DeSmog

Jane Fonda Joins Land and Water Defenders at Americas Energy Summit

Following street rallies that outnumbered New Orleans conference delegates, President Joe Biden announced a pause on new LNG exports.
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Jane Fonda and Roishetta Ozane at a rally to stop LNG expansion in New Orleans on Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Julie Dermansky
Jane Fonda and Roishetta Ozane at a rally to stop LNG expansion in New Orleans on Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Julie Dermansky

Fossil fuel executives attending the Americas Energy Summit at the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans this month were greeted with door hangers on their hotel rooms January 19. Instead of “do not disturb,” the message on the hanger read, “LNGS: Do not destroy our coast.”

The door hangers were one of several actions taken by protesters throughout the week, which culminated in a gathering of about 200 people — including actress Jane Fonda, musician Maggie Rogers and dozens of Southwest Louisiana fishers — in a park across from the convention center. At one point, six fishing boats were parked in front of the convention center, before police threatened to tow them away. A street theater performance recounted environmental opposition to fossil fuel development in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, and land defenders chanted memorable slogans, including one about natural gas and greenwashing: “so natural, it starts fires in your sink.”

Those outside the convention center easily outnumbered those within, as delegates to the 20th edition of the energy summit packed it in before the event officially concluded. Numerous panels were abruptly canceled throughout the week, as a considerable number of delegates failed to appear for scheduled conference sessions. Attendance appeared to be far below what event organizers had anticipated.

During the nearly weeklong summit, natural gas developers discussed the future of their industry. There was no wringing of hands about the necessary phase out of fossil fuels. Instead, executives spoke about how more natural gas will be extracted from Texas and Louisiana to fuel a buildout of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to supply Europe, Asia and Latin America with gas. In total, the life cycle emissions from LNG export terminals proposed and under construction in the U.S. would result in the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of 675 coal-fired power plants, according to an analysis by former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Jeremy Symons. 

But across the Gulf Coast a growing movement wants to stop this vision from becoming a reality. People from Brownsville, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas; Freeport, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Cameron Parish, Louisiana — all places where LNG export terminals are operating or proposed — showed up to the January 19 rally. A week later, on January 26, President Joe Biden announced a pause on new LNG export approvals.

“I thought I understood what was going on with the Gulf,” Fonda said in front of the crowd. “I’d read the articles, I’d read the science, I’ve seen the photographs. But when you’re here on the ground, seeing it with your own eyes and talking to the people, and many of you I’ve been talking with over the last weeks, I had no idea. And I am so sorry you have to deal with this stuff. It feels like looking into the devil’s eyes.”

Fonda held little back during her speech to the crowd, saying oil and gas executives love hurricanes because they get people out of the way. As she was speaking, several combat aircraft flew in tight formation overhead, to which Fonda responded it was time to declare war on climate change, and for funds to be drawn from the Pentagon’s budget to win the war. Fonda also advocated for a “pussy boycott” directed at fossil fuel sector leaders, and encouraged “protectors, not protesters” to avoid sleeping with anyone attending the conference. The crowd responded enthusiastically, and joined Fonda in flipping off the convention center.

Several speakers, including Fonda, also pointed out how fossil fuel exploration was threatening traditional lifestyles in the Gulf, both in terms of immediate negative consequences of oil and gas exploitation, as well as the long-term results of climate change.

Cameron Parish fisher Travis Dardar, who organized the fishers to disrupt the summit, asked a convention center worker if she liked Louisiana shrimp. She quickly replied that she did. “Well that’s about to be gone completely because of these assholes,” he said, pointing to the energy summit.

Sara Sneath sitting under a picnic shelter
Sara Sneath is an investigative climate reporter and fact checker based in New Orleans. She has reported on energy in the Gulf South for 10 years, including for such outlets as The Washington Post, ProPublica, and The Guardian.
emily-and-taylor-101
Taylor C. Noakes is an independent journalist and public historian.

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