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February 28, 2020

Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ; Committee on Energy and Commerce, Chair
Bobby L. Rush, IL; Energy subcommittee, Chair
Kathy Castor, FL; Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Chair
Paul Tonko, NY; Environment and Climate Change subcommittee, Chair
and Debra A. Haaland, NM; National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands subcommittee, Chair

Attachment: Extinguishing the Social License to Burn Fossils Act (ELBA)

Dear Chairmen and Chairwomen,

I am writing to ask you to consider the attached bill because my representative, John Curtis, will not. If necessary, I hope to introduce this legislation myself in the 117th Congress.

As you are well aware, we must transition to 100% clean, safe energy to end reliance on fossil carbons as fuel. I recognize the limited carbon budget that responsible accounting clearly demonstrates is compatible with a limit of 1.5°C. That budget and the principle of equity together clearly indicate that the U.S. must reach net zero emissions by 2030. Existing products, equipment, and infrastructure that burn fossil hydrocarbons must be replaced and retired before their end of useful life. There are only around 340GtCO2 — or 8 years of current emissions — remaining, that can be emitted before the world passes 1.5°C warming and my daughter will live in a 1.5°C warmer world before graduating college. …

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The discursive construction of race is a tool of rationalizing and excusing dehumanization. Use of this tool is as much about the hegemony’s rhetorical construction of their own racial identity as it is about assigning a racial taxonomy on others. White supremacy, antisemitism, and manifest destiny, for example, are all discursive constructions of racial hegemony by those believing themselves to be White. This tool is used to defend appropriation of Indigenous lands, chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, Cherokee removal, Lakota starvation, Shoshone massacre, police brutality and militarization — among many other violations of human rights.

My life is fueled by the cheap energy supplied by burning fossils as fuel. I bet yours is to, and that’s The Problem. Unless you’ve won the lottery and can a build fortress of sustainable solitude, it’s impossible to escape this carbon footprint without turning to homelessness. These are the options placed in front of us by They, the builders of the nation.

I don’t know about you, but I have bills to pay. I need health care, a home, and food for my family. I recognize that, at this moment, I’m more fortunate than most; I manage a large enough cash flow that I’ve saved for a rainy day and could pay my bills for a few months without income; but I need a job just as much as most anyone does. …

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Utah State Capitol, September 20th, 2019. Photo credit Nate Hole

My speech from the September 20th Climate Strike in Salt Lake City.

Listen to this speech on SoundCloud

I don’t need to tell you why we’re here, you showed up. I don’t need to tell you that the 1 degree warmer world we live in today is already killing thousands and displacing millions. I don’t need to tell you that air pollution in Utah causes thousands of deaths and miscarriages every year. I don’t need to tell you that a world warmed more than 1.5 degrees is genocide and child abuse. Because you know, you showed up.

Take a moment to make eye contact with the friends, family, and strangers standing beside you. We’re here together. Look them in the eyes — we’re in this together. This is what democracy looks like! This is what our power looks like! When we share this power with each other, it grows. …

The 5 biggest oil companies earn more in 60 seconds than 95% of American households make in a year.
The 5 biggest oil companies earn more in 60 seconds than 95% of American households make in a year.

There are over 520 billion barrels of oil in the probable reserves of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates alone (source) — enough to cover the Great Lakes in over six feet of crude oil sludge. Most of this oil can hit the market at all-in-costs of less than $12 per barrel (source), so these oil resources represent 17–28 trillion dollars in profits (at $46–$66 per barrel) — revenues (if shared equally) of about $1 million for every family of five in those countries.

Here’s the problem — our remaining budget is only 420–580 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C (source). That budget includes emissions from electricity and heating (primarily coal and methane), and agriculture (primarily ‘economical’ industrial farming practices for food and livestock). …

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Let’s be honest. I own a WWII-era bolt action rifle which I bought years ago. It’s stored in the house about a hundred feet and a flight of stairs away from the ammo. I didn’t buy it for, and it won’t help me in the case of home invasion; that’s what I have a dog and a home security system for.

Let’s be honest. As a young man, I bought the rifle in case I’m ever called on to fight for freedom. This doesn’t make me an extremist, a secessionist, conspiracy theorist, or a revolutionary. I just means that I agreed with Alexander Hamilton, who wrote that “[a Militia] appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.” [Federalist 29] The founders agreed that, while ostensibly necessary for national security, a professional army posed a threat to freedom. The Second Amendment was the insurance policy — a Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State; a Militia, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms; a well regulated Militia shall not be infringed. …

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It is unparliamentarian to refer to the President’s tweets as racist. “Freedom of speech is a pillar of our democracy,” said Utah Reps. Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart in a joint statement issued after voting against House Resolution 489 Condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress. It is a pillar, no doubt; but free speech can also undermine our institutions as parliamentary debates devolve into trench warfare, and so “unparliamentary” speech is censored in the Capitol chambers despite Reps. …

first published in The Canticle (University of Utah, 2019)

Aeneas, grasping his shield and long spear …

I am listening to the Iliad, looking straight ahead, because ever since I became a writer I’ve been trying to become well-read. But reading has never been an easy pastime for me. Highway hypnosis — “may in large measure result from an understimulating traffic and road environment and produce a suboptimal activational state in which relevant cues from the environment are ignored” [1] — have you experienced it? I often do, both on the road and the page. Reading has never been an easy pastime for me. Some say that audiobooks don’t count, that you haven’t really read the book if you just listened to the audiobook. Spoken words often are easier to engage with, but still I find my thoughts drifting. …

First published in Earth Tones Journal, SLC, Utah, April 2019

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Growing up in the “Mormon diaspora” — migrants from Great Basin Mormon settlements who relocated throughout the US for educational or employment opportunities — the romanticized stories of Mormon pioneers, and particularly the 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, are very familiar to me. My family, once a year when I was a child, would make a Walkaraian journey from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to visit paternal and maternal grandparents just north of Nuche’s Timpanogó (Provo–Orem). Mormon settlement of Utah had a remote, almost mythological feel as a personal origin story. …

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Thu. 14 March 2019 — Salt Lake City, UT

The global school strike for climate began this hour at Robert Louis Stevenson School, Samoa. Over the next 24 hours, over 1.4 million children and youth around the world will participate in a school strike to protest the inaction of the older generations on the crisis of CO2 emissions, the observed 0.9°C increase in global mean surface temperature (GMST), and the 3–4°C increase in GMST which they will witness before the end of this century if radical changes are not made today.

CO2 is not an environmental issue that gets enough recognition in Utah. On Feb. 13, 2019, Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) of Utah’s 3rd District, said, “If you ask Utahns what the largest environmental crisis is, they’ll say clean air, and they’ll say it about 15 times a year. Otherwise, we enjoy beautiful mountain clean air.” In reality, air pollution is killing elderly Utahns — even when the air is relatively clean. Air pollution is also terminating pregnancies. While medical abortions terminated 2800 Utah pregnancies in 2016, air pollution terminated over 1000 of the about 7000+ Utah miscarriages; tell that to March for Life. …


Russ Fugal

Former U.S. Congress candidate for UT–3

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