What price moral leadership?

Fiduciary responsibilities, nuclear winter optimists, beating up on FERC


Ukraine Fallout

American schoolteachers are unwittingly financing both global warming and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. U.S. public pension funds—controlled by elected officials—have over $800 million invested in the Russian oil majors Lukoil, Rosneft, and Gazprom.1 California’s giant pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, have nearly $400 million invested in Russian oil, a major chunk of the billion-plus in Russian assets they own. The elected officials who sit on the board disagree on whether this is a problem: California Treasurer Fiona Ma said she unequivocally supports divesting Russian assets, but “tough, innovative, and fiercely independent” California Controller Betty Yee doesn’t want to be too hasty.2

Hawaii’s transition to 100% renewable energy has become wildly more urgent, as the island state’s primary source for oil—used for both gasoline and for electricity production—is Russia.

The moral leadership of Russian climatologist Oleg Anisimov in speaking out against the war was not a lone act. Over 6000 Russian scientists, including more than 1000 members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, have signed on to an open letter (translation) condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

It is bitter for us to realize that our country, together with other republics of the former USSR, which made a decisive contribution to the victory over Nazism, has now become the instigator of a new war on the European continent. We demand an immediate halt to all military operations directed against Ukraine. We demand respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. We demand peace for our countries.

And the International Energy Agency has released a 10-Point Plan to Reduce the European Union’s Reliance on Russian Natural Gas. Heat pumps for peace and freedom!

BIG CORPOS GOOD: In what campaigners are calling a major step forward, bailed-out insurance giant AIG has announced it will no longer insure new coal, tar sands, or arctic drilling projects. While that leaves plenty of fossil-fuel investment on the table, this moves AIG from being a U.S. industry laggard to a comparative leader.

In another positive move, Ford has split its electric vehicle and internal combustion vehicle lines into separate business units, with the EV unit to be led directly by Ford CEO Jim Farley.

This morning, our friend Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) is chairing a hearing on FERC’s recent ruling to factor in the costs of greenhouse pollution in natural gas pipeline decisionmaking. Guess what, he thinks this extremely good idea is very bad. Manchin, Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have excoriated the decision, accusing FERC of endangering national security, killing energy infrastructure, and helping Russia.

In contrast, none of the climate-friendly members of the committee—Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Maria Cantwell, Martin Heinrich, Mazie Hirono, Catherine Cortez Masto—have praised FERC’s action.  So it’s looking like the FERC commissioners at the hearing are going to be hung out to dry.

For reasons unknown, some climate campaigners are taking seriously Manchin’s latest vague claim that he’s willing to pass a climate bill. Hope springs eternal! Though, in fairness, believing we can get Manchin to yes is nothing compared to the nuclear winter optimists.

Hearings on the Hill:

1. U.S. financial institutions like Fidelity, BlackRock, JP Morgan Chase, Vanguard, TIAA, State Street, and Wells Fargo have at least $5.8 billion invested in Russian oil and gas giants.

2. Check out the U.S. Climate Politics Almanac’s series on state treasurers for more background on public pension fund investment in global warming pollution.

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