White House Science Czar Calls ‘Keep It In The Ground’ Campaign ‘Unrealistic’

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The director of the White House Office of Science and Tech Policy called the “keep it in the ground” movement an “unrealistic” policy during an energy conference Monday.

John Holdren — who was nominated as science advisor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and confirmed by Congress in 2009 — told audience members at the conference that the fossil fuel industry is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Holdren’s comments, which were made public in a tweet by energy reporter Brian Scheid, dovetail with those of other White House officials during the past year, as well as by some of the biggest names in climate research.

Former NASA climate Scientist James Hansen, for one, said in a 2013 interview “that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said during a panel discussion in April that anti-fossil fuel activists and “Keep It In The Ground” types are a “small minority” and “not an accurate representation” of the people in his state. He went on to warn his fellow panelists that, “we’re a long way from saying we can walk away from hydrocarbons and not do significant damage to our economy.”

The “Keep It In The Ground” campaign has continued to receive pushback from the White House.

The U.S. cannot ban all fossil fuel resources overnight, the White House said in response to a February petition from anti-fossil fuel activists requesting federal lands stop being used to develop fossil fuels.

The petition requested Obama secure his so-called climate legacy by “halting all new drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands and waters.”

“Even as we move full steam ahead towards cleaner energy, the United States will still need to use fossil fuels in the near term,” the White House wrote in a post on its website.

Still, green groups spanning the entire environmental movement beg to differ.

Many environmentalists have organized campaigns admonishing people “to keep oil in the ground.”

“Keep It In The Ground” groups, for instance, in May embarked on a two-week long Break Free 2016 rally in hopes of convincing the U.S. and the world to permanently stop using oil and coal. Environmentalists like Bill McKibben, among others, called the rally the “greatest civil disobedience for climate action in history,” and others said more than 30,000 protesters would take part in events in far flung-places like the Philippines.

Holdren has a checkered history in academia, one that includes advocating in the 1970s for “compulsory population controls” to help reduce global warming.

“Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-controls, even including laws requiring compulsory abortions, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently sever to endanger the society,” Holdren explained in the 1977 book “Ecoscience,” co-authored by fellow eco-academics Paul and Anne Ehrlich.

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