‘Time to go for the jugular’: climate movement has new plan to destroy big oil

“Now is the time to go for the jugular. Now is the time to kill the fossil fuel industry because we have no chance of survival after this.”

Jamie Minden, senior director of the global organization of the youth-led group Zero Hour, told the audience Saturday at The Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont. The three-day event consisted of panel discussions on various topics and some screenings, including the trailer of The welcome tableJosh Fox’s upcoming documentary about climate refugees.

“To win we have to go on offense,” Minden said, “because the defense hasn’t worked.”

To take offense at the incredibly powerful and well-financed fossil fuel industry, the movement must grow and seize political opportunities to implement life-saving policies, according to experts and organizers who participated in a series of panels focused on the climate crisis.

One such opportunity that campaigners are already preparing for is the January 2025 expiration of the tax cuts signed into law in December 2017 by then-President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the November elections.

Joining Minden on the panel, Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth (FOE), described the looming battle as a “Tax Super Bowl” that will take place shortly before the next president is sworn in. The climate movement is organizing aggressively to expose how many American consumers and taxpayers are being ripped off by the greed of the fossil fuel giants who enjoy massive federal subsidies and enormous tax breaks despite the “eye-popping” profits they make year after year.

“We know there will be a tax bill that, if not passed, will ultimately raise taxes on all individual Americans. And so we have 18 months to organize and take out the oil and gas industry.” Pica said.

Trump made a quid pro quo offer to fossil fuel executives in April: Put just $1 billion into his current campaign, and he will repeal climate policies put in place under Democratic President Joe Biden, who is seeking re-election.

Pica pointed out that Big Oil — which has benefited from federal tax breaks since the Revenue Act of 1913 — could profit handsomely by taking him up on his offer if the Republican returns to the White House. In an analysis published last month, FOE Action found that the industry fueling the climate emergency could see an estimated $110 billion in tax breaks alone if Republicans get their way.

Over the weekend, multiple panelists highlighted the End Polluter Welfare Act, which was recently reintroduced by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – whose wife Jane O’Meara Sanders and son Dave Driscoll co-author – founded the Sanders Institute. The legislation aims to close tax loopholes and end government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and its sponsors estimate it could save American taxpayers up to $170 billion over 10 years.

The bill’s reintroduction last month was “an important step,” said Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of Our Revolution, an organization that emerged from the senator’s 2016 presidential campaign. “The point is that we are a movement and a strategic opportunity need to get that policy across the finish line.”

Some panelists argued that the moment is now, but the movement must expand beyond what Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, said: “Right now there is an isolated, segregated, progressive climate movement.”

Americans are not only dying “from the climate crisis” but also paying fossil fuel companies “to kill us,” Yearwood told the audience. “Their business plan is literally a death sentence for our communities.”

“The issue of taxes,” he explained, “allows us to broaden our movement again, allows us to go to the Republicans, to the Democrats, to the Independents, and travel across this country… and simply to say, “Your tax dollars are going to those who are rich and are killing our communities. Do you want that?’

Another way to grow the movement is to engage communities – especially those historically represented in politics by Big Oil beneficiaries – in the global green transition.

On the opening night of the Gathering, Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club, also a Sanders Institute fellow, spoke about a recent visit to a factory where workers make solar panels in the district of far-right Congressman Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga .), an important Trump ally.

During a tour of the Hanwha Qcells solar park in Dalton, Jealous asked about a wall with drawings and paintings. He learned that they were made for Earth Day last year by children of the employees, who were asked to portray “how they see their parents working in this factory.”

“In perhaps the most, perhaps the most conservative congressional district in America,” working-class children “portrayed their parents as heroes saving the planet,” he said. “The children in that district understand that we need solar panels, that we need to work together to save this planet. There is reason to be hopeful.’

The plant’s South Korean business has been able to grow thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that Democrats in Congress passed in 2022 and Biden signed into law. While members of the climate movement have long portrayed the law as a flawed but still historic package in terms of In addressing the planetary emergency, with the general election just months away, speakers at the Gathering emphasized the need to to demonstrate progress to voters across the country.

“We really have to take those moments when something happens and claim it. And part of that means that in this election we are willing to say how important the IRA was,” said panelist and Sanders Institute fellow Bill McKibben, who founded Third Act, which organizes the IRA. elderly people for climate advocacy.

“Was it perfect? ​​Not even close… but it was remarkable in another sense,” he continued. “We actually need to talk about that enough so that people understand it. And frankly, we don’t…Certainly, the Democratic Party is not good at talking about those things that way.”

Also pointing to the Georgia solar plant, McKibben added that “one of the things that’s really brilliant about the IRA is that most of the money goes to Red State America to do this work, which is not something that we to be used to. more in our country… people who are willing to do something other than support their own supporters. And it is a remarkable opportunity for some kind of political healing in the future.”

Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming U.S. congressional and presidential elections, climate activists are committed to the fight against fossil fuels. As Pica put it, “I think we have to fight the battle anyway.”

“The oil and gas industry has operated with impunity for more than a hundred years,” the FOE leader said. “They’re crushing our politics, they’re polluting the climate and they’re getting away with it.”

“During the fight against the Inflation Reduction Act, when there were real efforts to repeal oil and gas subsidies, we found that a lot of political capital was spent to maintain those subsidies,” he noted. “The fact that we can run a campaign that forces the oil gas industry to spend political capital to maintain their largesse to the federal government, regardless of whether we win or lose, is a winning strategy for us.”

“Because that means they’re not trying to repeal things in the Inflation Reduction Act. That means they’re not trying to work on lowering… their corporate taxes,” he explained. Like Minden, Pica wants the climate movement to finally put the fossil fuel industry on the defensive.

The End Polluter Welfare Act “is the organizing vehicle,” Pica said. ‘We need to get support for it. We need to get members of Congress on board. We need to get community activists on the streets.”

Organizers fighting Big Oil underscored the urgency, emphasizing that not only are Trump’s tax cuts set to expire soon, but communities across the country and around the world are already feeling the effects of a hotter planet — including rising sea levels, more destructive storms, extreme temperatures, devastating floods and raging wildfires.

“A hundred years from now, it will really matter. But what happens today and in the next five years will also really matter,” Minden said. “I think within the next five years our world will be virtually unrecognizable in many ways.”

The 21-year-old climate activist told the Gathering audience – full of academics, advocates, policymakers and more – that “whether you work here in healthcare, income inequality or labor, the reality is that this issue is about to change. part of your job, if it isn’t already.”

“I know we are all fighting our own battles. I know everyone here is working on things that are really important. But if we don’t all take up this fight, if we don’t all commit ourselves to the climate, we will be taken out,” she warned. “It’s a matter of survival.”

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