In This Episode
This week, Mary and Amy break down the latest in climate news from – the Inflation Reduction Act, the possibility of a climate emergency declaration, Taylor Swift’s private jet use, and much more.
Amy Westervelt [AD]
Amy Westervelt Hey, hot cakes. Welcome to Hot Take. I’m Amy Westervelt.
Mary Annaise Heglar Amy Westervelt. I was mocking you. You can start over. And I’m Mary Annaise Heglar. Amy, climate change is really making itself felt this month with fires, floods and heat waves. Probably a bunch of other shit that I’m forgetting the name. It’s kind of wild to watch all that happen. And meanwhile, these old white guys in Washington are still like, I’ll trade you one oil lease for one wind farm.
Amy Westervelt Right. I know. I’m tired of, like having to keep track every day of, like, the new bullshit that Mansion is trying to peddle and I don’t know.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, my God yes.
Amy Westervelt Like keeping track of that and all of the climate disasters happening right now is kind of making my head spin. I was just actually reading about the Oak Fire in California, which I just assumed was out because I hadn’t read about it since it started, but it’s still like less than half contained. So this is like the one that was threatening Yosemite. And I don’t know, it just got me thinking too, about how the way that we cover these things really needs to change, because it’s sort of like everything gets coverage, it’s the day that it hits or like the day that it hits a particular size if it’s a fire, and then we kind of never hear about it again. Which is not the experience of the people in that community. Right. So yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. It seems like the last time the media has been able to cover a disaster long term really was Katrina.
Amy Westervelt Yes.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Honestly, like Maria, didn’t Maria deserve Katrina level coverage and didn’t get it.
Amy Westervelt That’s right. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar And honestly, just like hurricanes in general deserve that type of coverage because now no hurricane is like touching, you know, ground that hasn’t been already hurt by a hurricane. I mean, so.
Amy Westervelt Right.Right.
Mary Annaise Heglar And same thing with fires, because there’s another fire that’s already surpassed the Oak Fire and is the largest fire in northern California right now. And then there’s the heatwaves that are continuing everywhere, including the one in India which everybody acted like that one ended.
Amy Westervelt Right.
Mary Annaise Heglar Also in Basra, Iraq, the temperatures are over 120 degrees this week and people there have had no electricity for 15 days. That is more than two weeks.
Amy Westervelt And we’re not seeing like I really hadn’t seen much about this at all in the media, with the exception of the Times UK and the BBC, which have kind of been tracking things happening in Iraq in general. The Times is tracking everything happening in Basra. And of course these are UK media outlets. Why are they so interested in Basra? Well, because guess who controls the oilfields there, Mary?
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Is it. It’s BP.
Amy Westervelt It’s BP. Yeah. It’s BP
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, a so predictable. So predictable. Fuck those guys.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. They created a whole, like, sub company called the the Basra Oil Company that you know, gets the blame for a lot of this stuff. But the buck should really stop with BP.
Mary Annaise Heglar The Basra Oil Company. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Just a a mom and pop oil shop in Iraq, Mary.
Mary Annaise Heglar Right. Of course. Of course.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. Oh.
Mary Annaise Heglar Meanwhile, the heat dome is back on the Pacific Northwest, and last week it was the East Coast and Western Europe. And this week, as the Pacific Northwest is just like frying like an egg. There’s expected to be even more heat next week. And let’s remember what’s going on in India like we just talked about. There have been 200 heat waves in India this year and last year there were 36 total there. Also, have you heard about how they’re naming heat waves now?
Amy Westervelt I had had not heard that. Wow.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. They’ve named a heat wave in in in Spain. And apparently they’re going to keep doing that. It comes with like all these different categories of like kind of like categorizing them.
Amy Westervelt Like hurricanes.?
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Like hurricanes.
Amy Westervelt Wow. That’s, That’s like a real sign of where we’re at.
Mary Annaise Heglar Kind of necessary. Yeah. Yeah, it is. Yeah, it is.
Amy Westervelt Wow. Yeah. It’s also really scary, and it’s pretty relentless. Like, I feel like this is maybe the longest we’ve gone with, like, really no break in in coverage of pretty significant climate disasters, just like one right after the other, which is why, you know, growing the fossil fuel industry right now makes no goddamn sense.
Mary Annaise Heglar It really doesn’t.
Amy Westervelt So we’re going to talk about that today. We’re going to talk about what’s happening in the US where, you know, again, Joe Manchin always on that bullshit and and globally where there’s like a real major oil boom happening. But we’re really we’re not really hearing about it much in the media. I think, you know, there was this big story in The New York Times this past week about what’s happening. In the Congo. And I know I saw like a lot of people going, oh, my God, I can’t believe this is happening. And I’m like, yeah, this is happening a lot all over the world and we’re just not hearing about it. So. So, yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar We’re going to get into all of that, and Amy’s got a billionaire to burn, so you ready?
Amy Westervelt Yeah. It’s time to talk about climate.
Mary Annaise Heglar So, Amy, have you heard about the great news that Joe Manchin has finally seen the light and he has come out as a climate hero? It can happen. Okay. Like your climate denying uncle can can turn into, I don’t know, some sort of activist at some point. I don’t know. I can’t keep doing this Amy. What. What the fuck happened here? What am I looking at?
Amy Westervelt Oh, God. I still think Joe Manchin right now is like that guy. I feel like everyone has worked with someone like this who’s just like. That won’t work. That won’t work. Nope. That’s no good. And then they propose, like, the shittiest version of everyone’s ideas as their own, and they’re like this is the way. Like, man
Mary Annaise Heglar Is that is that how you would describe the inflation reduction?
Amy Westervelt Yes. Yes. Yeah. I mean, it’s like, you know, Joe Manchin dragged his feet on build back better. Then he said if you, you know, get this infrastructure act passed and I will work with you on the Build Back Better stuff. Then of course, he turned his back on that and was like, I didn’t say that, Joe. Classic, classic Joe. And now he has proposed his own bill, which is the Inflation Reduction Act, which does include some funding for clean energy. Quite a bit of funding. You know, it’s like over $300 billion in funding for stuff that most climate folks agree we need funding for giveaways for the fossil fuel industry. And here I think the reactions, honestly, I feel like have been pretty extreme on like one side or the other, you know. It’s like you either have people who are like, you know, I don’t care. There’s all this bad stuff in it. We have to get this passed because if we don’t get it passed, we’re not going to get anything for climate and like 360 billion or 370 billion for clean energy is worth putting up with all these other things. And and You know, we can solve these other things in other ways later. And then you have a lot of people also being like, no, you know, we shouldn’t even engage with this because it’s total bullshit. And, you know, as we know from the past, right? If we agree to compromises like this, they never end up going well for climate. So I don’t know. It’s it’s a it’s a complicated situation. And yeah, I just I feel very torn about it because on the one hand, yes I do want funding for clean energy and I do want some kind of climate appropriations to be happening. But I’m very concerned about the types of trade offs that are being demanded here. And I really dislike the way that some folks have been kind of shutting down any criticism at all. I don’t think that that’s helpful. I don’t think it’s helpful.
Mary Annaise Heglar I think that’s helpful either.
Amy Westervelt At all to be like just just hold your nose and, you know, get through it and we’ll get to these other things later, right. I also think that there’s an argument to be made for, okay, well, you know. Some of these things are really, really necessary and we’re not going to get them any other way, you know, and, but I just I just don’t like the like kind of zero sum, all in or all out way, that this is being discussed so far.
Mary Annaise Heglar I mean, it’s being discussed on Twitter. Right. And that’s for nuance goes to die on Twitter
Amy Westervelt And in the media, too. I think like even in some of the media coverage, it’s like maybe because the the experts that people are talking to are also kind of like really, you know, firmly on like one side or the other, you know? And I’m like, oh.
Mary Annaise Heglar I mean, the thing that gives me the most pause is that I understand there’s a lot of funding in there for CSS, which is carbon, capture, and storage for for folks who don’t live in a, you know, acronym land. And so carbon capture and storage would mean just like, first of all, it doesn’t really exist. So the way I’m going to describe it is going to sound fantastical because it is fantastical. It’s basically attaching some sort of contraption to a power plant, sucking all the carbon out and then storing that carbon somewhere. No one knows how to do this safely. And the places where those power plants generally are is near what we call front line communities, because they’re like on the front lines of the climate crisis. Right. And these tend to be black and brown communities that are near this infrastructure. And those are the communities where this carbon would allegedly be stored or also where like these these power plants and these the fossil fuel infrastructure also releases other harmful gases. And this would do nothing that carbon capture and storage would do nothing to protect them from those gases. Right? So like those people are still going to suffer. So I’m very concerned about a bill that like has all this funding for carbon capture and storage, but very little regulation for it, as I understand rights.
Amy Westervelt Right. Well, and we’re talking about like an industry. I mean, to me, the thing that that like always blows my mind about carbon capture and storage and like the idea of building out a massive carbon capture and storage industry is that it would be largely controlled by the oil and gas industry, which News Flash doesn’t have a great track record on safely storing and transporting things that are dangerous to human health. And it would require building out like a whole new pipeline infrastructure for compressed CO2, which is incredibly dangerous if it’s leaked. So like there’s been since this has happened already. Yeah. There was a story in HuffPost last year about.
Mary Annaise Heglar Mm hmm.
Amy Westervelt About this, where there was a leak from a carbon capture project.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, right. And it basically turned everybody into a zombie.
Amy Westervelt Yes. It like poisoned a whole town in Mississippi and like.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yes. People were hallucinating and going like fucking nuts.
Amy Westervelt And frothing at the mouth and like, I mean, it was really, really, really crazy.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yes. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. And that was that’s the potential for compressed CO2. If it leaks, that’s what that’s what happens to large communities of people. So like, yeah. Not only are you not addressing the issue of volatile organic compounds coming out of oil refineries and sort of related oil operations. But also, you’re you’re you’re creating a whole new problem.
Mary Annaise Heglar Right. Exactly. And that’s why the environmental justice movement exists in the first place, because the white environmental movement has a tendency to create problems or, let’s say, solutions that create problems for these communities.
Amy Westervelt That’s right.
Mary Annaise Heglar And so I think there is this knee jerk reaction to a bill like this from those sorts of communities being like, Hey, wait a minute, we already know we can’t trust you. And so all of this, like, oh, we’re going to come back and clean that up later and we have to build this now, you know, because otherwise, like, we won’t get anything at all ever. That rings really hollow to environmental justice communities that have been hearing that literally for decades or more, if you really want to look at it. So yeah, I think, yes, we need to get some climate action done. But after a while, if you keep having the same unintended consequences on the same communities, it is no longer an unintended consequence. It’s an allowable casualty. And that’s that’s not okay. You can’t expect people to be okay with sacrificing themselves and everything that they love for the greater good that they will never live to see. So, you know, yes, we need to pass this bill, but like the bill could use some work maybe.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. No. Yeah. Yeah. And but I mean, but I also think that it’s like it’s not like we were on track to pass great climate policy and this is derailing it. You know what I mean? Like, even with the Mountain Valley pipeline stuff, it’s like Manchin has been pushing that forever. This is it’s an LNG Pipeline, right? So this is liquid natural gas. And you know, two months ago, Biden signed this deal with the European Union to supply a large amount of liquid liquefied natural gas to Europe with demand locked in for the next ten years. So, you know, like I don’t know, I feel like we need to look at like the entire way that this party and this administration is looking at this issue and like it’s it’s a lot of problems all the way through. And I think, you know, for Manchin, it’s like, what? Natural gas is better than coal. Right.
Mary Annaise Heglar The other thing I wanted to ask you about, though, so Manchin didn’t write this by his by himself. He wrote it was Schumer. Kyrsten Sinema was not in the room. Where is she? Has anyone laid eyes on this chic lately?
Amy Westervelt I fully expect there to be, like, some issue coming from her. She she’s sort of, like, hemmed and hawed about not being having not been consulted about the stuff related to pharmaceuticals and Medicare and this, which I feel like that part of the bill hasn’t really gotten nearly as much attention as the climate stuff. But there is some some good stuff for health care in here. Including actually funding health care for people with black lung disease. You know, Joe Manchin was also pushing it’s wild to me, wild, that he’s like, we need to take care of people with black lung. But like, let’s totally get the next version of black lung going with all of this, like fossil fuel and natural gas stuff. You know, like just just no awareness there whatsoever.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, I did a quick Google and here’s what Fox News headline says. Sinema still undecided. Sinema still undecided on Manchin Social Spending Bill Will Make Determination after parliamentarian review. I’m sorry. So on Fox News, it is now called the Manchin Social Spending bill. And you know what? Let me click off of this before my computer self-destructs.
Amy Westervelt Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s it’s very much the sort of like the market will take care of the rest if we just fund a lot of renewable energy, then, you know, there will the market will magically just turn away from fossil fuels. And unfortunately, what we know from the fossil fuel industry is that they don’t just respond to market signals. That’s just not a thing. They tell this story like we’re just supplying a demand. If the, you know, we’re just operating within the markets were just behaving according to what the public wants and what people want to buy. Right. But you know, if you look back at what happened when Americans got really good at conserving energy in the 1970s, when there was legitimately restrained supply because there was an oil embargo against the US from OPEC and there was genuinely less oil available to the United States at that time. Americans got really good at conserving and there’s all these shareholder magazines and internal memos from from the eighties when all of a sudden, because they had lobbied for being able to drill in more places and whatnot, they had a sudden increase in in supply. But people were not consuming as much as they once had. And there’s there are all of these oil executives kind of being like, what are we going to do? How are we going to get people consuming more gas again, more electricity again? And the answer was just like tinker with the prices, get the prices low enough, and you can get people consuming more. And you know, of course, some creative like PR and marketing and all that stuff too. So this idea that like.They will just go quietly into the night if, if there is a market preference for decarbonized energy, it’s just not what we’ve ever seen that industry do. And I think relying on that is pretty foolish. Again, I do also think that the spending on clean energy and that the permitting stuff. That would actually make it possible to have large scale renewable energy. So, I mean, just so people understand, like without these permitting reforms, large scale renewable energy won’t necessarily work in the U.S.. Also, I think without the sort of long term commitments to renewable energy in this bill, it’s very hard for the solar and wind industries to keep growing. They have been in this weird holding pattern for the last decade where like they generally they literally have to wait until the end of the year every year to find out if they’re going to get certain programs funded the next year. It’s insane. Like you, how can you make business decisions that way, you know? So this would give them, okay, you have like a decade of runway, right? Like, you can you can take a breath and you can actually build out larger projects. And you’re going to be able to get that energy distributed because we’re going to fix all of these transmission issues. So these are genuinely like major, major, major blockers to energy transition that need to be dealt with. I just don’t understand why we have to give up on decarbonization entirely in order to get them. It’s not the best solution from purely a climate. Perspective, which is how we really need politicians to be looking at this. Because like we’ve talked about a million times on this show and, you know, last week on Positively Dreadful. Like, as much as politicians would like this to be a neat and tidy issue that works just like health care policy, it just doesn’t.
Mary Annaise Heglar It doesn’t.
Amy Westervelt You know, we have a limited amount of time here. And like the physics don’t change because your campaign changes you know.
Mary Annaise Heglar The stakes are so much higher. Right. Like with every other issue. You’re hurting people today and you could stop tomorrow. But with climate change, you’re hurting people tomorrow and the day after and the day after and the day after. And it’s like is difficult to go back and recover those lives. You can recover some of them as well. You should, which is basically what we’re doing right now. Locking in warming is a bad idea. But the thing about the mansion bill is that it’s not the only place where climate action is happening. There’s a couple of other places, too. And we’re going to talk about them after the break.
Mary Annaise Heglar So, Amy, what’s the latest with the climate emergency? Are we doing that or what?
Amy Westervelt I have no idea. I do think that some of the talk of climate emergency might have helped to like further these negotiations that happened. I do also want to mention a couple of other things. One is that there was a protest of the congressional baseball game. Now you and I are not like DC people, Mary. So. So I think for me I’m like, who cares about a congressional ball game? People care.
Mary Annaise Heglar I didn’t even know Congress played sports. I really didn’t.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, they do. And this game is is, of course, sponsored by a bunch of corporations. Among them.
Mary Annaise Heglar Is BP one of them?
Amy Westervelt Yes. BP and Chevron are were two of the corporate sponsors of this baseball game. The police response to this was insane. I saw it on Twitter. There was a video. I mean, we’re talking about like, you know, a couple dozen people who were holding up signs and like chanting about it, but they were not being you know, aggressive or violent in any way. And the D.C.. Metro Police, Capitol Police and Park Police were called, along with the stadiums, private security. They were like yanking people’s banners away from them.
Mary Annaise Heglar Wow.
Amy Westervelt And they arrested everyone. So, yeah. Anyway, there was there was quite a bit of of protest when it looked like the Democrats were just going to kind of say, okay, well, we’re just not going to get any kind of climate stuff. I’m done in the budget conversations, in this budget reconciliation thing that’s been dragging on and on. So that was happening. I think the threat of maybe Biden declaring a climate emergency played into it, and.
Mary Annaise Heglar In his speech, He did say the words climate and emergencies together a lot. Yeah. Or close together a lot. He didn’t declare a climate emergency, but I felt a coming. I did.
Amy Westervelt Yeah Well, also, I think it’s important to note that he has done a couple of the things that people want him to do as part of declaring a climate emergency, like he’s already done those things even without declaring an emergency. So as part of the response it’s been real quiet, part of the as part of the response to the to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And, you know, the high gas prices and whatnot. He did use the Defense Production Act to get money to solar manufacturers and heat pump manufacturers and to try to offset people’s electricity bills. That was something that was being really heavily pushed by Cori Bush, who, again, I’m like, where is the coverage of of Cori Bush and all this stuff? She’s been like pushing a lot of really interesting stuff. You know, like I rarely see her name come up in discussions about climate negotiations or climate policy.
Mary Annaise Heglar Well, You know, black women tend to get erased, so.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. But the Defense Production Act is something that shows up in this Manchin stuff. And it’s also something that people have talked about as budget that Biden would be able to access if he declares a climate emergency. So there’s some talk of like, well, could he do both? Like, could he if he were like a Mitch McConnell type of politician. He would get this deal with Manchin done and then turn around, declare a climate emergency and use executive powers to to block any of the fossil fuel stuff. And it’s in the bill.
Mary Annaise Heglar But he’s no Mitch.
Amy Westervelt He’s no Mitch. And that would probably just land him in, you know, in front of the Supreme Court, which we all know how that would be likely to go. So there’s some talk of like, well, you know, he could still declare a climate emergency and use it maybe to fund some of the environmental justice programs that are not showing up in this bill. So there’s there’s a lot of like, get this bill. Passed first and then the climate emergency stuff becomes that much easier to do.
Mary Annaise Heglar Can he use executive power to get rid of the subsidies to fossil fuel companies?
Amy Westervelt I mean, he promised. To do that.
Mary Annaise Heglar Mm hmm. I recall. So know I recall.
Amy Westervelt I’m not sure if that has to be approved by Congress or not, if it has to have congressional backing or not. But that that seems like such low hanging fruit. But then, you know, like we’re seeing what’s in this Manchin bill. I don’t I don’t envision getting rid of subsidies for fossil fuel companies being something that they go for. Mm hmm. Again, I feel like the thing I keep coming back to over and over to is is this conversation that we had with Kate ARONOFF earlier this year about nationalizing oil companies. Right. The reason that we’re so beholden to them is because the government has given them so much fucking power. Like even in in the wake of all the Russia Ukraine stuff, you know, you had Biden and congressional Democrats basically like begging the fossil fuel companies to produce more oil or to lower prices or you know, and it’s like, well, we could nationalize the fossil fuel industry and then start a managed transition away from fossil fuels. And I’m increasingly feeling like that might that’s like looking more and more like one of the few real options here. Because I’m not seeing in this in this. Manchin stuff like a lot of of hope that the government, that the US. Government is up to the task of actually dealing with this issue.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Which so there’s some interesting stuff going on in Europe right now, right?
Amy Westervelt Yeah. So it’s actually kind of interesting to see in contrast with the US, like how, how Europe is handling both climate but also the high gas prices and the heat waves right now. Germany just pushed through a 90% rate decrease on public transit so that people won’t be as reliant on gas for their cars. And that kind of removes this whole pain at the pump problem, right?
Mary Annaise Heglar Mm hmm.
Amy Westervelt So that’s pretty interesting.
Mary Annaise Heglar It removes some of Putin’s power too, right?
Amy Westervelt It does. It does. It removes some of Putin’s power. It reduces the need, which means that more of those needs can be fulfilled by other sources. You know there’s a lot of, I think it’s to me, I’m just like, oh, this just seems very logical. France is nationalizing its utility to be able to control home energy prices. So they’re concerned about not not necessarily pain at the pump, but more people’s electricity bills and how they’re starting to skyrocket because of everything that’s happening with Russia, Ukraine and the need for more natural gas. So there again you know, it’s like. Okay, I’m very, very tired of the U.S. government kind of throwing up their hands and saying, like, well. We’re just beholden to this industry. You don’t have to be. Belgium is my favorite example. This is not necessarily like super practical or, you know, like a policy I am suggesting necessarily. I just found it to be like something lighthearted to throw in here, which is that they’re building a giant ass public pool. They’re building like the world’s largest public pool for people to cool off in during heat waves, which I’m like, Yeah. But I like it. I like this idea. Why not? Why can’t we get creative about how we’re going to help people you know, deal with this situation. So yeah. I just want to like underscore again to that, you know, the thing that Manchin keeps talking about is his big reason for for not wanting to rock the boat too much with the fossil fuel industry, is inflation. And that’s part of why he’s calling this the Inflation Reduction Act. And what we’re looking at with inflation right now is really it’s all being driven by high gas prices. And those high gas prices are not just happening because of like like a simple, straightforward supply and demand problem. The the oil industry, like they, you know, they control about like 70% of what goes into pricing gas they like to like pretend that it’s all just, again, like oh, we have no control over the price. You know, the price of gas is the price of gas. Nothing to do with us. That’s bullshit. That’s not true. There is not currently actually a restricted supply of oil in the US. So that’s also bullshit. Like this is not a like natural reaction to there being less oil and therefore less gas at gas stations. There is no gas shortage.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, yeah. It’s a big ass destabilizer. There is a big destabilizer, you can’t have shit if the planet ain’t really fucking which you no more. Yeah. The other thing about Europe I just want to mention is that, you know, Europe gets left out of these conversations about, you know, the biggest emissions producers in the world. We talked about this on the episode with Diana, but if you calculate their historical emissions when they were empires, which was not long ago, their carbon footprint is ginormous. And then also, if you factor in that, a lot of these big fossil fuel companies today are based in Europe, their carbon footprint skyrocketing. So. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Yes.
Mary Annaise Heglar They’re not blameless.
Amy Westervelt I think we need to really rethink like how carbon footprints are calculated for companies and countries because like this happens with the U.S. a lot, too, right that people will say, well, U.S. emissions have been going down in the last decade, blah, blah, blah. And that completely ignores the fact that U.S. oil companies are the ones that are expanding fossil fuel use everywhere else in the world. You know, same with Europe. It’s like Total, BP, Shell, those are, you know, like if you look at where, you know, the largest oil companies in the world, most of them are either European or American, with the exception of Saudi Arabia.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. And a couple of state run.
Amy Westervelt Russia’s Rosneft like, you know.
Mary Annaise Heglar And China.
Amy Westervelt Exactly. Exactly. But like, I don’t really get how companies that are expanding oil production all over the world that are headquartered in your country don’t count towards your carbon footprint.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, Ecuador didn’t fuck up its own rainforest, you know what I mean, that was Chevron.
Amy Westervelt They did not. Yeah, that’s right. And and Chevron. Chevron will always go, oh, but Petroecuador. But Chevron trained and Texaco, trained all of the people who run Petroecuador. Like any bad habits, they have were learned from American companies. So. Yeah. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar It’s like what you were saying earlier about the Iraq oil company.
Amy Westervelt Yes. Yeah, the Basra Oil Company.
Mary Annaise Heglar Basra Oil Comany the BOC.
Amy Westervelt Just, you know, just a little indie oil company.
Yeah. Oh. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So again, I feel like, you know, yes, we need this funding for clean energy. Yes, we need some kind of climate legislation. Yes, climate funding of some kind is better than no funding. But I think that the the idea that, like you know, any price is worth it for for these clean energy advancements, I just don’t know that I agree with that. And I also just don’t know that, like we absolutely have to cave on every single thing to get these clean energy improvements.
Mary Annaise Heglar For sure. So we’re going to talk a little bit more about some oil, colonialism and Amy’s favorite billionaire to hate these days. But get to that in just a minute.
Amy Westervelt <A.D.>
Amy Westervelt Okay. So one thing that has come up quite a bit as we’re talking about U.S. climate policy is the fact that, you know, climate change is not constrained by borders. And there are a lot of countries in the global south that are suffering already from a lot of climate disasters and will suffer more than a lot of folks elsewhere in the world, especially the U.S. and Europe. So kind of related to that, there’s a huge explosion of oil colonialism happening right now. It’s like this kind of second wave or maybe last wave. I’ve heard people describe it as sort of like this last dash to get all the oil out of the ground while these companies still can. And no one wants to be the one left holding the most worthless oil. So they’re all trying to like tap that oil as quickly as they can.
Mary Annaise Heglar As much as they say that they’re, you know, turning to wind energy and solar energy and becoming all green. They’re planning projects that would set off massive amounts of carbon emissions, right?
Amy Westervelt That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. That like if you look at the oil developments and gas developments that are planned on their books, they just do not square with these big climate commitments that they’re making. And in a lot of cases, they’re doing this thing that we talked about with BP earlier. Right, where they’re like you know, forming a subsidiary company or a shell company or they’re doing a partnership with like another oil company. And then the you know, there’s a lot of very creative accounting for emissions that’s that’s happening. But like what I really want to want to talk about is just there’s a lot of blame that gets thrown at developing countries or less developed countries for taking the bait. Right. Like, oh, why would you start an oil industry in in 2020? Like, you know what’s going to happen. Or, you know, there was this big story. In The New York Times about the Congo and how, like the president there agreed eight months ago to not allow oil drilling in in some very ecologically important areas of the country and places that are big, big carbon sinks for the world. And then now is kind of going back on that and auctioning off land. And people are so corrupt. That’s terrible. All of this stuff. But like we have to look at the fact that that a lot of countries for about 30 or 40 years have been asking for the Global North, which has profited enormously from fossil fuel development to help offset the cost of leaving that stuff in the ground. Right.
Mary Annaise Heglar Like these companies are also these countries are also on the front lines of the climate crisis and nobody’s coming to their aid when they suffer a climate disaster. Yeah, I was reading this super long article, but very good article in ProPublica about Barbados that’s dealing with that exact problem because, you know, in the Caribbean, there’s this this really interesting and devastating mix of being hyper on the frontlines of climate change and hyper in debt. That kind of doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s like when, you know, folks in the global north want to ask folks in the Congo why they’re auctioning off these leases. It’s like they don’t super have a lot of other options right now.
Amy Westervelt Guyana, too. That’s a coastal country, right? Like this is a coastal country. And Guyana also has the the added layer of like quite a bit of its economy being dependent on eco tourism. So there’s a huge risk there that as it becomes more of an oil country, it will lose that side of its economy. Which will then only make it more dependent on the oil money. Right. That’s that’s this, like, really clear,.
Mary Annaise Heglar Vicious.
Amy Westervelt Like, vicious cycle. But I’ve talked to a couple of different people there, and they’re they’re sort of like, well we have people in extreme poverty. We, you know, like no one is. Yeah, no one is is offering us money to not.
Mary Annaise Heglar Right.
Amy Westervelt Drill this oil. You know, it reminds me of actually in in Ecuador like in 2012, the president then Rafael Correa, he had this idea of like auctioning off oil in Yasuni National Park, but not for drilling, for saving. He was like if if we can get X amount of money, you know, from global leaders. We can preserve this national park and not let people drill. And it will also keep X amount, you know, X millions of barrels of oil in the ground. And that will mean, you know large emissions savings. And everyone was super excited about it. Like it got all this media coverage, right? Like Planet Money did a whole podcast about it. It was, you know, all over the news, Democracy Now! Everything. And I think out of the, you know, couple hundred million dollars that he was asking for, they got maybe like 20 million committed from from global leaders. And this is like a story that you hear over and over again, right? Like the first time that less developed countries talked about what’s now called loss and damages in international climate negotiations was like the very first one. They were talking about in the early nineties. They were like, we need the people that have benefited financially from other nations ability to to deal with this problem, but also to incentivize countries with oil reserves to not develop them. You know, and like here we are. And yeah, you have this this huge problem with, you know, another wave of of oil colonialism. You’ve got, so we talked about Ghana. We talked about the Congo. It’s happening in Namibia. It’s happening in Mozambique. Barbados. Like this, I just I think that people need to understand that. Yeah, this is this is colonialism.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt And that, if you don’t want these these countries to to develop their oil reserves, then they need another means of economic development. And the reason that they don’t have it is not because, like, they aren’t working hard enough or they’re not talented or skilled enough, right? It’s because they’re like they’ve been colonized and kept from developing their own industry.
Mary Annaise Heglar And exploited.
Amy Westervelt And exploited
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. So like, these countries are kind of just getting into a place where they can profit from the oil that’s been extracted from their land. So it’s kind of hard to when you’re already cash strapped, you’re debt ridden because of all these predatory loans from, you know, the IMF and all of these places. It’s really difficult to sit on the oil that, you know, it make you money when there’s no other help coming, which is why climate reparations need to be real.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. Yeah. Well, and the other really, really fucked up part is that these oil companies are, of course, not offering great deals to these countries. Right. These are like terrible contracts. The contract in Guyana basically requires that the Guyanese government pay for most of the cost associated with the development of these oil fields before they can make like real money off of the oil. It’s like their percentage of the take from, you know, these oil fields is minimal until they kind of pay off all of the expenses first, right. So like I was talking to this, this analyst who was looking at it and he was explaining this to me, like walking me through the contract and I was like, wait a minute. So it they’re never going to make like the kind of money that that they’re that they’re thinking they would make that makes this a good deal. And he was like, Yeah. Like, they’re their base. They’re, they’re not even he’s like, what they want to do with this oil money is pay off that and fund some social problems, you know, or fund some social programs to help with housing, food security, you know. Like the basic things that societies need. And what he’s like, the way that it is structured now, they won’t even pay off the debt. They won’t even get out of debt, you know?
Mary Annaise Heglar And again, this is sharecropping. This is sharecropping 101.
Amy Westervelt Absolutely. It absolutely is.
Mary Annaise Heglar It is exactly how that system worked.
Amy Westervelt Exactly. It’s like, oh, well, you know, but like it’s hard for countries that are dealing with extreme debt and poverty and and all these other things to to say no to a large sum of money right now. You know.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar Even though it will actually not solve the problem down the road. And it will create other problems down the road and it will probably create other economic problems down the road. You know, it’s hard to say no to tens of billions of dollars when you’re in an extreme amount of debt. Right. Like it is it’s absolutely sharecropping. It’s you know, those those like payday loans. It’s it’s it’s all of that.
Mary Annaise Heglar It’s all predatory. And this is why, you know, again, climate reparations are a solution and not just, like a nice thing to do because otherwise at least people in a position where they have no choice but to do stuff like this.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, exactly. And there’s like so many other shitty things that go along with it too, like in Mozambique. So just to to, like, blow your mind with with a one stop here, the methane emissions from construction of just one LNG train there is going to increase the greenhouse gas emissions of that country, the whole country by up to 14%. So like, you know, you’re turning entire countries into into major greenhouse gas emitters. Right. But also in Mozambique there. So Mozambique was like like on its own with no COVID cases for like a really long time at the start of the pandemic. And guess who brought COVID to Mozambique?
Mary Annaise Heglar An oil worker.
Amy Westervelt Fucking oil workers. Yeah. Yeah. It was like people who were working on on these LNG plants there. So yes.
Mary Annaise Heglar Of course. I feel like we’re going to need a deeper dive into oil colonialism soon.
Amy Westervelt Yes, yes. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar There’s a lot, it’s a lot.
Amy Westervelt A Lot to talk about. Yeah, I and yeah, it’s happening. It’s you know, it’s happening in a lot of places and, and, you know, the the oil companies that you hear attached to these things, they are not African oil companies. They are not Latin American oil companies. They are Total, Exxon, Chevron, BP. You know.
Mary Annaise Heglar Total is from France for people who don’t. Yeah. Total is French.
Amy Westervelt They are French.
Mary Annaise Heglar And they’re on Twitter. Go fuck with them.
Amy Westervelt Yes they are.
Mary Annaise Heglar And we’ll be back right after this ad.
Mary Annaise Heglar Okay, so I have a story that I’ve been dying to talk to you about that I think you might have been following it a little bit too. So stop me if you’ve heard this one already. So in Mariposa County, which is pretty near where the Oak Fire is burning, which has burned more than 19,000 acres, pretty scary. People have been being greeted by people in like camouflage and military gear, but they are not the sheriff’s office. They’re not it’s not the National Guard. It is members of the Echo Company militia. Are you hearing about this?
Amy Westervelt Yes. Yes. I just I just read a story about this that I found absolutely terrifying. It was it was by Kiara Sotile and Ben Collins from NBC, I think. And like. Yes. And like, oh, my God. I just I like I was reading it and I read this one paragraph and I it like I found it so chilling because they were talking about how wild, like things like mega wildfires are good recruiting events for militias I was just like fuck.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yes.
Amy Westervelt Because remember, this happened in Oregon a couple of years ago.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, it’s.
Amy Westervelt That the militia.
Mary Annaise Heglar Plenty of other times.
Amy Westervelt Yes. Yes. I remember, I remember being really freaked out by the Oregon one because militia were had appointed themselves to like stop people who were evacuating because they were trying to figure out if, like there were arsonists involved in in the wildfires and I was just like,.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yes.
Amy Westervelt Oh my God, just imagine, like, you’re scared. You know, we’ve talked about this before the like, evacuation math is very stressful. Like, you’re, you’re you’re like, should I go? Should I stay? When do I go? Okay, I’m going to go. I’ve packed up my car. I’ve, you know, loaded up my kids and my animals or whatever, and I’m on the road and then I have to prove to some jack off in camouflage.
Mary Annaise Heglar with AR-15s.
Amy Westervelt With a gun because of course.
Mary Annaise Heglar Right.
Amy Westervelt That I am, you know, just a normal person who is trying to get away from the fire and not someone who’s, like fleeing the scene of the crime.
Mary Annaise Heglar So let’s talk real quick about the Echo Company is. They’re becoming this consistent presence in Mariposa County. It’s not really clear how many members there are. And they were ousted from the larger California state militia organization in 2020 because they capitalize on these larger, fictitious fears of Antifa looters and for, quote, behavior that was interpreted as potentially inciteful and militant. So these people are too militant for the militias. That’s some scary shit.
Amy Westervelt Oh, God, that is really scary.
Mary Annaise Heglar They have inserted themselves. They have. So, like, these people are not afraid to get involved. Actually, their motto is We who dare.
Amy Westervelt Oh, boy.
Mary Annaise Heglar And when there’s not a disaster, they’re mostly known for holding training sessions for its members and attending protests. And. Yeah. Yeah. That’s some scary shit.
Amy Westervelt That is terrifying. And so I also just want to set the scene for people of Mariposa County because I know this county, it’s near Yosemite. It’s like in this little pocket of California. So like people think of California as being very liberal and it is. But that makes the right wing people in California really fucking crazy. Like, they are so much more extreme.
Mary Annaise Heglar They got to represent, Amy.
Amy Westervelt Than.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt So this part of the state is where you will find the state of Jefferson. Which is a little pocket of people in like northern California and southern Oregon who want to secede from the United States.
Mary Annaise Heglar Like Texas.
Amy Westervelt And create there. Uh huh, yeah. They want to create, like, their whole own, like new super conservative state because they they claim that they’re not being represented represented by their elected politicians.
Mary Annaise Heglar Just so we’re clear. Yeah, just.
Amy Westervelt So we’re clear as we’re dealing with here.
Mary Annaise Heglar And so and the sheriff’s office is not trying to get rid of these folks. So on Sunday, the sheriff’s office said that they had been made aware of the presence of the local militia. Here’s what they said, direct, quote, We appreciate their effort and any of the efforts of other private groups or entities helping our communities.
Amy Westervelt Oh, God, they’re just volunteers.
Mary Annaise Heglar They said that they were acting on their own courteous accord. So, yeah.
Amy Westervelt Wow.
Mary Annaise Heglar Here’s the other thing I wanted to talk about is that this providing immediate assistance right after a disaster is a really common recruiting technique for militias like you just mentioned. So in the aftermath of the Oregon fires in 2020, there are civilian roadblocks and they stopped at least one black family and were ignored by the police. Members of the Oath Keepers have created a community protection team, six of whom four were arrested for breaking curfew during Hurricane Michael in 2018. 2018 Had you heard the Oath Keepers in 2018, Amy?
Amy Westervelt No, no. I feel like I heard about them. I think probably with most people in the context of the January 6th insurrection.
Mary Annaise Heglar I heard about them in 2020 around the election. But these folks have been out here.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar So one oath keeper named Joshua James who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, met and joined the militia during relief efforts for Hurricane Irma in 2017. So,
Amy Westervelt Wow.
Mary Annaise Heglar Try try to imagine if this were happening in any other country, like maybe one of the countries we were just talking about with oil colonialism, right. Where there’s militias showing up after a disaster and offering aid and taking people in to join their ranks and handing out business cards with directions for how to join their ranks.
Amy Westervelt Oh, God.
Mary Annaise Heglar How is this not a civil war? Like even the people who are quoted in these stories are asking for anonymity because they’re afraid of pissing off the militia. So they’re living in fear of these militias. How are we not in a civil war?
Amy Westervelt Yeah, well, and I mean, again, like, maybe this is like there’s so many things to be concerned about here, but I think maybe the most concerning one is just like how in with the police these groups are. The fact that the sheriff is like, oh, they’re just like helpful volunteers and thanks for the helping hand guys.
Mary Annaise Heglar You it kind of sounds like Trump being like they’re not here to hurt me.
Amy Westervelt Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, one less thing about these militias is that like, okay, I can’t prove this, but I wonder what happened to the militias that formed in the aftermath of Katrina? Because I feel like some of those folks probably stayed in touch and formed other militias. Oh, like just as a hunch.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. I’m sure. Yeah, of course. Of course. So. Yeah. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar I don’t know. This is like, you know, why we talk about eco fascism so much? Like, it’s fuckin real, and this is what it looks like in practice.
Amy Westervelt It’s really scary. Again, I just feel like the idea that, like you could be in real like survival mode crisis and, you know, come up against these guys is just very very it’s scary and also, I think this is this is like where the gun reform stuff really dovetails with climate too, because like what makes it super scary is that these guys are armed to the teeth. You know, and and that gives them control and power in a way that that they wouldn’t have if they didn’t have their their guns. And their sort of like military cos play stuff, you know?
Mary Annaise Heglar Right.
Amy Westervelt Like, I’m sure a lot of people see them and think, oh, that’s National Guard, right? Like, I mean, you’re not really thinking about that in a in a in an extreme weather event. You know, you’re just like, especially if you’ve evacuated and you’ve run from a fire.
Mary Annaise Heglar I mean, it should be the National Guard, right? But. Right, yeah. Our disaster response of this country is trash, so.
Amy Westervelt Well, that’s. That’s another thing, right? It’s like this is this is why talking about like FEMA and disaster relief and all of that is really important in the context of this stuff because look at the huge vacuum that’s there for these guys to fill. Oh, God, that’s so scary. That is so scary. Okay, I have a much less scary, more funny surprise story.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, thank God.
Amy Westervelt It’s funny, but also bad, but also something that I’m like this seems like it’s like a problem that can easily be fixed. So I have been following this sort of like resurgence of the private jet CO2 emissions discourse.
Mary Annaise Heglar How did I know? Yes. Okay. Tell me.
Amy Westervelt Yes, it is hilarious.
Mary Annaise Heglar I’ve been seeing little snippets of the discourse on Twitter and being like, you know, you have to like be like, am I going to go down this rabbit hole or not? And I haven’t gone down this one. So I’m glad you’re going to tell me what it is.
Amy Westervelt Okay, Mary, my surprise for you is that the celebrity private jet CO2 discourse is back. And it’s kind of amazing.
Mary Annaise Heglar Please don’t tell me this is about Beyoncé. Please
Amy Westervelt It’s not, actually. Kylie Jenner and Taylor Swift seem to be the two people getting the most.
Mary Annaise Heglar White ladies. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Heat right now. Yeah. So Taylor Swift was was found to have the highest carbon footprint for her private jet usage. And her response today was to say that she loans her private jet out a lot. And that’s why.
Mary Annaise Heglar Who’s borrowing Taylor Swift private jet?
Amy Westervelt I don’t know. But also, I’m like, that’s not the point, Taylor. That’s not the point. Like, the total emissions is the total emissions, whether it’s you or like your friend who’s flying on your private jet. The problem is the private jet, not who’s flying.
Mary Annaise Heglar What are they like going to Costco? Like, how. How do you take a private jet? Where are you going? In a panny.
Amy Westervelt Some of them are genuinely like doing quick little errands and stuff. So actually our friend Dharna Noor, who filled in for me earlier this month, she wrote about this for The Boston Globe because Kylie Jenner took like a 17 minute private jet trip.
Mary Annaise Heglar 17minutes?
Amy Westervelt 17 minutes, yes.
Mary Annaise Heglar Where was she going?
Amy Westervelt So this all started because there was an Instagram photo that she posted with her and her boyfriend and they had their two private jets side by side her boyfriend is Travis Scott.
Oh, yeah. I saw this
Amy Westervelt The caption is. Yeah. The caption said. You want to take mine or yours?
Mary Annaise Heglar And it was a plane. It’s not the flex you think it is. It’s really not.
Amy Westervelt It’s so gross. So. So then there’s this app called Celeb Jets that tracks celebrities private flights flights. And so she flew from Camarillo to Van Nuys. That is insane. That is like so basically, like she was in you know like a little bit further north in California and she flew home in in her private plane. So I don’t know who she was.
Mary Annaise Heglar How long of a drive is that?
Amy Westervelt It’s like a 45 minute drive. This is truly like, just ridiculous there. So then this kicked off like a hole batch of stories where people were comparing other celebrities CO2 emissions. And this is how we found out that actually Taylor Swift is the biggest offender. So this was this was done by insider dot com. They looked at it and it’s all of the Kardashians are bad. Kylie Jenner to Blake Shelton. Oprah Winfrey is on there as well. But I don’t think that Beyonce is even on the list. Hold on. I’m pulling up of the top now.
Mary Annaise Heglar She’s not in the top three, that’s all I need.
Amy Westervelt So I know for sure.
Mary Annaise Heglar I mean, look, I. I know that.
Amy Westervelt Not in the top three.
Mary Annaise Heglar Their private jets. I really do. Oh.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. So, yeah, the reason I’m bringing this up is not because it’s kind of fun to poke fun at Taylor Swift. Which, of course it is. But please, Taylor Swift, people don’t get mad at me. I’m sorry.
Mary Annaise Heglar Just to be very clear, it is Amy who is coming for.
Amy Westervelt It was all my friends.
Mary Annaise Heglar If Amy, who’s coming for Taytay, not me. All right? I’m disappoint. I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed Taylor.
Amy Westervelt Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals to tribute. Most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect. This is the statement that Taylor Swift’s publicist sent to Insider. The point here is that having a private jet is just totally unnecessary. I honestly feel like of all of the conversations around not flying or flying less related to climate, this just seems like the easiest thing to get rid of. Like, why have we not just banned private jets at this point? This is the type of individual action that actually is a really big problem. These are heavy, heavy emissions and they’re completely unnecessary. You know, like there’s no you cannot make any argument that’s like. But I really needed like, it’s not a medical emergency. It’s not like oh, you know, my family lives far away and I need to see them sometimes. You know, they’re there are like, I think, reasonable justifications for some people to fly sometimes, right? Maybe maybe people are required to travel for work, all of that stuff. This is ridiculous.
Mary Annaise Heglar 17 minute flight. A 17 minute flight, because that also makes me think of the time that, you know, their Malibu, the Kardashian Malibu home was being threatened by the wildfires and they got private fire, firefighters to protect their home.
Amy Westervelt That’s right. That’s becoming more and more of a thing in in Southern California, in particular
Mary Annaise Heglar Of course it is. On that show we crashed, about We Work like, oh, you know, the wife was all about like we absolutely have to make sure We Work is completely vegan now because now we have the the private jet, we have to offset our emissions. And I don’t know if they put that in as a joke.
Amy Westervelt Yes. That’s like a classic.
Mary Annaise Heglar Or what?
Amy Westervelt Well, I mean, I think it was a joke. It was like I thought I thought that was like a pretty smart critique of like how people think about these things. Because just to like put it in some numbers, private jet trips, were responsible for almost 34 million metric tons of carbon pollution in 2016. I’m sure it’s only gone up since there. That’s more than some countries emit in an entire year. So an entire country worth of emissions just from private jet trips. And we’re talking about like a pretty small group of people, right? Like how many people have private jets and what not so.
Mary Annaise Heglar 1%.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I think to me, I was like, oh, this is a really good example of this thing that I thought the last IPCC report did really well, which is point out the fact that when we’re talking about individual actions versus systemic change, it’s important to again, inject some nuance into that conversation and remember that the wealthiest people in the world, their individual actions, especially when it’s stuff like taking a private jet everywhere, actually do have a major impact. You know, and like there are ways in which those kinds of individual actions actually really impact the larger problem, but also the systemic options that are available to people you know, like if Kylie Jenner was like, you know what? Actually, I’m not going to take my private jet anymore because I’m so concerned about climate change that could actually have like a pretty huge ripple effect on just how people even think about, you know, emissions. And climate change and whatever. But yeah, it’s I have to say it’s been a delight to read about all of this stuff. It’s very entertaining and like just kind of ridiculous to hear how some folks try to explain away these these ridiculous trips. The 17 minute Camarido to Van Nuys thing is just I mean, she probably just didn’t want to sit in traffic you know.
Mary Annaise Heglar Kylie. They could never live in Mississippi, I’ll tell you that, because a 17 minute flight to go 45 minute drive, like this that’s running to the store, a 45 minute drive is running to the store for us.
Amy Westervelt I know. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar She couldn’t cut it.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. Yeah. No. Ridiculous. Ridiculous. Yes. All right, Mary, it’s been a few weeks since we had a good billionaire burn, but I have one for you.
Mary Annaise Heglar I cannot wait.
Amy Westervelt The billionaire burn. Everyone’s favorite fascist, Peter Thiel.
Mary Annaise Heglar Okay. Can I make one quick confession? So every time someone says the name Peter Thiel, I picture Frank Luntz. And I know intellectually that they are different people.
Amy Westervelt They kind of look alike.
Mary Annaise Heglar They they don’t look alike. I just look them up right before we started recording, I was like, nope, different person, totally different face, whole different person.
Amy Westervelt I always think whenever I see stories circulating about Peter Thiel, I just think about Silicon Valley, the the HBO show, because like he’s the the inspiration for for one of the characters on there. And it’s just like so it seems so just like dead on. He has complained about how he’s portrayed in that show. But oh but it seems very accurate to me based on everything I’ve ever read about him. Anyway, Peter Thiel, for those who don’t know is like a Silicon Valley gazillionaire who made lots and lots of money in tech. He has invested in lots of different things. He has been a like a venture capitalist for a really long time. He’s a well-known libertarian tech guy. So he has, yeah, that that whole that whole universe. And then like for a really long time, he was sort of the classic libertarian, which is like socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Oh, he also people might know him also for taking down Gawker. So Gawker basically outed Peter Thiel, which was not cool. You know, I think everyone can agree it’s uncool for people to do that. But his retaliation was to basically fund Hulk Hogan filing a lawsuit against Gawker which financially bankrupted the company and took them out for good. And I believe wasn’t the Hogan thing like about some kind of sex tape too?
Mary Annaise Heglar Yes it was about a sex tape there’s a whole documentary about it on Netflix is it’s crazy. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Yes. It is really crazy. Really crazy. So anyway, Peter Thiel likes to take down his enemies, which, you know, respect. But.
Mary Annaise Heglar I mean, when you put that type of power into a libertarian tech bro, which I think we’re all kind of learning, is just, you know, the polite way of saying fascism in the making, you know, like.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, exactly. I feel like people outside of California especially were very surprised when he became a huge Trump backer in the 2016 election and beyond. But I think I don’t know. For me, I was like, yeah, that tracks like if you know those people. You know that they totally would back someone like Trump.
Mary Annaise Heglar Where where does Peter Thiel come down on climate change like? Does he feel like it’s real? But it’s really far in the future and therefore not our problem and we can geo engineer our way out of it or like where does he?
Amy Westervelt There was a story a couple of years ago about like this guy wrote in, I want to say The Believer Magazine about how it wasn’t a matter of like utopia versus dystopia. He was predicting a climate feudalism where like the wealthiest few basically like enslaved the rest of us and kept all the resources for themselves. And that is like the world that Peter Thiel. I think is like imagining himself being very powerful in. So like it’s real and he’s going to capitalize on it.
Mary Annaise Heglar I see. I see. So let me guess. He’s got a bunker?
Amy Westervelt He’s got a bunker in New Zealand. Yes, he does.
Mary Annaise Heglar Of course he does.
Amy Westervelt Yes.
Mary Annaise Heglar Remember, in the early days of the pandemic, all of these, like super rich people were going to like they had bought bunkers long time ago, quietly, nobody knew. And then they went to live in their bunkers during the pandemic.
Amy Westervelt Yes. Yes. I think he did that at like one point in the pandemic. Yeah. He’s very strange on the climate front. Trump gave him a taste for these populist politicians. And now he’s backing a bunch of of people in different state races. So the two that he’s really spent a ton of money on are Arizona and Ohio. He’s backing J.D. Vance, everyone’s favorite fake working class guy in Ohio. And he’s he’s backing a guy named Blake Masters in Arizona. And they’re both like, I don’t know. I mean, J.D. Vance, I feel like kind of feels a bit more Trumpian, you know, like he’s he seems like he’s just kind of out for himself. Like, he just he’s just like, we’ll say whatever to get power and money, you know? Blake Masters is like a total fascist. And and that’s the stuff that that really I think is concerning about Peter Thiel. It’s not just that he like wants power and money. He has said over and. Over again. He thinks that democracy is a bad idea. He says that out loud. Like he’s been saying it for like a decade. You know, like he’s very in with the sort of, like, Heritage Foundation and people who are like actually Democracy is is a mess. And actually there are some people that you really don’t want voting. Oh, yeah. He complains about women having the vote also, a thing to know about Peter Thiel. And he has, like, endless amounts of money. Right. And he’s getting involved in state politics now. And the other thing that he’s done recently, which is why he’s kind of like been making headlines again, is he has has backed a new investment fund, whose stated intention is to basically compete with like BlackRock and those kinds of funds, which Peter Thiel claims are too ideological and woke. Yes, exactly. Yeah. And therefore are not focused on the right thing, which is making money. And when it comes down to climate change, he’s like, if you know, like any investment fund should, their only focus should be getting money in the hands of their shareholders. And if that’s your focus, then you should be all in on fossil fuels. And like, who cares about climate change. Which I don’t even think makes financial sense, actually. Above and beyond all of the other reasons that, you know we would we would be opposed that idea. I don’t think BlackRock started to care about climate out of like you know, wokeness or the goodness of their hearts are like, yeah, wanting to appear enlightened or any of these things. Like I think they looked at it and were like, Oh, financially this is not going to pan out, right? Peter Thiel’s argument is like, you should be making as much as you can off of fossil fuels in the short term and then you know, transition. He kind of has his money and yeah, in like a variety of of things. Like he’s not opposed to clean tech. He’s just like, why wouldn’t you also make money off of fossil fuels, you know? And he’s kind of like, you know, investment funds should be politically and ideologically agnostic and you should just, like, be investing in whatever. And, you know actually, this this whole idea for this fund came about in part as a response to the hedge fund that got seats on Exxon’s board with the intention of like getting Exxon to move away from fossil fuels. So they were just like, oh, this like this like shareholder activism thing has gone too far and you know, ESG. So environmental, social and governance investing has gone too far. And it’s like it’s ideological and it’s not about making money. You know, I don’t I think there’s a lot of problems with ESG, actually. So I’m not like a huge ESG stan, but I mean, I think you have to be pretty far right and pretty conservative to think that the investment world has gone too far on climate. Like, okay, they’re still funding like every fossil fuel development. So I don’t know. Yeah. Anyway, so. Yeah. Peter Thiel. Really creepy, scary guy. I hope he gets a bad batch of blood from one of his blood boys someday. Just.
Mary Annaise Heglar I’m kind of scared of someone like that becoming a Republican kingmaker. Right. Like I remember just thinking back to previous Republican presidential cycles, the people who, like, had candidates in the race were like Sheldon Adelson.
Amy Westervelt Yes.
Mary Annaise Heglar Like all of these other, like, really gross old Republican billionaires. Peter Thiel ain’t old.
Amy Westervelt No.
Mary Annaise Heglar And he’s just as dangerous.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar You know, I think we used to have this really comforting idea. There was the old white man that we needed to worry about, but those old white men were young at some point, and they were people like Peter Thiel and they just like kept their money and kept putting it into politics.
Amy Westervelt I think he’s way scarier because he’s also like like he is like similar to Steve Bannon. In like that kind of mindset of like apocalyptic things are an opportunity like and and like that, you know, very much this like just a thought exercise. What if no democracy? Like, he’s super comfortable.
Mary Annaise Heglar Im just asking questions.
Amy Westervelt I’m just asking questions. Yeah, I’m just. I’m just just spitballing here.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt What’s democracy ever done for us? Has certainly hasn’t made us more money, hasn’t made us safer. You know what I mean? Like, he’ll like he’s very comfortable having those conversations and in a way that, like, even Trump is like that comfortable having, you know, like, at least in public, the fact that he’s so comfortable saying this shit, like, why did we ever give women the vote? It’s just like, what? Okay, like.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, yeah. Anyway, yeah. That’s it. Peter Thiel. A gross and disturbing guy who I hope crashes on a rocket one day.
Mary Annaise Heglar Heart. Same or at least, you know, goes into the bunker and stays there.
Amy Westervelt Never comes back. Oh, yeah, that’d be good. What if, like, something went wrong with, like, the oxygen in the bunker? Just spitballing. Just a thought exercise.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, my God. Oh, my God. On that note that’s it, for Hot Take this week, folks, come back next week when Amy has been censored within an inch of her life. Happy August. Bye.
Amy Westervelt Thought exercise. Just a thought exercise.
Mary Annaise Heglar I’m just asking questions. Hot Take is a Crooked Media production.
Amy Westervelt It’s produced by Ray Peng and mixed and edited by Juels Bradley. Our music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos. Thimali Kodakara is our consulting producer and our executive producers are Mary Annaise Heglar, Michael Martinez and me, Amy Westervelt.
Mary Annaise Heglar Special thanks to Sandy Girard, Ari Schwartz, Kyle Seglin, and Charlotte Landes for production support and to Amelia Montooth for digital support.
Amy Westervelt You can follow the show on Twitter @RealHotTake Sign up for our newsletter at Hot Take Pod dot com and subscribe to Crooked Media video channel at YouTube.com/CrookedMedia.