Guardian series : How Obama's climate change legacy is weakened by US investment in dirty fuel

(Contributing writer to this headlining data piece, as part of an investigative series)

Exclusive: an agency inside the Obama administration poured billions into fossil fuel projects that will lead to global carbon emissions on a damaging scale

President Barack Obama has staked his legacy on the environment, positioning his administration as the most progressive on climate change in US history.

However, an obscure agency within his own administration has quietly spoiled his record by helping fund a steady outpouring of new overseas fossil fuel emissions – effectively erasing gains expected from his headline clean power plan or fuel efficiency standards.

Since January 2009, the US Export-Import Bank has signed almost $34bn worth of low-interest loans and guarantees to companies and foreign governments to build, expand and promote fossil fuel projects abroad.

That’s about three times more financing than the taxpayer-backed bank provided during George W Bush’s two terms, and almost twice the amount financed with loans and guarantees under the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton – combined.

The bank, which operates within Obama’s administration, provides US exporters with financing to sell goods and services overseas. Bank officials say it supports US jobs and fills a financing gap by allowing companies to access funding when private lenders will not.

Since 2009, it has financed 70 fossil fuel projects. When they are all completed and operating at full capacity, the bank estimates they will push 164m metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year – about the same output as the 95 currently operating coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.

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