The fossil fuel lobby has killed our best chance at climate legislation
Joe Manchin, the fossil-fueled Senator from West Virginia, became the 51st vote against averting climate catastrophe.
Emily Sanders is the Center for Climate Integrity’s editorial lead. Catch up with her on Twitter here.
Over the past week, heat waves baked cities across the globe, flash floods washed away homes and left people missing in Virginia, and severe storms left tens of thousands without power across Ohio and Kentucky.
And the fossil fuel lobby has (once again) stopped Congress from taking action to avert further climate catastrophe.
After months of dragging Democrats through the mud, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin now says he won’t support any of the climate and clean energy provisions Democrats were hoping to pass through a reconciliation bill before the August recess. The move is a devastating blow not just to environmentalists and climate activists, not just to the Biden administration’s agenda, but to every living being on planet Earth.
The fossil fuel industry engineered this outcome — through decades of deception and disinformation to obscure climate science from the public, through direct lobbying of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and through donations to politicians like Manchin who will do their bidding. Manchin, who makes millions from his family coal business, receives more donations from the fossil fuel industry than any other Senator. Last year, Exxon’s former top lobbyist called him the “kingmaker” — one of the industry’s most important allies, whose office Exxon talked to every week.
Jamie DeMarco, Federal Policy Director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), an organization that helps enact climate and clean energy legislation in the Chesapeake Bay region and at the Capitol, said that watching the window for climate action close during the Biden presidency has been like “experienc[ing] a year and a half of repeated heartbreaks.”
DeMarco said that throughout the years, he has watched the fossil fuel industry thwart climate legislation through puppet actors and front groups. “The splitting up of Build Back Better and [the infrastructure bill] was a strategic choice forced by behind the scenes actors like fossil fuel companies. And it adds to injury that even as these companies are claiming to be reformed on climate, they are conniving to stop the legislation we need to solve the climate crisis.”
Just this week, DeMarco’s community in College Park, Maryland, was struck by a disastrous storm that tore down trees, damaged homes, and left the neighborhood without power.
“You should not have a seat at the table if your goal is to burn down the table,” DeMarco said of the fossil fuel lobby. “These are malevolent actors seeking to enhance their bottom line at the expense of everyone else.”
The collapse of federal climate legislation comes just weeks after the last time Big Oil got what it paid for from the U.S. Supreme Court. While Big Oil successfully bats down every possible attempt to prevent the worst-case climate scenarios their own scientists predicted decades ago, they’re making bigger profits than ever.
Efforts to hold oil and gas corporations accountable just got more urgent. The industry must be made to pay for the consequences of its lies and the resulting harms to communities across the country. President Biden can start by directing his Department of Justice to launch a Big Tobacco-style investigation into Big Oil’s deceptive practices, and finally fulfill its pledge to support communities in climate liability lawsuits across the country.
Big Oil and its cronies have made their priorities clear. Despite portraying themselves as partners in climate solutions, they will stop at nothing to make a buck off a burning world. But the fight against this powerful and destructive industry is far from over.
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