As climate change accelerates and environmental disasters proliferate around the world, a Big Oil-funded business lobbying group has decided to attack financial firms that are taking their money out of fossil fuel companies, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has learned.
Today at the annual States and Nation Policy Summit of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a pay-to-play organization that brings together corporate lobbyists and mostly Republican state lawmakers to author model legislation, members of the group’s energy task force voted unanimously to approve a new model policy that would prevent financial companies that end investments in oil, gas, and coal companies from receiving state government contracts or managing state funds.
The bill, the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, directs state treasurers or comptrollers to maintain a list of firms that boycott fossil fuels. Each government contract with a business that has more than 10 employees must include a verification that the company does not boycott fossil fuel businesses.
The act and its backers claim that fossil fuel divestment will hurt workers and state pension funds, yet it ignores the growing U.S. renewable energy industry and its lucrative stocks. The Department of Energy estimates that renewable energy will account for 80% of U.S. power generation by 2050. At the energy task force meeting today, ALEC staff suggested lawmakers frame the bill as protecting the economic interests of their states.
ALEC keeps its corporate member list secret, but CMD has identified hundreds of members, including numerous fossil fuel production and utility companies. On its corporate board are Energy Future Holdings, Koch Industries’ lobbying arm, and Peabody Energy. Other members include Chevron, Devon Energy, Duke Energy, EnCana, Energy Transfer, Marathon Petroleum, Pinnacle West Capital, and QEP Resources. The majority of ALEC’s revenue comes from corporate donations and sponsorships, and other funders include the foundations of GOP megadors such as fossil fuel magnate Charles Koch and right-wing dark money vehicles.
The model bill claims that “American and European fossil energy producers” are “among the most socially and environmentally responsible companies in the world.” ALEC has a history of climate change denial so extreme that Exxon, which had used ALEC to launder its climate change denial efforts, quit the business group in 2018. At its annual meeting this summer, ALEC members weighed in on several other model bills and resolutions aimed at protecting fossil fuel companies or opposing renewable initiatives.
“This proposed model bill…speaks mostly to the major impact that the fossil fuel divestment movement has made, with institutions and local governments worldwide divesting from fossil fuels to the tune of $1.5 trillion and counting,” Thanu Yakupitiyage, head of U.S. communications for 350.org, told CMD. “This bill cannot stop the reality that continued investments in fossil fuels are bad for communities and the planet. With less than eight years to turn around the worst impacts of the climate crisis, this bill is a desperate attempt by fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists to maintain their profits.”
Opposing “Woke” Banks
The “energy discrimination” act is already law in oil-rich Texas, where the Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) celebrated its passage. In an early Friday morning email obtained by CMD, Jason Isaac, a former state representative who directs TPPF’s pro-fossil fuels initiative, told participants in today’s ALEC committee meetings that the energy bill was an “opportunity to push back against woke financial institutions that are colluding against American energy producers.” He described banks and investment firms that decide to divest from and deny loans to fossil fuel companies as using “politically motivated and discriminatory investing practices.”
Isaac claims, “This language has also been carefully crafted to uphold First Amendment free speech principles and avoid restricting companies’ ability to adopt political stances on energy.”
But the bill is modeled after anti-BDS (the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians) legislation, promoted by ALEC and passed in some form in 33 states, that prohibits states from contracting with companies that boycott Israel. These bills may have violated free speech rights, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit struck down Arkansas’ law, writing that the law was too broad and that supporting or opposing boycotts is constitutionally protected expressive activity.
“We have recently seen a concerted legislative attack on the right to boycott,” Nicholas Robinson, senior legal adviser at the International Center for Nonprofit Law, told CMD. “It should concern everyone who cares about free speech when a state government punishes those who engage in a boycott.”
In late November, 15 Republican state treasurers sent a letter to U.S. banks announcing that they will begin “collective action” against companies that boycott fossil fuels. The officials wrote that they aim to “select financial institutions that support a free market and are not engaged in harmful fossil fuel industry boycotts for our states’ financial services contracts.”
Florence E. Portell
We need more Democrats willing to fight for us. Right now the Republicans are numbered very few that are willing to understand that its the people they represent, not the rich who can’t spend their fortunes in their lifetime, even with the help of their families. To make these fortunes they are willing to sell out Democracy as well as the planet Earth.
Could anyone publish a list of banks, especially smaller banks trying to survive, which might move to divest if they were able to survive without contracts from these 33 state governments? If more people could know which banks these are, and bank with them, then the banks still might fight this. Everything that individual citizens can do to preserve earth’s livability matters now, like never before. The attack on voting, also, means we must find many new ways to “vote”/act, including this. A democracy based solely on protest–loud-mouthing off not backed up with personal action–is hypocritical, decadent, and increasingly toothless.
Individual boycots–or choice of banks–are peaceful. Boycotting, along with buycotting, is our natural right (even without equating it with “free speech”, so strangely), because if not, we can be told what to buy in every other instance; thus, how to live, what to eat, what clothing to wear. We could equally well be told how much to spend. = Slavery.
Also, which are the 33 states trying to squelch the divestment right?
Hey. Read about yer Ma; mine has passed too. At home in Greene County NY goin on 9 years now relocating after landslide post clearcutting Asplundh subcontracted by MCE “co-op”. Decided here( as opposed to say, Spartanburg) as NYC
largest art market in world . Am 100 miles from city, 35 from Albany. The Heather-Lexi ” murder-suicide” decided my move; a fella I knew had access to Heather’s autopsy report- no powder burns. “I’m outta here”: left almost everything, gave Lynn large pile of books (including my S’n/Appalachian collection of which told him give you. ?. No matter now) Left Nina with neighbor who loved her; Oni’s 13 now and getting that blue film to his eyes, otherwise we’re both healthy. Unvaccinated but healthy. I walk a lot (nearest shopping 5 mi) bicycle some, and there’s a bus into
Catskill ( and back) once a day. A small shuttle. Last read of your teaching in Texas; know Lynn’s children had found him- his son a bookdealer!
“Still kicking,just not as high”
At this point in history, there is no true replacement for oil/gas/coal. The drop in US and Canadian production has resulted in skyrocketing inflation. Look forward to $5 gas before Memorial Day and costs of everything else to rise. Keep working on alternatives, but face reality.
Truthfully the fact is we, collectively, vote for the ‘lawmakers’ that are inclined to go along with the proposals presented to them by highly paid lobbyists while championing corporate favored legislation and justices. Remember shareholder supremacy? corporate person-hood? And money in politics? We need to understand all this has been done through the ‘OUR’ democratic processes; Including voter suppression.
By the actions and inaction of those who purport to be environmentally aware and pro democracy proves the concern is no concern at all. This is undeniably what the majority of people want (majority rules)?
USA does Not vote for the common folk. We are willfully governed by a true oligarch.
What needs to be played up here is in addition this restricts banks from making decisions based on a long term analysis of the investment. This essentially promotes investments from one sector over others (this is equally true of Israel- a bank who tends to favor local investments as being more stable and easily monitored is essentially penalized if it decides to reduce or eliminate investments tied to overseas commerce. This type of rule penalizes often a more conservative investment strategy on the part of the banks or financial institutions . Having gone through numerous bank and savings and loan failures in my lifetime this does not make sense.
Inverting in oil is a bad investment. The big banks see this and that”s why their loans are going elsewhere and why they are divesting. ALEC will soon be following the way of the dodo bird.
It is appalling that a group of people can hide from the science of climate crisis.
This attempt to profit via the very industry whose continued existence would end life on earth as we know it is reprehensible.
It is also reprehensible to attempt to use big money influence to manipulate government to support such a maligned point of view with government supported activities.
Our opportunities are limited to transition to a sustainable energy system and sustainable economy that quits our ever expanding disruption of the environment.