears that the Sierra Club and other anti-energy groups have alienated even their former allies.

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