Climate Defiance Claims A Victory As Biden Pauses LNG Exports
On Friday, January 26, the Biden Administration released a statement announcing a decision to pause all new Liquefied Natural Gas exports, "with the exception of unanticipated and immediate national security emergencies," reads the statement. It continues: "During this period, we will take a hard look at the impacts of LNG exports on energy costs, America’s energy security, and our environment. This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time."
Climate Defiance posted the following on X about the announcement: "This is monumental. This is utterly, utterly, monumental. On this day, January 26, 2024, President Joseph R. Biden took a big step towards banning all new gas exports. This is the most significant move any President has ever made on stopping fossil fuels... We have not yet won the broader fight for a just & thriving world but we have shown we can win. We have not yet beaten the fossil fuel CEOs but we have breached their battle line, cracking open the decisive chink in their armor. Today we celebrate. Tomorrow we press on."
Climate Defiance have disrupted over a dozen events by high-ranking people in the political and business world. On Thursday, January 25th, the group shut down a speaking event by Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, a top-5 funder of fossil fuels. After being shoved and prodded, the group chased Mr. Moynihan out of the room until he made his escape into a side-room. Earlier this month they shut down an event at a diner with Senator Joe Manchin, forcing him to escape through a back door. And in June of last year, they disrupted a keynote address by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. They were brutalized and dragged out, but not before transforming the mood and flow of the event.
These direct actions have led to several rounds of discussions with the very people who had been disrupted, such as in the case of Deputy Secretary for the Department of Energy David Turk who was shut down by Climate Defiance, and who later invited them to sit down for a talk.
Michael Greenberg, the founder of Climate Defiance, has compared the organization to the culturally and politically transformative group ACT UP. "I think ACT UP is honestly like the most similar group," he says in a recent Rolling Stone article. "They played the outside and inside really well. We have a similar energy and vibe."
When the AIDS-rights group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) was founded in March of 1987 by Larry Kramer, Vito Russo and others during a truly apocalyptic time for the gay community, few people in government or business seemed particularly concerned. Bodies of people who had died with AIDS were piling up in hospitals and morgues, but it didn't bother those holding power. It wasn't until they started engaging in direct action and civil resistance - storming the FDA, shutting down the Catholic Church in New York, closing down the stock exchange - that people were forced to pay attention. And it wasn't until some members of ACT UP! began meeting with lawmakers and decision makers in the FDA, that advances in treatments for people with AIDS finally started to emerge.
Climate Defiance has been playing the outside and inside. They've met with the Biden administration, and Greenberg credits their actions and their discussions with the administration as proof that they are starting to gain victories. Gaining victories lends credibility to an organization, and shows that their methods are working. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Martin Luther King Jr., amassed victories in a similar way, which is what made it such a powerful national organization. It seems evident that Climate Defiance has the potential to turn out many climate victories as well. Of course, Climate Defiance is not the only group of people responsible for the pause on LNG. Groups like Th!rd Act, People Vs Fossil Fuels, XR North East and Vessel Project have been fighting and organizing for many months around ending LNG exports and fossil fuels more broadly.
It goes without saying that this decision by Biden is a small step, and easily reversible. It remains to be seen if the pause will become a ban on LNG exports, and fossil fuels more broadly. The Biden administration or any other administration will have to make truly radical, transformative changes to gain the support of the many of us who are now awake to the terrifying crises we find ourselves in.
You can find Climate Defiance at ClimateDefiance.org
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