There's a train wreck coming

Capturing politicians and media instead of pollution


I’m looking forward to reading Cory Doctorow’s Lost Cause, a solarpunk novel about local American politics in the near-future Anthropocene. Speaking of which.

Thanks to the relentless burning of fossil fuels, 2023 is guaranteed to be the hottest year for the planet ever recorded, by far. Torrential rain is flooding the Pacific Northwest, a deluge that has swept two people to their death. A dozen people have died after Cyclone Michaug struck southern India, flooding Chennai and Tamil Nadu. Central Europe has been paralyzed by heavy snow and freezing rain, shutting down the Munich airport and bringing trains across the region to a halt.

“There’s a train wreck coming on the big idea of a fossil fuel phase out,” Mike Fourcher writes from COP 28. “So far, over 100 countries have signed on to call for a fossil fuel phase out. But those countries make up just 1% of worldwide oil and gas production. It seems the biggest producers, the U.S., Canada, Norway, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, are opposed to a phase out.”

The climate talks are awash in oil. At least 2456 fossil fuel lobbyists have been granted access to the summit, the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition has found. The United Arab Emirates government has hired a parade of public relations firms to simultaneously promote the petrostate and the climate talks. “They’re much better at capturing politicians than they are at capturing emissions,” Al Gore scoffed.

The world’s top media organizations are awash in oil. The in-house ad agencies of Bloomberg, The Economist, The Financial Times, The New York Times, Politico, Reuters, and The Washington Post have taken in millions from climate polluters to produce greenwashing propaganda. The New York Times in particular “took in more than $20 million in revenue from fossil fuel advertisers from October 2020 to October 2023,” write Drilled’s Amy Westervelt and DeSmog’s Matthew Green, and Joey Grostern. “That number is due largely to the paper’s relationship with Saudi Aramco, which brought in $13 million in ad revenue during that three-year period.”

Saudi Aramco is, of course, the state oil company of Saudi Arabia, the government which assassinated and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. However, Khashoggi worked for the Washington Post, so it’s all good. (While the Post prefers to work for ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, they also ran Saudi Aramco ads, the researchers found.)

The prodigal De Winton’s golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni).

A Michigan commission has approved Enbridge’s plan for replacing the Line 5 fossil-gas pipeline under Lake Michigan.

The Norwegian government has announced a plan to “open the Arctic Ocean to seabed mineral exploration despite warnings by environmental groups that it would threaten the biodiversity of the vulnerable ecosystems in the area.”

On the upside, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), chair of the House Financial Services Committee and erstwhile acting Speaker of the House, has announced he won’t seek reëlection.

At 10 am, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act investments in habitat and ecosystem restoration, pollinators, and wildlife crossings with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Martha Williams and Federal Highway Administration Associate Administrator for Federal Lands Brian Fouch.

In the House, the Natural Resources Committee is marking up eight pieces of legislation, including two bills to revert Biden administration oil and gas policies: H.R. 6009 from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) to block the implementation of federally mandated increases in oil and gas lease pricing, and H.R. 6285 from Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) to kill limits on drilling Alaska’s coastal plain. Other legislation being marked up include H.R. 1449 from Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), which encourages the development of major geothermal projects on federal lands, and the bipartisan BEACH Act (H.R. 5490), which expands existing limits on development of coastal barrier regions.

Simultaneously, the House Transportation and Infrastructure is holding a markup of the bipartisan Pipeline Efficiency and Safety Act of 2023 (H.R. 6494) and other legislation.

At 12 pm, the House Agriculture Committee holds its Member Day, in which members of Congress advocate for earmarks and special programs of interest to their districts (usually businesses within their districts).

Hearings on the Hill:

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