Whale Tales

How climate-denier politicians deal with whales dying on their beaches


Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-to-R, N.J.)

Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), is a particularly venal politician. Elected as a conservative Democrat in 2018 to a coastal Atlantic City district, in 2019 he became a die-hard Trumper and Fox News regular to remain in office. In 2018 he was an ardent opponent of offshore oil drilling, but his current schtick is surfing the MAGA climate-denier wave by attacking the burgeoning offshore wind industry.

On Thursday, Van Drew held a fake “field hearing” to attack offshore wind with fellow anti-wind windbags Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.).1 As fossil fuels relentlessly warm the ocean, humpback whales have been moving north, getting struck by container ships or caught in fishing gear, and dying on New Jersey beaches. The stark evidence of humanity’s ongoing genocide of humpback whales is sincerely distressing, regardless of party or political affiliation. But Republicans don’t want to regulate the fossil-fuel industry, shipping industry, or fishing industry at fault, and they know that this is a powerful issue for the left. So conservatives have worked to swamp out environmentalists with a unified wind-kills-whales message for several months, led by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Jesse Watters.

As usual, ostensibly non-partisan outlets like Politico then wrote about the “new political debate” which, Ry Rivard claimed, is “exposing rifts among activists, energizing Republicans and threatening to complicate one of President Joe Biden’s top energy goals.”2

Similarly, Van Drew got tons of credulous local and national coverage in the wake of his fake hearing, from the Politico-owned E&E News and the Associated Press to the Press of Atlantic City. Only NorthJersey.com’s Charles Stile covered the propaganda event with the scorn it deserved, mocking “the full array of Trumpian tropes” on display.

These anti-wind east coast Republicans—often joined by Maine’s conservative Democrat Jared Golden—are supported by the Koch-backed Texas Public Policy Foundation, a climate-denial shop that provides ideological arguments against renewable energy on behalf of Big Oil. As Molly Taft writes, in addition to “joining a lawsuit against a project filed by local fishermen and creating an entire movie about the evils of wind energy,” TPPF’s most recent tactic was creating “an AI-generated image of a dead whale washed ashore on a beach in front of wind turbines, above a fearmongering story about offshore wind.”

“Nearly a month after a metal-manufacturing plant exploded in the Cleveland suburb of Oakwood Village, Ohio, community health advocates say they still don’t have clear answers to the urgent question of whether the blast released harmful levels of lead into the area.”

Yet another team of scientists has confirmed that the pesticide glyphosate—marketed as Roundup by Monsanto with the claim that it’s safe to spray on playgrounds and then dumped onto the American food supply at the rate of hundreds of millions of pounds a year—is highly toxic, leaving children with metabolic disorders and liver damage. At least four in five Americans have detectable quantities of glyphosate in their urine.

“The Texas State Board of Education altered its internal guidance to schools last month to emphasize the ‘positive’ aspects of fossil fuels in science textbooks,” Scott Waldman reports. “The new guidelines also portray the Earth’s warming temperatures as the result of natural fluctuations.”

Judith Enck: “We want to phase out vinyl chloride so we don’t have any more East Palestines.”

The 17,600-person community of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico now has the island’s first cooperatively managed solar microgrid.

Turning The Tide, the first report from the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, makes the urgent call that we must “manage the global water cycle as a global common good.”

Gautam Jain, a finance expert at the oil-industry-financed Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy, finds that the new wave of responsible-investing standards hasn’t slowed down financing for oil and gas companies one bit.

MOVEMENT MOVES: Stacey Abrams has joined Rewiring America as senior counsel. Bart Johnsen-Harris is leaving Defenders of Wildlife to become director of federal climate change policy at Trust for Public Land. Former Massachusetts undersecretary of energy and climate solutions Judy Chang is reportedly the frontrunner to fill the seat vacated by Richard Glick on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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1 This might be the type of thing that only I care about, but this event, which Van Drew repeatedly called a “hearing”—and which every news outlet from the Associated Press to Politico to Maryland Matters reported as a “hearing”—was not a hearing, which are organized by Congressional committees. An event like this should be described as public meeting, a forum, a town hall, something of that nature. But hey, an ethics violation like this probably doesn’t seem like that big a deal in the Era of Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).

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