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FEATURE NEWS

Like Florida Texas Recently Got Flooded Because Our Democracy Is Also Flooded
With the tainted water of legalized bribery

September 10, 2017




Port Arthur, Texas underwater (SC National Guard / Flickr)
America's culture of legalized bribery makes climate disasters more likely, but there's an alternative

America's culture of legalized bribery makes climate disasters more likely, but there's an alternative. 

Opinion by Basav Sen

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)  --  “It’s flooding down in Texas,” goes the old song. “All of the telephone lines are down.”

With apologies to Stevie Ray Vaughan, there’s a lot more down in Texas than telephone lines now. Power lines still down, homes destroyed and cities slowly recovering from sitting underwater. Dozens have died.

For me, this is personal. I worried intensely about friends and family in Houston and Corpus Christi.

Thankfully all are safe, but it’s been jarring to see photos of places I know underwater. Every time I checked the news I recognized familiar places from the long drive from Houston to Corpus I’ve made numerous times.

There’s another unforgettable sight I often recall from that drive.

In Taft, Texas, as you’re nearing Corpus — a major refinery town — over the horizon comes a huge wind farm. What does this juxtaposition of refineries and wind farms have to do with the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey?

Two words: climate change.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that burning the products of those Corpus refineries pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which traps the sun’s heat and destabilizes the climate. That means more frequent and severe storms, droughts, and disasters.

To stop it, we need to wean ourselves off those refineries and rely on cleaner sources like that Taft wind farm. That’s obvious enough, so why haven’t we made more progress?

It’s complicated, but part of the reason is our political system.

Led by fossil fuel interests, energy companies poured $172 million directly into campaign coffers in the last election cycle. 

That dirty coal, oil, and gas money comes with strings attached.

Fossil fuel enthusiasts in Congress serve their corporate supporters well. They distract the public by holding Inquisition-like hearings to attack climate science, while consistently voting to expand territory for drilling, subsidize dirty fuels, and cut incentives for wind and solar.

Meanwhile, President Trump has famously said that climate change is a “Chinese hoax.” He’s appointed heads of the EPA and the Energy Department who deny climate science, and his secretary of state is the former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil.

Since taking office, the administration has proceeded to undo even the modest steps taken by the prior administration to combat climate change.

It’s announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, removed the moratorium on coal leases on federal land, and reopened the Arctic to oil drilling. It’s censored science on government websites and pulled the rug out from under federal science advisory committees.

Meanwhile, it’s proposed a disastrous budget that eviscerates the EPA, eliminates funding for renewable energy research, and takes an ax to climate research at NASA.

Our leaders have stopped learning life's hard lessons

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey — or Irma or Jose or whatever comes next — it’s unlikely this leadership will learn the obvious lessons. Only last month, Trump announced his “infrastructure plan,” which removes common sense rules requiring federally funded projects to account for sea level rise and flood risk.

An industry that’s set to make large parts of our planet uninhabitable has captured our federal government. Their goal is to make more money now, to the detriment of people and planet forever.

This makes the struggle for climate justice inseparable from the wider struggle for democracy. But as in Corpus Christi, where a large wind farm abuts oil refineries, the solution is right in front of us.

Let’s get money out of politics — and renewables in.

 

______________________________

 

Basav Sen directs the Climate Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. This report first appeared at Otherwords.org and is reprinted here with permission.

 

 

 

 

 






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