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“Dirty, Dangerous, and Run Amok:” The Sierra Club’s War on Gas in their Own Words

 [Ed. note: Tomorrow's post, "'Deep Ecology' versus Energy," will examine radical environmental metaphysics in more detail.]

An influential branch of the modern environmental movement rejects a human-centered anthropocentric view of the world in favor of a nature-first ecocentric view.

Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess in a 1973 essay differentiated between shallow ecology, a concern with pollution and resource depletion in the developed world, and deep ecology where “the equal right to live and blossom” ends what is seen as a master-slave relationship between human and nonhuman (lower animal and plant) life. [1]

The platform of the Deep Ecology Foundation, formulated by Arne Naess and George Sessions, declares that “present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening” and calls for

changes in policies affect[ing] basic economic, technological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1992: 216) identifies the “terminal sin” of man’s altering nature and complained about how “the greenhouse effect is the first environmental problem we can’t escape by moving to the woods.” He laments how “the cheap labor provided by oil” makes the “deep ecology model” difficult to fathom much less implement (200).

In chapter 12 of Earth in the Balance (1992), Senator Al Gore complained about a “dysfunctional civilization” predicated on fossil fuels.

The Sierra Club’s ‘Deep Ecology’ Turn

Mainstream (Washington, DC-based) environmentalism embraced natural gas in the 1980s as a “bridge” to a sustainable future. But no more. The Sierra Club is at war with natural gas, as it is with oil, coal, hydro, and nuclear. Biofuels is also out of favor with Big Environmentalism, which leaves wind and solar and not much else.

Here is the anti-gas messaging at the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Natural Gas” home page.

Natural gas drillers exploit government loopholes, ignore decades-old environmental protections, and disregard the health of entire communities. “Fracking,” a violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations, is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes. If drillers can’t extract natural gas without destroying landscapes and endangering the health of families, then we should not drill for natural gas.

“No state has adequate protections in place. Even where there are rules, they are poorly monitored and enforced. Thanks to the multiple federal exemptions, we can’t even count on the federal government to keep us safe! Together, though, we can change that! No industry, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can withstand the righteous passion of the American people. The out-of-control rush to drill has put oil and gas industry profits ahead of our health, our families, our property, our communities, and our futures. If drillers can’t extract natural gas without destroying landscapes and endangering the health of families, then we should not drill for natural gas.”

Allison Chin, Sierra Club president, July 28, 2012, at the Stop the Frack Attack rally 

Why Move Beyond Natural Gas?

“Fracking for natural gas damages the land, pollutes water and air, and causes illness in surrounding communities.”

End Destructive Drilling

“If we can’t drill safely, then we shouldn’t be drilling at all. Natural gas production is environmentally damaging and harms public health.”

Protect Our Climate

“Latest studies from the International Energy Agency reveal a switch from coal to gas would lead to a global temperature rise of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius, an outcome we simply cannot afford.”

Stop LNG Exports

“Exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to overseas markets is a dirty, dangerous practice that lets the industry make a killing at the expense of human health.”

Self Destruction?

The Sierra Club’s “deep ecology” turn disenfranchises energy consumers–and thus citizen voters. Adding natural gas to the do-not-produce-or-use list, joining oil, coal, hydropower, and nuclear, leaves virtually nothing for the transportation market and very little for electrical generation. As such, the anti-industrial malcontents in modern society have little place to hide.

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[1] Arne Naess. “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary.” 1973. Reprinted in Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics, edited by Peter List, 19–24. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1993.

4 comments

1 Jim Wiegand { 05.22.13 at 1:14 pm }

From what I have seen from conservation groups like the Sierra club, as soon as these other industries (natural gas, oil, coal, hydro, and nuclear) started giving the Sierra Club “Mitigation Funding” and backing they would change their tune completely. Today I believe this is their game plan, make a lot of noise and squeeze as much financially as you can from causes. Think about it, Audubon has been involved with Altamont for decades and the slaughter of raptors has never stopped.

I am not a fan of most conservation groups and people have to face the fact that Environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Audubon no longer have much to do with their founders. The have charitable status but they are really a political enterprise marketing the environment to the public. They lobby, they parade around Washington, they have many fund raisers, sell their wildlife trinkets, say the right things in the media, file aggressive looking lawsuits, but in reality I see them as sellout parasites leading their well meaning members down the garden path to nowhere.

Groups like the Sierra Club that are turning their backs on the wind industry’s bird and bat genocide, remind me of the many onlookers back on March 13, 1964 in New York that watched a young woman getting murdered. They did nothing, but unlike those worthless onlookers in New York, these groups also getting paid to look away. Even if they file lawsuits, Conservations groups do receive money in settlements. If projects go through conservation groups are getting paid for the dead eagles that pay the real price. It is part of mitigation process, a process that rewards them for this destruction. .

Michael Brune is the Sierra Club Executive Director. He is 41 and possesses dual B.S. degrees in Economics and Finance. These are banking credentials.

What background does Michael Brune have outside of finance? What background does Michael Brune have which enables him to make a single sound environmental decision? How could Michael Brune ever understand the real impacts caused by wind turbines or know about the proper siting of any wind project? How could Michael Brune ever be able to smoke out a fraudulent wind industry study? From what I have seen he can’t. So this brings up an even bigger problem, pretenders with power.

Members of these groups need to ask their leaders why they are not demanding the immediate development of bird safe turbines because the path of the today’s wind industry is a sure path to extinction of many species. Members of these groups should realize that the way to end the wind industry’s destruction is stop approving wind farms with propeller style turbines. Another way is to stop the politicians from giving away billions in tax credits (PTC) and to eliminate wind project mitigation money (major conflict of interest) from going conservation groups. These actions is will force the industry to change and conservation groups to stop supporting these turbines.

I have pointed all this out because across the world we have environmental destruction (wind industry related) taking place at a pace never before seen on this planet. No other energy source kills millions of protected species each year like the wind industry does. No other energy source has a several thousand mile foot print from each location like the wind industry does. No other energy source kills millions of protected species each year and has no accountability. It is an outrage that will continue as long as the pretenders are in power.

2 catweazle666 { 05.23.13 at 2:38 pm }

This is the same Sierra club that took 20-odd million dollars off the gas industry to fund its anti-coal campaign, presumably.

Just another bunch of snouts-in-the-trough hypocrites then.

3 Nadia Nichols { 05.24.13 at 12:12 pm }

If you substituted the words “industrial wind” for “natural gas” in the Sierra Club’s environmental stance, this article could read almost exactly the same, yet the Sierra Club supports industrial wind. I just don’t get it. I have to admit, I’m a tree hugger, and I use to belong to the Sierra Club, but not any more. Small thorium reactors will be powering this planet in 20 years. I only hope there’s something left to protect after we get done destroying the last of our natural landscapes and killing every last winged creature in the name of being “green”.

4 Annegret Pollard { 05.24.13 at 4:36 pm }

Completely agree with you, Jim Wiegand, resigned my 40yr. membership last Fall with a personal letter to Brune, never heard back, only more fundraising letters. Snouts in the trough: so apt.

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