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Conservatives Seek to Protect Fossil Fuel Industry from “Woke Capitalism”

I mean, yes, but also no.

ExxonMobil operation near Chicago, IL, summer of 2014. (Image: Richard Hurd.) No Changes were made to CC3.0 image.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC, so named to put a veneer of respectability on its conservative agenda of corporate lawmaking) held its National Policy Summit last week in San Diego. With state legislators and representatives in attendance (including Republican Governor-elect Youngkin of Virginia), ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force voted to back two templates of legislation (for conservative lawmakers to take back and use in their states) that position current/future climate policy as discriminatory toward fossil fuel companies.

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The lead up to the vote featured an email from Jason Issac of the Texas Public Policy Foundation reading,

The following model policy is based on anti-BDS legislation supported by ALEC regarding Israel and was recently passed in Texas to include discrimination against fossil fuels. Voting for this model policy, and encouraging more state legislatures to adopt it, will send a strong message that the states will fight back against woke capitalism.


Because anti-BDS laws have been so successful and other stars are aligning (by design) for Republicans, this is very alarming and means the pressure put on large businesses to divest from fossil fuels could come to a dead stop.

Anti-BDS Laws

One of the most successful (but still not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination) practices of pressure towards Israel’s displacement, murder, and disenfranchisement of Palestinian people has been the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. People and groups boycott/divest from companies that benefit the Israeli government and pressure U.S. politicians for sanctions on the country.

In the late 2010s, in backlash to the BDS movement growing, lawmakers passed policy to limit the freedoms of these participants. People and companies participating could lose government contracts (catering, construction, tech, anything) and more if found in support of BDS. States and municipalities can deny disaster relief based on whether the person/business participates in BDS.

If it sounds like a violation of the first amendment, that’s because it is. However, because Israel is an important economic and political ally to the U.S., the laws were supported in the name of national defense. We’ve done this throughout U.S. history, but the Red Scare and the War on Terror have done the most damage. Yay U.S.

The kicker is, anti-BDS laws are pretty freaking bipartisan. Between the power of the Evangelical voting block, our need for allies in our Middle East forever wars, and our history with colonialism, most Republicans and about half of Democrats helped codify this legislation. Even though organizations like the ALCU, for example, have loosened the reach a bit, anti-BDS laws still hold up in many states. Energy has already been linked to national security before, so it’s not a stretch to see anyone use it again, but it’s pretty extra bleak with what ALEC is pushing.

Energy Discrimination Elimination Act (EDEA)

This push by ALEC is so messy even before its foul intentions to slow the already-almost-too-late climate action, but even in it as an idea. Forcing banks and private companies to work with fossil fuel giants as they diversify their portfolio and move away from fossil fuels is ludicrous.

Banks and major businesses aren’t going green because it’s cheaper, or they’re trying to screw over investors. They see the writing on the wall and (most importantly) the financial gain from public goodwill built by acting on (or posturing about) responsible climate action. Republicans might forget what accountability is because they just finished redrawing political maps to pick the next decade of voters and are working to overturn future elections. Still, businesses feel it hits the bottom line if they don’t respond to their customers.

Fossil fuel companies have made bank the last century-ish and have been profitable enough to pay off politicians. Not giving kudos, but some of the biggest oil and gas companies since the early 2000s (at least) have invested in green tech, if only marginally. If they want to compete in the future, they need to adapt, not cling to what worked for them in the past. Politicians hand-holding oil and gas while simultaneously not preparing the American public infrastructure for this necessary and inevitable shift is not just a waste of time but actively counterproductive to progress we will need to make at some point.


What’s next

Fortunately, the anti-BDS laws are still being challenged, and with more significant stress testers (Ben & Jerry’s). However, the anti-BDS framework, at its core, endures at the moment, so EDEA actually has legs to stand on. Also, as climate change is an issue of national defense, once everyone understands that, this EDEA option will seem appealing to the conservative crowd who went from “climate change is not real” to “well it is, but we can’t do anything about it.”

Regardless of who’s in power in D.C., those in support of an EDEA are coming from the members of the states’ executive and legislative branches across the country. The language harnesses the power of “Critical Race Theory” panic and anti-BDS laws.

(via The New Republic, image: Creative Commons/ Richard Hurd.)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.

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