Biden's climate plan, new 350 Chicago blog post + more

350 CHICAGO Newsletter

Your bi-weekly newsletter for all things climate-related

July 21, 2020

Good morning friends and climate advocates,

Biden goes big in his efforts to push an environmental platform, while the current president seeks to scrap the National Environmental Policy Act, which has been in place since 1970. Fossil fuels receive more of the aid from COVID-19 relief packages than renewables do. In the meantime, fossil fuel companies are fighting dirty, exploiting techniques such as wielding COVID-19 as a weapon, astroturfing, and ghostwriting for legislators as the battle against systemic racism reaches the fossil fuel front.

- The 350 Chicago Team

350 Chicago has a New Blog Post on "Big Oil"

Here is a link to a new blog post written by 350 Chicago members Rowland Davis and James Buchen, where they kick off the first in a series on the oil business. In this post, they provide important background information on the players in the business, and on supply, demand, and pricing issues.

Recap of our July 2020 Monthly Meeting

At our July 2020 Monthly Meeting, our friends from Pekin Hardy Strauss / Appleseed Capital (a Chicago-based Certified B Corporation focused on Sustainable Investing) provided a presentation on the current state of fossil-fuel-free investing.

To learn more, watch the recording and download the presentation slide deck from the meeting and also visit 350 Chicago’s Personal Divestment Resources page.

Support the Illinois CEJA (Clean Energy Jobs Act)

Help pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act and spark our clean energy recovery by contacting your lawmakers. Simply enter your information into this form, and your message will automatically be sent to your state legislators and Governor Pritzker.

350 Chicago along with coalition partners at the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition are working to get all 177 legislators in the Illinois General Assembly to support this important bill.

Thank you for pitching in!

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pa., Thursday, July 9, 2020.
Source: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Elections matter: Biden Goes Big

In previous newsletters, we have covered the growing consensus on the left around climate policy. This week Joe Biden announced a revised climate platform that buys into this and which adopts almost all of the recommendations of the Biden-Sanders unity task force. It includes a $2 trillion federal investment over a four-year period focused on infrastructure, jobs and climate justice. He also calls for carbon-free power by 2035. Critically, the plan also serves as his economic stimulus plan, so it will be one of the first initiatives of his administration. It has been very well received, but Democrats will need to win a political trifecta to make it real:

  • Win control of the Senate – and not just win, but have some margin to allow for the fact that getting 100% support from Democratic senators is not a sure thing.
  • Remove the Senate filibuster.
  • Make sure that legislation moves quickly, as the window for control may only be two years.

Meanwhile, Trump announced a major rollback in the National Environmental Policy Act that will ease the approval process for major fossil fuel infrastructure projects. During this event, he also took the opportunity to bash the new Biden climate proposal. Despite the pipeline victories in recent court decisions, the upcoming election may be the only way to ensure that they are not built. Finally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that the Trump administration has been underestimating the true cost of carbon pollution.

Fossil Fuels Employ Dirty Tactics in Fighting Climate Justice

As San Luis Obispo (SLO), California braced itself for a city council vote over the Clean Energy Choice for New Building program, which would cut and/or disincentivize natural gas usage for buildings across the city, natural gas industry interests led by the Southern California Gas company (SoCalGas) employed a variety of techniques to stop the Clean Energy Choice program.

This included astroturfing (creating the illusion of widespread support for or against a policy via outside advocacy entities), which was used to create a non-profit called “California for Balanced Energy Solutions” via funds from SoCalGas. The president of the SoCalGas union was able to successfully cancel the city council vote scheduled in March by threatening to bus in hundreds of protesters potentially infected with COVID-19 and ask them not to exercise any social distancing rules.

When the vote was successfully rescheduled in June, several media correspondents for the energy industry implied that the climate policy was racist, failing to point out the racism within the fossil fuel industry. The Clean Energy Choice program passed unanimously in the SLO city council regardless, but we can expect to see these kinds of techniques become more prevalent as the fight to dismantle systemic racism reaches the fossil fuel front.

Missed Opportunities: Nations Prioritize Fossil Fuels for COVID Relief

The United States, Russia, and many other G20 nations have allocated more pandemic relief money to fossil fuels than to solar and wind power, according to a report for Climate Home News. Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity to speed up the transition to renewable energy. The recovery plans of China, India and four other G20 countries did invest more in green energy than fossil fuels, however.

The US in particular has given more than $3 billion in relief money to oil, gas, and coal companies, plus companies that provide services to the fossil fuel industry, Emily Holden writes for The Guardian. This includes at least nine companies who have received fines for environmental violations in the past. Meanwhile, Fiona Harvey reports that US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette spoke out against energy regulations during a global energy summit hosted by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA's director, Fatih Birol, cautions that the next six months will be crucial in determining the future of clean energy as nations put their recovery plans into action. Hopefully, future US stimulus plans will provide less (or no?) money to fossil fuels and more to green solutions.

Upcoming 350 Chicago Meetings & Events

***Important: Please note that all meetings will be held virtually for the foreseeable future due to the situation around COVID-19. Please contact committee leads for information regarding remote meeting arrangements.***

8/1 Saturday - 10.00 - 11.30am CST
350 Chicago General Monthly Meeting
Please join us for our virtual monthly meeting. Topic and guest speaker TBA.

8/11 Tuesday - 6.00 - 7.30pm CST
350 Chicago Research Committee Monthly Meeting
Interested in getting involved in the Research committee? Contact committee lead Alex McLeese for digital meeting details.

350 Chicago Education Committee Meeting
Interested in getting involved in the Education committee? Contact committee lead Melissa Brice for more details!

Additional Reads

  1. Scientists concerned by ‘record high’ global methane emissions (CarbonBrief)

  2. First look under imperiled Antarctic glacier finds ‘warm water coming from all directions’ (Nature)

  3. ESG issues played key role in Dominion’s decision to get out of the gas business (IEEFA)

  4. UVM (University of Vermont) divests from fossil fuels (UVM Today)

  5. Everyone hates big oil (HEATED)

  6. How ‘discourses of delay’ are used to slow climate action – Guest post (CarbonBrief)

  7. Gas pipeline setbacks pushing US utilities to embrace renewables, analysts say (IEEFA)

  8. Offshore wind boom powers renewables investments through COVID-19 storm (Business Green)

  9. Revealed: Legislators’ pro-pipeline letters ghostwritten by fossil fuel company (The Guardian)

  10. The number of people eating plant-based for the environment is growing (The Beet)


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