Policies have consequences. Last summer, the European Union, facing a crisis because the war in Ukraine has disrupted supplies of cheap methane gas exports from Russia, decided to classify methane gas and nuclear power as “green,” meaning they could qualify for government loans and tax incentives designed to spur investments in low or zero carbon technologies. According to CNN, the new rules could unlock billions of dollars of private investment and state subsidies for methane gas and nuclear projects.
Methane In America
On the other side of the Atlantic, where the fighting in Ukraine is not disrupting the daily lives of Americans one iota, a group of fossil fuel advocates who call themselves The Empowerment Alliance decided what’s good for the EU should be good for the US of A. Together with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, they convinced the Ohio legislature to adopt similar language regarding methane gas, according to the Washington Post.
In December, when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation that legally defines natural gas as a source of “green energy,” supporters characterized it as the culmination of a grass roots effort to recognize the Buckeye state’s largest energy source. “It’s green. It’s clean. And it’s abundant right under our feet, right here in Ohio,” Representative Troy Balderson wrote in an opinion piece in the Columbus Dispatch. He neglected to tell his constituents the bill had actually been drafted by TEA and ALEC.
TEA, ALEC, & Methane
On its website, the Empowerment Alliance starts off with an image of a bald eagle, the symbol of a fiercely independent nation that takes a back seat to no one. Having thus immediately wrapped itself in the flag, it expounds on its ideals and its mission as seen below.
It’s time to safely and smartly control our destinies and reassume our rightful position as a beacon for the world. Our name stems from our faith in the American people and our nation’s ingenuity as powerful tools that, when brought together on one shared mission, can control our destinies, including America’s destiny as a global energy superpower.
The Empowerment Alliance will harness the power of American ingenuity, the tenets of our free market system, and the abundance of our nation’s natural gas supply to forge a more realistic, rational, and effective approach to energy consumption and environmental conservation than the risky tax scheme known as the “Green New Deal.” The Empowerment Alliance’s common sense approach will engage the American people in an open and honest dialogue about the best way to re-establish the United States as a global energy superpower.
The Empowerment Alliance (TEA) was founded in 2019 to harness the power of American ingenuity, the tenets of our free market system, and the abundance of our nation’s natural gas supply to forge a realistic, rational, and effective approach to American energy consumption and environmental conservation.
Well, anyone who supports efforts to keep the planet from overheating must obviously be a godless communist — or worse! TEA conveniently forgets to mention that methane — which is by far the largest component of so-called “natural gas” — is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and a prime factor in the global overheating that threatens all people — even those who live in Ohio. It also fails to mention that the industry it represents has benefited from an economic system that imposes no financial costs for the climate destruction caused by its activities. Nor does it mention that methane gas extractors, like oil drillers, have benefited from outrageously generous government subsides for generations.
When the fossil fuel crowd starts bleating about how much they want a “level playing field,” what they really mean is they want that playing field to be tipped as much as possible to their advantage so newer technologies face an uphill battle when they try to compete.
Governor DeWine’s office made it clear to the Washington Post that it did not advocate for the new law, which came packaged as an amendment to a bill on chicken production and that the new definition would not make the methane gas industry eligible for any new state subsidies. So where did this come from? The Post says a leader of the Empowerment Alliance emailed Ohio state senators George Lang and Mark Romanchuk last year to share a report from Goldman Sachs on the “importance of natural gas” in North America and globally.
“We are on the right track with natural gas is green energy,” wrote Tom Rastin, who leads the Empowerment Alliance with his wife, Karen Buchwald Wright. In Federal Election Commission filings, they are listed as executives at Ariel Corporation, a manufacturer of natural gas compressors. They are also major Republican donors who have dined with a certain former president. Under their leadership, TEA spent more than $1 million supporting Ohio Republicans in the 2022 election.
Anthony Conchel, a TEA spokesperson, said in an email that methane gas has lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Therefore, ipso facto, it is helping the nation reduce emissions somewhat. “In our view, that is the very definition of green energy,” Conchel said.
ALEC is famous for pushing its hard right agenda in Republican-controlled state houses and legislatures where lazy politicians who can’t be bothered to do their jobs are only too happy to latch on to someone else’s work product and fob it off as their own.
“Europe has now defined nuclear power and natural gas as clean energy sources of energy. And guess what? They are clean energy sources,” Stephen Moore, a conservative commentator, said on a panel at a recent ALEC conference, drawing loud applause from the audience. “So what you need to do in your states is change your renewable energy requirements,” Moore added. “If you don’t get rid of them altogether, you should redefine what clean energy is to include yes, clean nuclear power and yes, natural gas.”
Expect similar bills to pop up in several other state legislatures soon. TEA said in a recent newsletter, “States like Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia are top energy producing states. They should follow suit, encouraging their local and state lawmakers to enact similar legislation.”
Methane, Green Energy, & ESG
If there are no direct economic benefits to labeling methane gas as “green,” why all the furor and skullduggery? Much of the explanation can be found in the struggle over ESG (environmental, social, and governance) policies in the investment community. At the COP 26 summit conference in Glasgow, former Bank of England governor Mark Carney introduced the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) initiative.
Many banks and investment managers made a big show of signing on to GFANZ, but started backing away from their promises as soon as they realized it meant that would actually have to do something positive. ESG is a big part of measuring what the investment community is doing about the destruction of the environment caused by burning fossil fuels.
The Washington Post says Adam Landefeld, an aide to Ohio Representative Romanchuk, wrote in an email in which he claimed the language of the new bill could help methane gas companies in Ohio meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing standards. The amendment is an “anti-ESG move that will help Gas users in our state,” he wrote.
The Empowerment Alliance has created something called the Declaration of Energy Independence which states that “affordable, clean and abundant energy is the birthright of every American.” So far, nearly 1,200 people have signed, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.
Curiously, those signatories are oblivious to the fact that their policies practically guarantee every American will suffer untold harm from an overheating environment. Short term partisan politics may well be the death of us all, with a helpful push from groups like TEA and ALEC. RMI reported last year that methane emissions are now the highest in history.
Is there an antidote to such behavior? Yes. Vote responsibly. Elect people who will represent the best interests of people, not corporations. Business has no conscience. We need representatives who do have one.
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