Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Rejecting Energy Dominance
distributed 7/14/17 - ©2017

At the end of June, the Trump administration rolled out a new two word description of its energy policy. For decades, US presidents have extolled "energy independence", but now the administration's goal is "energy dominance."

This blatant policy demands passionate, decisive and ongoing resistance from churches.

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry gave a description of this new policy:

An energy-dominant America means a self-reliant, a secure nation, free from geopolitical turmoil of other nations who seek to use energy as an economic weapon. An energy-dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and influence. Becoming energy-dominant means that we are getting government out of the way so that we can share our energy wealth with developing nations.

As I've looked at those words, I'm struck by the way other countries "use energy as an economic weapon", but the US would "increase our global leadership and influence." (David Hart describes that dominance as international bullying.) The benevolent-sounding plan to share our energy wealth with developing nations really means selling it for hard cash.

But I'm most disturbed by the priority on "getting government out of the way." Doing so means getting rid of environmental regulations, opening up more lands and waters to energy production, giving a green light to pipelines and other energy infrastructure, and calculating the "social cost of carbon" in a way that denies the reality of future climate damage.

The push toward energy dominance is a multi-pronged attack on God's creation. It is important to name at least a few details.

  • It will open up environmentally fragile areas to drilling, production and shipping. The list of areas threatened right now includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and offshore tracts in Alaska and along the Atlantic coast.
  • Wildlife, including endangered species, will lose protections to critical habitat. For example, unrestricted drilling fragments the very specific lands needed by the Greater Sage Grouse, and disrupts their dramatic mating dance. Drilling operations in Wyoming may sever the ancient migration paths used by pronghorn antelope. Those impacts will be ignored under this policy.
  • It will end current regulations on fracking that have put at least some constraints on air and water pollution. It will end regulations on the devastating practices of "mountaintop removal" for coal.
  • It will dramatically accelerate climate change, through the intentional burning of greater quantities of fossil fuels, and the dismantling of policies and programs that address climate change. This policy condemns Earth to millenia of unimaginable devastation and disruption.

Energy dominance places the production, sale and use of fossil fuels as a national priority, and explicitly turns away from concerns about effects on human health, environmental health, and climate stability. There's little in this policy initiative that we haven't heard from this administration in the past six months, but the flat-out call for dominance makes it even more blatant and extreme.

(My descriptions of the policy have been informed by an article from the far-right, pseudo-religious Cornwall Alliance. They generally approve of Trump's policy, but their perverse notions of "the stewardship of creation" are offended because this energy dominance does not go far enough in opening markets or denying climate impacts!)

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Eco-Justice Ministries works with churches. Our primary constituency is pastors and church leaders, and we focus on the distinctive ways that faith communities can move our global society toward ecological sustainability and social justice.

And so, my horror about the energy dominance policy brings me back to an ecumenical statement that is directed toward churches. "God's Earth is Sacred: an open letter to church and society in the United States" came through the National Council of Churches in 2005. A paragraph toward the end of that short document has always been meaningful to me, but it becomes an essential message now.

We believe that caring for creation must undergird, and be entwined with, all other dimensions of our churches' ministries. We are convinced that it is no longer acceptable to claim to be 'church' while continuing to perpetuate, or even permit, the abuse of Earth as God's creation. Nor is it acceptable for our corporate and political leaders to engage in 'business as usual' as if the very future of life-support systems were not at stake. (emphasis added)

The Trump administration's newly-articulated policy of energy dominance is widespread and intentional "abuse of Earth as God's creation." It does not even pretend to put energy production within the context of environmental responsibility. It is a plan that will, without question, trash the planet.

So I ask you, my faith-based constituency, how can we claim to be "church" if we permit this abuse? How can we claim to serve God if we do not rise up against this ungodly policy?

At the heart of the Christian gospel is the good news that, in Christ, God is acting to reconcile all creation. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) We are "ambassadors for Christ", charged with embodying the ministry of reconciliation. How can we claim to be Christian if we permit this policy which objectifies, alienates, divides and destroys? Where is the reconciliation in that?

The Trump administration's policy of energy dominance crosses a line. It is an undeniable and unacceptable attack on God's creation -- on our human neighbors now and into the future, and on all the creatures and systems that are part of this biosphere.

Silence is complicity in this devastation. Bland words of concern or protest are inadequate. We, who claim to be church, must not permit this perverse policy to be implemented without an outcry and active resistance.

I am heartened by denominations that are speaking out. Last week I described an action by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. This week, the General Assembly of the Disciples of Christ passed a resolution "to address climate change through action and covenant" of many forms, including a call to " individuals, congregations, and ministries to work to reduce our carbon output with our goal to become carbon neutral by the year 2030 and climate positive by 2035."

The policy of energy dominance is a challenge -- and an opportunity -- to the Christian church. We must not allow this perversion to stand as acceptable, normal, or ethical.

I want to hear from you. What is your faith community, locally or nationally, doing to challenge this unacceptable course? What forms of action and resistance can you imagine? What help or networking do you need to take action?

If we are silent or passive, we can no longer claim to be Christ's church. May the church be renewed and empowered for these times.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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