Why march to end fossil fuels on Sept. 17?

Many scientists believe that in early July 2023 the Earth reached the hottest point in the last 125,000 years.


On June 15, a coalition of partner groups—including 350.org, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Labor Network for Sustainability, Fridays for Future, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Extinction Rebellion, the Center for Popular Democracy, and others—put out the call for a Sept. 17 mass March to End Fossil Fuels. Several thousand activists registered to attend the online launch event.

The protest is set to coincide with a UN Climate Ambition Summit and to call out President Biden for his administration’s approval of three new hugely destructive fossil fuel projects over the spring. The specific demands around which the action is to be organized include (1) Stop all federal approvals for new fossil fuel projects and repeal permits for climate bombs like the Willow project and Alaska LNG; (2) phase out fossil fuel production on our public lands and waters; (3) declare a climate emergency to halt oil exports and investments in fossil fuel projects abroad; (4) lead a just transition to clean community-centered energy at home.

The Climate Ambition Summit was called by the UN Secretary-General in the wake of the disastrous November 2022 COP 27 climate meeting in Egypt, a meeting recognized as having effectively dropped the goal of keeping warming below the 1.5 C rise that would give humanity a 50% chance of avoiding the triggering of feedback loops that could doom our species. At that meeting, fossil fuel industry-backed elite spokespeople were also victorious in shifting the discourse about phasing out fossil fuels production to one that advocated the phasing out fossil fuel emissions. This semantic shift implies that carbon capture and sequestration and other unproven green technologies will make fossil fuel production safe.

This shift in goals is also reflected in President Biden’s climate plan, which releases billions of dollars to the oil and other fuel industries to develop carbon capture and sequestration schemes, but does not mandate any cuts in fossil fuel production. This is the cynical back story for the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on emissions, which are meant to reduce pollution by carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) quackery.[1] In this approach, Biden is one with other G7 countries who are driving ahead with investment in and subsidies for new fossil fuel production.

Despite the clear consensus by scientists that to avoid shooting past warming of 1.5 C there can be absolutely no new fossil fuel projects permitted, major developments—many in zones of extreme ecological delicacy—continue to be the locus of growing investment and government permitting. Globally, this includes the 1443 km heated East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which originates in the biodiverse Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, traverses seismic zones and 16 protected biodiversity areas, threatens the massive water system anchored by Lake Victoria, and ends at a port in Tanzania from which it will be transported to burn and emit 34.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.[2] The French/Chinese-owned EACOP is one of 195 “carbon bombs” identified in May 2022 as threats that can contribute greatly to triggering tipping points in glacier and permafrost melting, the slowing of critical meridional ocean currents, and so on.

On June 23, Norway approved 19 new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea and set aside $18 billion to get them off of the ground.[3] Japan, Italy, Germany, and the U.S. just broke the pledges that they made at the Glasgow 2021 Conference of the Parties (COP 21), and at a subsequent G7 meeting, to end public funding for fossil fuels.[4] Biden may have won the prize for extreme investments, using the U.S. Export-Import Bank to finance the most controversial project: a 40% increase in the production of the Balikpapan oil refinery on the Indonesian island of Borneo. A 2018 spill at that refinery killed five, sickened 1000, inundated 34 hectares of mangrove swamp, and likely permanently damaged the marine ecosystem.

It is important to keep in mind that in October 2021, the United Nations already declared that planned fossil fuel production through 2030 was double the amount believed to be compatible with keeping warming to the 1.5 C rise.[5] Yet the major capitalist powers continue to persist on increasing fossil fuel production.

The Biden administration has recently given the green light to more new fossil fuel projects than did the government of former president Trump. Washington, in the first two years of the Biden administration, approved 6430 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands, “outpacing the Trump administration’s 6172 drilling-permit approvals in its first two years.”[6] The context includes the U.S. effort to supplant Russian gas to Europe with LNG from the Permian Basin and Gulf Coast systems. Spurred by Washington’s success in making the U.S. a net fossil fuel exporter, the country’s natural gas production is projected to rise between 50-52% in these two regions alone.[7]

Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico generates 97% of U.S. Outer Continental Shelf fossil fuel production—despite the dangers to people, the climate, and the marine and coastal environment, as revealed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion and leak that poured oil into the Gulf from April to July 2010. In March 2023, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opened 73.3 million acres of federal waters for bidding by fossil fuel companies.[8] Acreage totaling 1.6 million was sold at the first auction.

The auctioning of new blocks for drilling the Gulf of Mexico is only one of a number of particularly damaging initiatives announced by Washington in 2023. The U.S. government also permitted the mammoth Alaska LNG export project, which is designed to compete with Russia’s similar Arctic LNG-2 facility.

The Alaska LNG project is supposed to turn gas flared during oil drilling on the North Slope of Alaska into a profitable export to Asia. It involves a gas treatment plant in the oil fields and an 800-mile (1300 km) pipeline running across Indigenous lands and ecologically vulnerable wilderness to export terminals on the south coast near Anchorage.[9] It will be the third largest LNG terminal in the US. According to Earth Justice, it will “be capable of exporting 20 million metric tons of gas per year.”[10] Over its 30-year lifetime, it could result in 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions.[11] Technically complex construction would affect 35,474 acres, 45% of which will be permanently affected.[12] It will also lead to the construction of 489 new roads across an Alaskan landscape teeming with wildlife and prone to permafrost melt. The pipeline will end by crossing the environmentally sensitive Cook’s Inlet, already affected by melting sea ice and coastal erosion but still home to endangered beluga whales. Lukas Ross of Friends of the Earth told Politico that the Alaska LNG project is “a carbon bomb ten times the size of Willow.”[13]

What is Willow? The Willow oil and gas mega-project, to be sited on Alaska’s North Slope, was approved just before the Alaska LNG project and is, itself, said to be the single largest oil extraction point on U.S. public lands.[14] It is being developed by ConocoPhillips and will include some 200 wells that will affect the Inupiaq village Nuiqsut, which is already suffering from existing oil projects. The Indigenous Environmental Network, predicting more environmental injustice, said, “The Willow Project directly threatens 5 Iñupiaq communities on the Arctic Slope, putting their ability to sustain their food security, health, and identity at risk.”[15] The permit was long delayed because of the environmental concerns identified by Biden administration officials themselves. These include threats to freshwater sources, migratory birds, caribou, whales, and other animals. The total carbon emissions are expected to rise to 287 million tons of carbon dioxide and cause $20 billion in warming-related damages.[16]

These new projects, and the complete failure of the Biden climate plan to mandate reductions in fossil fuel production, have pushed a number of the climate justice non-profits in the U.S. to call the first mass climate protest march since 2016, the Sept. 17 March to End Fossil Fuels. Despite its limited demands and focus on pressuring the Biden administration, it is an opportunity for working people made newly aware of the seriousness of the climate crisis after experiencing many new extreme weather disasters, to experience their power in the streets. It can be the occasion for revolutionaries, who support ongoing independent mass action—shaped by open mass democratic assemblies of grassroots, Indigenous, labor, environmental justice, and community activists—to share their perspectives and build a base of like-minded people to fight for that kind of movement.

Finally, this demonstration, and the building activities leading up to it, can be the place where thousands of the newly mobilized will hear the revolutionary socialist perspective on the climate crisis, and be introduced to our vision of a society in which production of energy, and everything else, is organized according to human needs, not profit. Getting to such a society entails the nationalization of the energy industry and other polluters, the banks that invest in fossil fuels and other polluting industry, and the land currently being used for highly destructive corporate agricultural production and financial speculation. Genuine control of these nationalized resources by democratic bodies run by working people and the affected communities, including Indigenous nations, is, ultimately, the only route to a future worth living.

Reaching out to our co-workers, our community organizations, and our neighbors, and convincing them to march on Sept. 17 can be one step toward the creation of the kind of mass movement and labor organization necessary. All out on Sept. 17!


[1] Jake Johnson, “Biden Power Plant Rule Relies on ‘Industry Propaganda Scheme’ of Carbon Capture: Critics,” May 11, 2023. https://www.commondreams.org/news/biden-power-plant-carbon-capture. Accessed July 2, 2023.

[2] Stop EACOP: For Nature, https://www.stopeacop.net/for-nature. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[3] Nicole Rodel, “Norway approves $18 billion in support of new oil and gas projects, Oil Change International, June 28, 2023. https://priceofoil.org/2023/06/28/norway-approves-18-billion-in-support-for-new-oil-and-gas-projects/. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[4] Valentina Stackl, “Japan-hosted G7 Ministers falsely claim they have ended fossil fuel investment; leave door open to gas investments, Oil Change International, April 15, 2023, https://priceofoil.org/2023/04/15/japan-hosted-g7-ministers-falsely-claim-they-have-ended-fossil-fuel-finance-leave-door-open-to-gas-investments/. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[5] UN Environment Programme and Stockholm Environment Institute et al, The Production Gap: 2021 Report, p. 2. https://productiongap.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/PGR2021_web_rev.pdf. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[6] Center for Biological Diversity, “Biden Administration Oil, Gas Drilling Approvals Outpace Trump’s,” January 24, 2023, https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/biden-administration-oil-gas-drilling-approvals-outpace-trumps-2023-01-24/. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[7] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Independent Studies and Analysis (EIA), “U.S. Natural Gas Production and LNG exports will likely grow through 2050 in AEO2023,” April 27, 2023. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=56320. Accessed July 1, 2023. An environmental and human damage analysis of the Permian Basin projects is available at Permian Climate Bomb Series, 2021, https://www.permianclimatebomb.org. Accessed July 1, 2023

[8] Bill Chapel and Jeff Brady, “The Biden Administration sells oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico,” March 29, 2023, NPR (National Public Radio), https://www.npr.org/2023/03/29/1166802809/gulf-of-mexico-oil-gas-leases-drilling. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[9] Alaska LNG, https://alaska-lng.com. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[10] Earth Justice, “Environmental Groups Respond to Department of Energy’s Approval of Alaska LNG Project,” April 13, 2023. https://earthjustice.org/press/2023/environmental-groups-respond-to-department-of-energys-approval-of-alaska-lng-project. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[11] Andy Rowell, “Biden approves huge ‘carbon bomb’ LNG project in Canada,” Oil Change International, May 5, 2023. https://priceofoil.org/2023/05/05/biden-approves-huge-carbon-bomb-lng-project-in-alaska/. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[12] Earth Justice, Ibid.

[13] Ben Lefebvre, “Another Alaska fossil fuel project gets Biden team’s blessing,” Politico, May 1, 2023. https://www.politico.com/news/2023/05/01/alaska-fossil-fuels-biden-00093092. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[14] Indigenous Environmental Network, “Biden Breaks Climate Promise and Approves Willow Project,” March 12, 2023, https://www.ienearth.org/biden-administration-breaks-climate-promise-and-approves-willow-project/. Accessed July 1, 2023.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Andy Rowell, “Read my Lips”: Biden Blows Up Campaign Pledge to approve the Willow ‘carbon bomb’ in the Arctic,” Oil Change International, March 14, 2023. https://priceofoil.org/2023/03/14/read-my-lips-biden-blows-up-campaign-pledge-to-approve-the-willow-carbon-bomb-in-the-arctic/. Accessed July 1, 2023.

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