UPDATE! 7/24/2014: Today, more than 35 organizations including the Sierra Club sent a letter to the United States Trade Representative regarding this flawed proposal. In the letter, these groups call on the United States to oppose 1) the inclusion of a specific chapter dedicated to energy or 2) any provisions in the TTIP that could lead to automatic approval of export licenses for crude oil and natural gas. The groups argue that U.S. energy policy must be determined through democratic and transparent domestic processes—not through tradedeals that are negotiated behind closed doors. The U.S.'s role in tackling the climate crisis depends on this. To see the letter and the three dozen signatures, click here.
A leaked European Union trade document, published today by the Washington Post, reveals the dangers
of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership for communities and our climate. The document, similar to a previously leaked EU proposal for a chapter on energy which I wrote about here, makes it clear that the EU is looking to use this secretly negotiated trade pact as a back-door channel to get automatic, unfettered access to U.S. fracked gas and oil. If this proposal moves forward, we would see more fracking for oil and gas in the United States, more climate-disrupting pollution globally, and increased dependence on fossil fuels in the EU. So, while oil and gas companies on both sides of the Atlantic rake in profits, everyone else is stuck paying the costs.
To understand the real implications of the proposal, let’s look at some key elements and translate what each means for communities, energy policy, and climate.
1. “The EU proposes to include a legally binding commitment in the TTIP guaranteeing the free export of crude oil and gas resources by transforming any mandatory and non-automatic export licensing procedure into a process by which licenses for exports to the EU are granted automatically and expeditiously. Such a specific commitment would, in the EU’s view, not require that the U.S. amend its existing legislation on oil and gas.”
Translation: The United States should scrap its process for reviewing the impacts of exporting natural gas and crude oil and automatically send the EU our gas and oil.
Here is the background. In the United States, companies must secure a license to export crude oil and natural gas. Exports of crude oil to the European Union are allowed only if the President determines they are consistent with the national interest and they pass an impact assessment. The EU proposal, however, would require the United States to “automatically and expeditiously” approve crude oil export licenses without even considering the national interest. That leaves no room to even examine how more dirty fracking and more dangerous exports will harm communities here at home. Exporting crude oil to the EU would mean windfall profits to Big Oil, more fracking, and more climate-disrupting pollution.
With respect to natural gas, the EU proposal would remove the U.S. Department of Energy’s requirement to review whether exports are in the public interest before approving any exports. The rubber-stamping of exports would lead to increased natural gas production—most of which will come from dangerous fracking. The natural gas would then be transported to export facilities and cooled and liquefied for overseas shipment--an extremely energy-intensive process that creates a dirty climate-disrupting fuel.
2.“EU and U.S. companies would be first beneficiaries.”
Translation: The oil and gas industries will be the first ones to benefit. Not much explaining to do here! Increased fracking for oil and gas and more exports means more profits for corporate polluters. The oil and gas industry may, in fact, be the only beneficiaries. Certainly American communities and our climate would lose out.