A Trump presidency is widely expected to be friendly towards the traditional energy sector. But the oil and natural gas industry shouldn’t get complacent; environmental groups are already making plans for—and making hay out of—the expected future opposition.
“This is a huge organizing opportunity if they decide to take it,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Much as Roe v. Wade mobilized the anti-abortion movement, the perceived federal lock-out is already being used to gin up money, attention, and action.
As E&E News’ ClimateWire reported, “In the week since Election Day, the Sierra Club has added 7,500 monthly donors. That’s more than the environmental advocacy organization added in all of 2016 so far.” Similarly, Citizens’ Climate Lobby has seen its website traffic double and its Twitter followers increase exponentially.
So what will environmental activism look like during a Trump presidency? Expect them to rely heavily on three “D’s”: devolution, digital advocacy, and disobedience.
- Devolution. With Republican control of the House, Senate, and White House, environmentalists will intensify the recent trend of focusing on state, county, and city political systems to attack oil and natural gas operations. These include local fracking bans like the one passed in Monterey County, CA last week, ordinances against pipelines, and state-level lawsuits.
- Digital advocacy. Environmentalists have a successful history of using social media for grassroots organizing and political efforts. Anyone following the #NODAPL campaign—which has featured online petitions, millions of Facebook check-ins to mislead law enforcement, and a staggering number of supportive posts—has seen the power of these groups’ digital presence. Expect an increase in their ability and desire to use this online army to coerce elected officials, regulators, and bureaucrats to accede to their demands.
- Disobedience. According to ClimateWire, last week Bill McKibben (whose 350.org group has pressured universities nationwide to divest from fossil fuels using student demonstrations) said “there’s great value in using demonstrations, like the ones planned today at Army Corps of Engineers facilities around the country, to draw attention to the climate movement.” And the Army Corps of Engineer’s decision yesterday to further delay the Dakota Access Pipeline only reinforces the perceived efficacy of civil disobedience for simultaneously raising awareness and obstructing energy infrastructure projects.
So while a Republican-controlled federal government may well be a boon for the energy sector, environmental activists are intensifying and diversifying their efforts.
Is there a way to find a middle ground with these activists? Here’s McKibben’s view, as reported by ClimateWire: “Physics isn’t going to compromise, he said, and neither should activists.”