James Carville, one of the sharper Democratic consultants to come around in several generations, reminded Bill Clinton’s campaign staff that among the three things on which they needed to focus one was: “The Economy, Stupid.” This morphed into the expression “It’s the economy, stupid.” It has become abundantly clear that the message of the present White House administration, along with their Republican party enablers and a few Democrats from fossil fuel-dependent states (like Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota), is that “It’s the fossil fuels, stupid.”
I wrote in the wake of Trump’s decision to jettison the Paris Climate Accord that:
There is no rationale for the US abandoning the Paris Agreement other than as a sop to the fossil fuel interests – including Russia and Saudi Arabia (hmm) – and red meat for dead enders who haven’t yet figured out that Trump has well snookered them. For an update on the fact that the fingerprints of the Kochs are all over this decision, see Jane Mayer’s post at The New Yorker: In the Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, The Koch Brothers’ Campaign Becomes Overt.
Let me put a few dots out there in the pointillist nightmare that is, day by day, becoming something that might be entitled “Treason for the Carbon Special Interests.” It has become quite clear that the Russians have had Donald Trump under their influence, if not virtual total control – think The Manchurian Candidate – for some time. There has been reporting going back years but which is coming into sharper focus now that shows how dependent the Trump organization has been on Russian money. See this excellent recent article at The New Republic for quite a few of the important ins and outs of this relationship: Trump’s Russian Laundromat, and a documentary from Holland, The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump.
But you have to ask yourself what have the Russians got that they need the world to keep using to keep their economy alive? Simple: oil and gas. So Russia needs to keep the world guzzling hydrocarbons and any way to effect that outcome, for a kleptocracy owned by gangsters and run by spooks, is going to be pursued. Thus Putin and the Russians used their tried and true tactic of kompromat on Trump. They have found him an excellent tool for their agenda. Even if they cannot reverse the sanctions imposed as a result of their human rights abuses and their violations of international law in the Crimea and in Ukraine because even the morally deficient Republicans in Congress find their actions repugnant, the Russians can help keep the gas and oil flowing by slowing down the progress of the world toward decarbonization, whenever, wherever and however they can. And, if they have compromised and/or bought off Trump and his people, they have a real good friend with lots of ways to keep carbon burning.
The Saudis seem to wield their influence by spending money on Trump’s properties. So, have they bought him off? One seasoned commentator at least, Fareed Zakaria, thinks that Trump has been, at best, duped by the Saudis.
In a wonderful scene from a 1980 movie, The Formula, an oil company mogul – who reminds me a lot of Charles Koch – explains to one of his minions that “We are the Arabs.” To me that has always meant what’s good for the oil industry, whether it’s ExxonMobil, Aramco or Rosneft, is always paramount. The blood spilled in wars, the climate crippled, the governments destabilized by corruption, the economies wrecked by price volatility, and human rights crushed by kleptocratic mafias are all secondary. Really, these things are utterly immaterial to the special interests. (Fun fact: Fred Koch, who started the family business, first built oil refineries for Stalin in the early 1930s, then pivoted to Hitler. Koch built one of the key refineries that supplied aviation fuel for the Luftwaffe.)
This brings me to The Last Battle of the Fossil Lobby, an excellent analysis of the Trump speech pulling out of the Paris Accord, just published by the sustainability think tank, Germanwatch. One of the money quotes is this:
No one should take it lightly that the most important world power is waging the last battle for the fossil fuel lobby. But the arguments Trump used in his speech are grossly misguiding his own citizens and world society. Such false arguments will prove to be short-lived. Ultimately, they show how desperate the struggle of the fossil lobby must be already. [my emphasis]
You can find the entire report here. It highlights what Jane Mayer wrote in her New Yorker article and further details the influence of Koch associates in the new carbon-crazed regime in Washington. The Germanwatch analysis fairly shreds the arguments made by Trump in June.
I wrote about the Four Horsemen of the Trump oil/gas/coal Apocalypse here in January. Rex Tillerson, for the love of Pete, is a longtime business partner of Putin and his government. Is Tillerson interested in working with other governments in decarbonizing our economies? What do you think? Meanwhile, every participant in the recent G20 meeting, accept the United States, strongly re-affirmed the principles of the Paris Accord. In Washington, Scott Pruitt at EPA, Ryan Zinke at Interior, and Rick Perry at DOE are enlisting the Koch connections and other carbon zealots to radically undermine public health and environmental protection laws that have been on the books for decades, as well as doing what they can every day to eviscerate the smart, economically sound, job-producing policies on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean tech initiatives that Barack Obama and his administration labored so long and hard to implement. It’s not madness, though. That’s the hell of it. It’s simply all about the bottom lines for the oil, gas and coal interests.
Memo to Robert Mueller: Please don’t forget to connect the dots on Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Kochs, the Trumps and the massive assault on American democracy, not to mention the climate system and the public health, waged by the fossil fuel interests.