The Trump administration’s energy department is rolling out a lengthy report touting oil and gas as “providing energy security and supporting our quality of life”, without acknowledging that fossil fuels are the main cause of the climate crisis.
Released a month before the election, the report is strikingly at odds with the realities of climate change that the American public has been coping with over the past few months, from huge wildfires to destructive derecho storms and a series of intense hurricanes.
The cover of the report features verdant produce and a happy couple cooking over a gas stove. The department uses the word “climate” in the report only once, in reference to an industry initiative. The department estimates it spent about $200,000 on the project.
“Over the past two decades, Americans have witnessed dramatic growth in our nation’s ability to produce the oil and natural gas needed to power our vibrant economy and support our modern lifestyle,” the introduction says.
The report doesn’t cover any of the industry’s downsides – from fueling climate change to polluting communities where it operates and providing the feedstock for plastic waste that is covering the earth. It focuses on the national security values of US energy independence but does not mention that the defense department frequently names the climate crisis as a threat.
Assistant secretary of fossil energy Steve Winberg said the report is meant to assist in the department’s goal of increasing oil and gas production in the US, which president Donald Trump made official in an executive order early in his term. Already, the US is a net exporter of oil and gas.
Winberg said the report is for a general audience: “It is absolutely the purpose to reach Joe or Jane homeowner – and their barking dog, for that matter.”
Asked repeatedly by reporters about climate change, Winberg insisted that fossil gas – which releases carbon dioxide and methane that heat the planet – is a climate solution because it helps with the shift away from coal.
“Natural gas is also the source of fuel that is reducing CO2 emissions around the world,” Winberg said.
He argued that carbon capture technologies – which are not ready for use at scale and remain expensive – are the answer to continuing to burn fossil fuels while limiting the climate impact.
The report comes a month before the US government will exit an international agreement on climate change. Trump continues to refuse to acknowledge that human activity is the main driver of rising temperatures.
Trump’s challenger, former vice president Joe Biden, has said he sees climate change as one of four major crises confronting the US.