America's culture of legalized
bribery makes climate
disasters more likely, but there's an alternative.
Opinion by Basav Sen
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
the long drive from Houston to Corpus I’ve made numerous times.
There’s another unforgettable sight I often recall from that
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?
majority of climate scientists agree that burning the
products of those
Corpus refineries pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which traps
sun’s heat and destabilizes the climate. That means more frequent and
storms, droughts, and disasters.
To stop it, we need to wean ourselves off those refineries and
cleaner sources like that Taft wind farm. That’s obvious enough, so why
we made more progress?
It’s complicated, but part of the reason is our political
Led by fossil fuel interests, energy companies poured $172
million directly into campaign coffers in the last election
dirty coal, oil, and gas money comes with strings attached.
Fossil fuel enthusiasts in Congress serve their corporate
They distract the public by holding Inquisition-like hearings
to attack climate science, while consistently
to expand territory for drilling, subsidize dirty fuels, and cut
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
It’s announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate
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
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
Trump announced his “infrastructure
plan,” which removes common sense rules requiring federally
to account for sea level rise and flood risk.
An industry that’s set to make large parts of our planet
captured our federal government. Their goal is to make more money now,
detriment of people and planet forever.
This makes the struggle for climate justice inseparable from
struggle for democracy. But as in Corpus Christi, where a large wind
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.