For every step forward on climate change, the Obama administration can't seem to help but step backward at the same time. This week, officials released a landmark report freaking out about climate change's (present-day, not just future) impacts on the United States.
Maddeningly, at the same damn time, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz indicated the government is actively reviewing America's long-held ban on oil exports. Why? We're pumping so much crude out of the ground that we're exceeding our national refining capacity.
Lifting the export ban might make sense if you're an extractive capitalist (oil markets brightened after the news), but there are troubling implications for our pristine Cascadian locale, because according to climate activists who have thus far been proved prescient, the oil industry wants to turn Washington into a transit center for crude exports overseas.
"The petroleum industry is starting to lobby" to overturn the oil export ban, climate activist Adam Gaya warned back in February, when I reported on a surge in the number of explosive, unsafe oil-carrying trains passing through Seattle. The oil export terminal that Tesoro wants to build in Vancouver, to our south, is "being proposed with the intention of exporting oil overseas," likely to Japan or China, he said.
"This is about a concerted attempt by the fossil fuel industry to turn the Northwest into a fossil fuel corridor to ship this stuff out to Asia," Gaya went on. "It's mind blowing and huge. It’s staggering."
And while the Obama administration loosening the ban on oil exports would be terrible move, it would still be up to Washington Governor Jay Inslee whether to approve new oil terminals in our backyard. Last night, the environmental group Rising Tide dropped a massive banner from the balcony at Cinerama that read, "Gov. Inslee: Moratorium On Oil Trains Now!"
Inslee was seated at the front, facing the audience, following a screening of the Showtime's climate change series Years of Living Dangerously. The latest episode features celebrity correspondent Olivia Munn lionizing Inslee (look, he's riding his bike!) as the country's "greenest governor."
I'd have to research every governor's environmental record to substantiate that, but it's clear enough that Inslee cares deeply about climate change and has made it a signature issue. So it's odd that Inslee didn't so much as acknowledge or react to the banner drop. And when one of the Rising Tide activists finally stood up and yelled the question at him—would he declare a moratorium on oil trains (something a 13-group environmental coalition asked him to do last year)?—he instead talked about coal trains.
Maybe he misheard the question? Well, the guv did the exact same thing to me before the movie screening. I asked Inslee about oil trains, and he ignored my question and started talking about the problem of coal trains—before being cut off by his staff, sweeping him away to nab some free popcorn on their way in to the theater. Regulators are currently reviewing Tesoro's proposal for the Vancouver oil terminal. But Inslee is going to make the final call.