Lobbyist tapes underscore the importance of meaningful environmental policies
A recent undercover sting orchestrated by Greenpeace UK revealed what many have long suspected: A big oil company’s nominal support for climate policy is disingenuous. It’s a stunning expose that reinforces what environmentalists have been saying for decades — fossil fuel corporations can’t be left to their own devices when it comes to taking meaningful action — or any action — to curb climate change.
With President Biden’s infrastructure package being debated in the halls of Congress, these videos underscore why climate experts and policymakers, not corporations, must enact reforms and investments that will finally rein in our country’s largest polluters and take climate change seriously. When it comes to infrastructure, the message should be loud and clear: “no climate, no deal.”
Posing as a corporate recruiter earlier this year, an undercover reporter for Greenpeace UK’s Unearthed publication met over Zoom with two senior lobbyists for a powerful oil company in charge of advocating for the oil giant’s interests on Capitol Hill. The conversation revealed a striking yet unsurprising truth — the company’s green initiatives are mere window dressing, designed to protect the company’s bottom line, not our planet.
Over the course of the conversation, the lobbyists admitted to the company’s “aggressively” fighting the science behind climate change. They referred to the corporation’s public support for carbon tax policies as an “advocacy tool” and a “great talking point” used to help the company appear environmentally conscious without actions to back it up. These lobbyists also discussed how the company defends itself from regulations on plastic and had previously fought to stop a ban on toxic chemicals. They also boasted of their easy access to elected officials, including weekly conversations with the office of a moderate senator, referred to by the lobbyists as a “kingmaker.”
These comments serve as a stark reminder of how fossil fuel corporations infiltrate and manipulate policymaking, especially as it pertains to climate change. If left unchecked, oil and gas conglomerates will continue their reckless, polluting ways that have harmed the environment for centuries.
Congress has an opportunity to stop them, now. Biden’s infrastructure plan includes several commonsense, forward-thinking policies that would move the country toward carbon-free electricity, create millions of jobs in solar, wind, and other clean energy industries, and make America a global leader in electric vehicles. The administration also proposes to invest over $46 billion in clean energy manufacturing. It puts the U.S. on a path to achieve a 100 percent clean energy standard by 2035.
However, certain lawmakers are promising a “hell of a fight” to oppose these climate-centric provisions, citing concerns over tax-hikes on corporations and wealthy Americans that would be used to fund the initiatives. Many of these elected officials are the same that oil company’s lobbyists bragged about meeting with regularly.
The effects of climate change are already being felt across nearly every corner of our country — devastating wildfires in the West, extreme heat and heavy downpours wiping out crops and livestock in the Midwest, and rising sea levels threatening major metro areas in the Southeast. Some experts already believe we’re rapidly approaching a point of no return.
All signs point to one undeniable truth; if aggressive, immediate action is not taken to curb pollution, invest in clean energy, and build our economy for a green, carbon-neutral future, we will lock in the worst impacts of climate change for generations to come. Congress must approve big, bold climate investments as part of an infrastructure package this summer without delay.
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., executive director and chief counsel of Clean Air Council.