After a test run in Texas, Republicans’ new strategy to throw a lifeline to fossil fuels is going national. The American Legislative Exchange Council, an organisation better known by its acronym ALEC that provides conservative lawmakers with plug-and-play bills, has new draft legislation that would penalise banks that won’t finance fossil fuels and blacklist companies that boycott dirty energy.
An email obtained by the Centre for Media and Democracy from the director of an uber-conservative group backing the draft said it’s an “opportunity to push back against woke financial institutions that are colluding against American energy producers.” What it really is, though, is a way to protect the companies most responsible for destroying the climate.
The model text borrows from a Texas bill that the state legislature passed earlier this year, which itself borrowed from a bill that blacklisted any company that did not sufficiently support Israel. It also borrows from recent Republican meltdowns in Congress and from the Trump administration that likened banks not funding Arctic drilling to redlining, a racist practice that labelled majority-Black areas as “risky” investments, and discrimination.
To be clear, not loaning money to fossil fuel companies and setting climate goals have nothing to do with the long history of racism in the U.S. Fossil fuels have long been the biggest energy source in the country precisely because the titans of politics, finance, and the industry itself have locked in their incumbency. But the victim complex is strong in those trying uphold that hegemony, even as it now threatens to wipe out the climate that has allowed humanity to thrive.
The email that CMD obtained is from Jason Isaac, the director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). In it, he says that the ALEC model bill is “based on anti-BDS [boycott, divestment, and sanctions] legislation supported by ALEC regarding Israel and was recently passed in Texas to include discrimination against fossil fuels.” Its goal, he went on to say, will be “encouraging more state legislatures to adopt it [because doing so] will send a strong message that the states will fight back against woke capitalism.”
The mission of TPPF is ostensibly to “promote liberty, opportunity, and free enterprise in Texas and beyond.” Yet the horniness it and other conservative institutions have for “free enterprise” apparently stops when it comes to, well, enterprise. Specifically, enterprises that would start to loosen fossil fuels’ grip on the global economy.
TPPF went on a bender after the Texas blackouts in February, promoting climate denier talking points for lawmakers to use to cover up the role gas failures played in causing the blackout. The group also gave a platform to lawmakers looking to cut renewable subsidies while remaining mum on the voluminous subsidies fossil fuels receive.
The ALEC model bill is perfectly aligned with this project. It includes language that “energy producing states, when financially prudent, should avoid doing business with companies that are attacking the industries that substantially contribute to their state budgets.” And it would require states to keep a running list of companies that have climate goals or don’t want to finance fossil fuel exploration, something that the buttoned-up International Energy Agency has found needs to end next year to maintain a safe climate. Writing in the New Republic, Kate Aronoff likened the new push to the fake controversy over critical race theory ginned up by the right to turn classrooms into a front of the culture war.
The new draft also fits the greater conservative agenda to prop up fossil fuels, much of which has been supported by ALEC-created bills. The group finalised text in 2018 on a model bill that would make protests against fossil fuel infrastructure a crime. Since then, 38 bills have been introduced in 21 states (and one was introduced at the federal level). Of those, 16 have passed. That includes one of the most restrictive laws in the country passed in Montana earlier this year that would levy fines of up to $US150,000 (A$210,000) and prison sentences of up to 30 years for individuals who engage in “vandalism” of fossil fuel sites. That bill also includes a provision that could drop $US1.5 (A$2.10) million in fines on any organisation found supporting protests.
The model anti-protest legislation and draft sanction legislation basically act as pincers to stifle dissent on fossil fuels, both chilling free speech and the market. In his email, Isaac said approving the ALEC bill — which is still in draft form and not quite finalised — “would will send a strong message that the states will fight back against woke capitalism.” Never mind that it may result in environmental devastation.