Activists Conveniently Conflate Coronavirus Pandemic with Climate Change

In a recent op-ed published in The Hill, environmental activists seized the pandemonium surrounding the coronavirus as an opportunity to promote their environmental priorities and to make the case against the use of fossil fuels – even going as far as to claim the next COVID stimulus package should include provisions to further their ideological goals of eliminating these fuels and direct investment in renewable sources.

The op-ed is representative of a broader distorted view of reality adopted by the environmental Left. In the piece, the authors claim: “Those of us on the frontlines of the climate crisis are facing the worst impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.” The authors continue by suggesting that addressing climate change and the coronavirus pandemic “means dealing with the realities of systemic and economic injustice.

Such statements minimize the real heroes on the frontline facing the crisis – the thousands of doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals that continue to fight the virus and provide life-sustaining care to those in need. Not to mention the truck drivers, grocery store clerks, and critical manufacturers that continue to ensure Americans have reliable access to food, supplies, energy, and other essential goods while facing obvious risk.

However, these initiatives are not rooted in reality and ignore key facts. In the midst of a global pandemic, with unprecedented challenges, economic uncertainty, and a record number of Americans unemployed – it is certainly not the time to gamble with our nation’s energy security and jeopardize many more of the millions of jobs supported by the energy sector.

The op-ed also alleges that regulations being temporarily loosened by the Trump Administration are allowing “fossil fuel corporations to fast track dirty projects,” later referencing critical energy infrastructure projects like Keystone XL and Line 3. What the authors conveniently fail to acknowledge, however, is that these projects have either already been permitted or undergo years of review. Keystone XL has been studied, litigated, permitted, and sensationalized by the previous administration for the past decade – there is no “fast track.”

Further, the authors argue officials must prohibit the construction of so called “non-critical projects like pipelines.” Contrary to the characterization, the Department of Homeland Security has already deemed the energy sector and those supporting its operations as essential, given its vital role in ensuring Americans have reliable access to the energy they use each and every day. Natural gas and oil are a key part of that energy mix, not to mention the thousands of products produced from petroleum and petrochemicals – including N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and other important medical supplies used to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Traditional fuels like natural gas and oil are the bedrock of American energy. While an “all of the above” strategy that includes renewables like solar and wind should be encouraged, it is important to acknowledge that these sources only provide about 2 percent and 7 percent of U.S. electricity, respectively. On the other hand, natural gas was the largest source of electricity generation in 2019, meeting nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity needs. Additionally, petroleum products accounted for about 92 percent of the total U.S. transportation sector energy use.

Just earlier this month, Reverend Jesse Jackson expressed his continued support for the construction of a new natural gas pipeline outside of Chicago that would provide affordable energy for low-income populations. An ardent supporter of the environmental movement, Jackson succinctly summed up his support for the pipeline:

“When we move to another form of energy, that’s fine by me, I support that,” Jackson said. “But in the meantime, you cannot put the black farmers on hold until that day comes.”

Rev. Jackson is right – we cannot put Americans on hold until another source is able to provide reliable and affordable energy. American policymakers have a responsibility to ensure American consumers have their energy needs met – and traditional fuel sources like natural gas and oil currently provide the most viable, affordable, and safest option.