Capital is still sleeping

The war on woke capitalism has already won


Hill Heat is heading on vacation—here’s a recommended read and the day in hearings.

Kate Aronoff knocks it out of the park again with a powerful explainer on the Republican war against ESG (“environmental, social, governance”). ESG refers to “criteria investors use to determine the impact potential investments may have on the world, as well as calculate how events in the world may affect investments.”

Although the meaning of ESG “is nothing if not fuzzy, the term is often shorthand for climate- and socially conscious investment. Crucially, its emptiness has made it an easy vessel for actors across the political spectrum to fill with meaning.”

And the American right, led by figures such as Leonard Leo and Vivek Ramaswamy, have seized upon ESG, given it the much catchier appellation “woke capitalism,” and mobilized a new front for capital against climate and society. Here are a few choice excerpts from Kate’s great piece:

Like the older-school climate denial it’s replaced—advanced by a dwindling network of old men who insist simultaneously that the earth is not warming and that climate change is good, actually—the jumble of anti-ESG talking points spreading through state capitals, right-wing think tanks, and congressional offices is an incoherent mess.

Republicans’ claims notwithstanding, the banks and asset managers coming under fire from red states continue to invest prolifically in the fossil-fuel industry. In 2021, sixty banks worldwide poured $185.5 billion into the 100 most expansionary fossil-fuel companies. JPMorgan Chase—targeted by both Kentucky and West Virginia for boycotting energy companies—provides more funding to fossil fuels than any other bank on Earth.

“Green investing is actively harmful because it’s influencing public opinion and lowering the likelihood of regulation,” he argued. “It’s like giving wheatgrass juice to a cancer patient. It’s being so hyped and over-marketed. There’s clear evidence the patient is delaying chemo.”

As politicians increasingly lean on the private sector to deliver climate solutions, Wall Street’s one and only priority is still to turn a profit. Absent robust public investment of the sort that now seems unlikely in the United States, ceding planning decisions for an energy transition to banks and asset managers means that projects that aren’t profitable simply won’t get funded.

Unfortunately, fossil-fuel billionaires and fossil fascists won’t be satisfied until we have extracted and burned every glorious hydrocarbon.

In good news, David Malpass—the climate denier picked by Donald Trump to run the World Bank—is stepping down, after Al Gore and thousands of activists demanded he quit.


A post shared by FOX (@fox.ins)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) chairs the Senate Agriculture committee’s next Farm Bill hearing, taking testimony from USDA officials on nutrition programs (familiarly, food stamps and WIC).

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) chairs a hearing on how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected global energy security; witnesses are Dr. Andrew Light, Assistant Secretary, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy; Ditte Juul Jørgensen, Director-General, Directorate-General for Energy, European Commission; and LNG export booster Dr. Anna Mikulska.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C)’s Energy, Climate, and Grid Security subcommittee of House Energy & Commerce celebrates the Permian climate bomb at the Barbara and George H.W. Bush Convention Center in Midland, Texas. Social scientist and environmental justice activist Dr. Maria A. Reyes is the Democratic witness; the mayor and the head of the Midland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, both of whom run fossil-fuel companies, are among the Republican witnesses.

Hearings on the Hill:

Subscribe to Hill Heat

Climate science, policy, politics, and action

Join the conversation

or to participate.