From wildfires scorching everything west of the Rocky Mountains to rapidly rising sea levels threatening to engulf the eastern seaboard — it’s become increasingly clear to climate scientists, policymakers and observant people alike that climate change, previously conceived as a hypothetical problem facing future generations, has begun affecting everyone, everywhere, in the here and now.
One may easily imagine a world in which such a pressing and existentially threatening issue could be seized upon by shrewd politicians. Their rallying cry will be used to unite the people against the powers that be, manufacturing our mutually assured destruction, namely the handful of high-profile energy companies responsible by some measures for over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, however, we live in a world with the Republican Party, which just proposed a monumental bill to the conservative-controlled House on March 14 that would make the United States dependent on fossil fuels for decades to come.
The bill was formally introduced as “H.R.1 – Lower Energy Costs Act.” or as its opponents call it, the “Polluters over People Act.”
Among many things the bill would accelerate the approval and permitting processes for oil, natural gas and hard rock mining companies to operate on public lands as well as exempt said companies from regulations regarding the production and distribution of fossil fuels.
The precise details of what the Lower Energy Costs Act would do are vast and varied, and H.R.1 indicates itself as the House Republicans’ top legislative priority.. The behemoth package combines elements of 29 other bills proposed by the GOP since gaining a majority in the lower chamber after the most recent midterms.
More interesting than the nitty-gritty details of the act, which spell doom for theU.S.’s transition toward renewable energy, is the peculiar posture with which Republicans have tried to market the bill. Specifically, the populist rhetoric used to obfuscate an act that in actuality would be detrimental to the entire population, planet and just about everyone who isn’t a large fossil fuel corporation.
According to official statements from speaker.gov ‘“Democrats’ misguided policies increased costs for every American and jeopardized our national security – and they’ve made the rest of the world more reliant on dirtier energy from Russia and China.” Whereas the Lower Energy Costs Act would be critical for, “lifting communities out of energy poverty and ensuring American leadership long into the future.”
By contrast, according to majorityleader.gov, the act, “reduces expenses across the board for American families by unleashing American energy and restoring our energy independence,” and opposes “President Biden’s radical energy policies and woke climate agenda.”
Similar sentiments have been echoed by other Republican elected officials, conservative media outlets, and unsurprisingly, corporate lobbyists such as the International Association of Drilling Contractors, the American Chemistry Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Equally vexing is the fact that most environmentalist organizations have opposed the act as well.
The gist of the narrative is simple: the big bad government made energy too expensive (by trying to prevent a planetary extinction event, how silly of them.)
But don’t fret, Republicans are coming to help out the little guy and save the day! Sprinkle in some anti-China fear-mongering on top for good measure, and voila, perfect populist propaganda!
Here’s the catch though — increasing fossil fuel reliance, while most definitely exponentiating our untimely demise, wouldn’t even lower energy costs! Renewable energy technology has already advanced enough to be more efficient than obsolete fossil fuels, and it’s just a matter of constructing more renewable energy infrastructure, which this act would actively disincentivize.
What’s going on here? Are Republicans just stupid? Don’t give them that much credit, it more likely has to do with the fact that Republicans in Congress own up to $60.3 million in fossil fuel stock. As well as the oil and gas industries spending $124.4 million on federal lobbying and $128.4 million worth of campaign contributions in 2022 alone.
And thus the facade comes crashing down.
The pseudo-populism used to defend the Polluters Over People Act represents a finely honed rhetorical art Republicans have mastered over decades of practice.
Make the government — the only entity capable of enacting systemic level change — into a boogeyman, the enemy of the people, to justify deregulation and privatization. And of course, give corporations — without a care for anything beyond their profit margins — the opportunity to wield unimaginable amounts of power and influence.
Believing the name of the “Lower Energy Costs Act” would be as farcical as accepting that “democracy” is when every politician can be bought by and for billionaire businessmen.
Newsflash — Kevin McCarthy doesn’t care about your energy costs. A Republican politician’s only concern is lining their own pockets — while upholding the oligarchic control of a handful of uber-rich capitalists over the government, and the destiny of every American.