Obama alums are pushing fracked gas exports. That’s exactly what Trump wants


During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump exclaimed that the “war on American Energy” had ended and that “we are now an exporter of energy to the world.”

What Trump did not say, though, is that several former senior energy officials from the Obama administration — the one Trump said had declared a “war on American Energy” — now either lobby or work as executives for companies making his “energy dominance” agenda possible. At least five of these Obama officials now work for natural gas export companies, four of them for Cheniere and another for Tellurian.

Though pitched as the “cleaner fossil fuel” by many of these former Obama officials, the high levels of methane in natural gas carry a climate punch. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short-term, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. NASA scientists have tied the spike in global methane emissions over the last decade to the oil and gas industry, and a recent study by Purdue University researchers found that natural gas power plants emit up to 120 times more methane than originally estimated.

Despite the scientific evidence that natural gas poses a serious climate risk, record levels of U.S.-produced natural gas products are hitting the global market. And a large contingent of former Obama officials has played a notable role in helping make that happen in the past year, despite some of them doing so in potential violation of U.S. ethics codes.

Heather Zichal

One of those Obama alums, former top White House climate and energy staffer Heather Zichal, now sits on the Board of Directors for Cheniere. She also recently was named managing director of corporate engagement for the environmental group The Nature Conservancy.

“Heather brings a wealth of experience navigating the intersection of government policy and business operations,” Mark Tercek, Nature Conservancy’s president and CEO, said in a statement provided to E&E News.

In her book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein reveals that The Nature Conservancy actually owns an oil well in Texas and uses the financial earnings which come from it as part of its funding stream. Further, both BP and Chevron sit on The Nature Conservancy’s Business Council.

“By participating in the Council, members are demonstrating an interest in integrating conservation and stewardship into their business strategy while supporting biodiversity, habitat conservation, and good environmental practices,” states The Nature Conservancy on a web page about its business council.

As DeSmog previously reported, White House meeting logs show that Zichal met twice with Cheniere officials in 2013 while she was working under Obama. Not only was Cheniere the first company to receive an LNG export permit from the Obama administration in 2012, it was the first to receive such a permit in over 50 years.

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