Putting the War Horses Out to Pasture: Tisha Schuller vs. Jane Fonda on the O&G Transition



The energy transition issue: we talked a little bit about this yesterday. I’d like to start with some thoughts by Tisha Schuller from her post this morning. She’s got a couple of peace-making suggestions from the industry side.

  • Embrace civic leadership. The third gamechanger from The Gamechanger’s Playbook is back! Like the early days of COVID-19 panic, the war in Ukraine presents an opportunity for oil and gas leaders to step in as civic leaders. Let’s put forward bold solutions that give us the opportunity to acknowledge the complexity of the energy system and energy transitions.
  • Even in this moment, put climate first. Especially in this moment. Climate will be front and center again, and we have an extraordinary opportunity to highlight the cleanest and most socially responsible oil and gas in the world.
  • Skip the lectures. The drumbeat of “wake-up call” and “failed policy” narratives coming out of old-school industry executives smacks of “I told you so” and wastes the moment.
  • Resist election-year politics. Playing politics is comforting but misses the opportunity to reframe. Let’s encourage our political allies to emphasize the climate and socially responsible focus of our industry, rather than suggesting that it no longer matters (or never did).

She adds:

Unfortunately, plenty of old-school oil and gas leaders are enjoying this moment — a little too much — by triumphantly doubling down on existing polarized and partisan talking points.

Schuller is suggesting.. not in so many words.. that this crisis is an opportunity to turn swords in plowshares.

Perhaps as Granholm says, the Admin means it:  “I’m here to extend a hand of partnership…because we’ll only be able to meet these challenges of oil and gas supply and climate change by working together.” But there well may be a trust problem. Is this a short-term alliance in light of the next election?  As a wise forest economist friend once said, “don’t watch what they say, watch what they do.” How will Admin actions match these words? Which harkens back to a a TSW theme, how can trust be built between groups currently in conflict?

At the same time, many of the Admin’s political allies may not agree with this peace-seeking approach.

For example,  Jane Fonda started a new (perhaps relatively ill-timed?) PAC on March 16 doubling down on swordliness:

It is for that reason that I started Jane Fonda Climate PAC, which is laser-focused on one goal: Do what it takes to defeat fossil fuel supporters and elect climate champions at all levels of government. 

I believe this is the most important thing I will do in my lifetime. 

The climate crisis poses unprecedented threats to our communities, our environment, our economy, and our security. It’s not too late to change our course. But it won’t happen as long as oil, gas, and coal companies maintain their stranglehold on American politics. 

In 2020, the fossil fuel industry poured $139 million into our elections. This money has real consequences. Major solutions are stopped cold: the Green New Deal, Build Back Better, clean energy investments, ending billions in tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry — all because of politicians backed by Big Oil.

Fossil fuel lobbyists and their money control Congress. They block actions with huge donations to politicians from both parties. Jane Fonda Climate PAC will help elect leaders who will rise to the urgency of this moment and stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

Jane Fonda Climate PAC will leverage the donations of those who are climate concerned to counter the outsized influence the fossil fuel industry has on our government. We will make sure politicians who support oil and gas are as afraid for their jobs as we are about the impending climate disaster.

It’s an interesting view..the reason we use oil and gas is … not because it’s needed during the transition.. but because bad politicians are corrupted by money. And BBB was not defeated by common sense people who had many concerns (including me and many others) but by “politicians backed by big oil” (not by small oil, apparently).  And $139 mill is a drop in the bucket compared to Wall Street, which according to this story reported that “individuals and entities in the financial sector reported making individuals and entities associated with the financial sector reported making $1,964,240,861 in contributions to federal candidates for office during this election cycle (2019–20 for House and Senate candidates, plus the presidential election) through December 31, 2020 (as reported by February 17, 2021).

If many Admin supporters are that comfortable demonizing the industry, how will the Admin thread that needle? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


3 thoughts on “Putting the War Horses Out to Pasture: Tisha Schuller vs. Jane Fonda on the O&G Transition”

  1. A recent article by Mathew Yglesias, founder of Vox, writer at Atlantic, Bloomberg, in his “SlowBoring” newsletter has an interesting perspective on this question. He suggests that the Sunrise Movement [like Jane Fonda] frames the climate argument in the wrong way “and that has generated strategic and tactical failures…” They start from three ill-founded premises: 1. there is a latent desire among the mass public for sweeping change to address climate concerns, 2) this desire for change is being held back by an elite cabal of special interests, mainly fossil fuel companies, who wield power through campaign contributions, 3. “Due to the corrupting influence of fossil fuel money, not only do Republicans take bad stances on climate-related issues but so do Democrats…” which leads to the conclusion that a “broad grassroots movement that can push the political system… is needed. Yglesias’ argument is that this is backwards and he points to some interesting polling data and the evidence of the bi-partisan climate provisions in the 2020-21 Omnibus. “But their contents reveal that the progressive theory of climate politics is fundamentally backward — bipartisan dealmaking behind closed doors is not dominated by fossil fuel interests and does not feature moderate Democrats selling out to join with Republicans to promote dirty energy. On the contrary, Democrats consistently prioritize climate in these negotiations and some Republicans are sometimes willing to make concessions.” He adds, “[t]he reason the climate has a fighting chance is that people who care about this issue have disproportionate power in the system. But to fully take advantage of that dynamic, climate activists need a correct analysis of the situation.” Worth the read.

  2. When she talks about “the companies,” I think Fonda is not talking about “the reason we use oil and gas,” but about the reason we produce it – it makes people wealthy (so they can buy politicians). I imagine she also supports efforts to work on the demand side.

    I think the role of industry influence on politicians (and “moderate Democrats selling out to join with Republicans to promote dirty energy”) has never been more apparent to more people than when Sen. Manchin basically refused to negotiate on BBB.


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