Analysis | Jane Fonda is taking on Big Oil’s political allies

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Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Today we’re reading about how climate change is altering wine “with notes of Band-Aid and medicine.” 

Today at 10 a.m. Eastern, the Supreme Court could rule in West Virginia v. EPA, a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency‘s authority to cut carbon emissions from power plants. But first:

Jane Fonda is taking on Big Oil’s political allies

Actress Jane Fonda has had a long and storied career as an activist, from marching against the Vietnam War in the 1970s to protesting the government’s inaction on climate change on the steps of the Capitol two years ago.

Now Fonda, 84, is launching a political action committee to oust lawmakers — including some moderate Democrats — who she says have helped the fossil fuel industry block efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

The Jane Fonda Climate PAC has raised about $1.2 million to support candidates at the federal, state and local level who refuse to accept donations from the oil, gas and coal industries. On Monday, the PAC will endorse Donna F. Edwards in her comeback bid to win her old seat in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.

Fonda spoke with The Climate 202 about her latest political endeavors on Saturday from Italy, where she is filming the movie “Book Club 2: The Next Chapter.” The following Q&A has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity:

Climate 202: Why did you decide to start a climate PAC?

Fonda: There are so many issues before us right now, obviously. And I care about all of them, including the right to a safe, legal abortion and gun safety. But arching over everything — it’s not called the existential threat for nothing — is the climate crisis. If we can’t do something about that, everything else is going to be very, very difficult.

And we’re running out of time to stem the climate crisis. We have less than eight years to cut our carbon emissions in half, according to climate scientists. That’s just four election cycles. So this moment calls for agile, aggressive action, and we’re ready to provide it. 

Climate 202: In a closely watched primary in Texas, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) beat Jessica Cisneros, whom you endorsed, by 289 votes. Could Cisneros’s supporters have done anything differently, and would you support Cisneros if she runs again in two years?

Fonda: I’ve been out of the country during her campaign, but it’s a big loss. Ask [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi how she can find it in her to back a candidate who is pro-fossil fuels and anti-women’s right to choose. Henry Cuellar is all of these bad things.

It’s hard to say what the landscape will look like in two years. But if it looks like it does now and she still wants to run, then we would be totally behind her. And I would be in the country, so I would be able to work harder to help her get support.

Climate 202: You’ve been critical of moderate Democrats with financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. Are you particularly concerned about the role of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who has earned millions from a family coal company, in opposing Democrats’ climate and social spending bill?

Fonda: He is rich because of coal. He supports coal. And he may go down in history as being one of the biggest villains because of what he has prevented from happening.

Now, to play in the Senate arena for a new PAC like ours is too much. We can’t put in enough money right now. We will eventually, but right now we can’t.

Climate 202: Do you share some climate activists’ disappointment that President Biden has issued more permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands than President Donald Trump?

Fonda: I am sickened by that, especially since I believe he understands what’s at stake. He promised during his campaign that he would not allow any more drilling and fracking on public lands. So it’s very, very disappointing.

But he’s better than what could be. And I believe he can be pressured to do what’s right. That’s why the midterm elections are so, so critical. We have to fight with everything we have to pressure him and to back climate champions. And we have to make it very clear to Biden that if he intends to run again, he’s going to have to get better on climate.

Climate 202: What would you say to liberals who share your disappointment in Democrats’ record on climate?

Fonda: Yes, you’re disappointed. Yes, you realize how much more could’ve been done. But sitting out this midterm means that instead of fighting moderate Democrats, we’re going to be fighting Republicans who believe the election was stolen because of a “big lie.” Which would you rather have?

Climate 202: You reportedly drank a “No Fossil Fuel Mule” at a movie screening last year. Could you share the recipe?

Fonda: Freshly squeezed lime juice, ginger beer and carbon capture vodka

Alaskan village could hold the key to Biden’s climate policy

The Biden administration is set to make a crucial decision on ConocoPhillips’s Willow project in Alaska’s North Slope, which includes hundreds of miles of roads and pipelines in the middle of the nation’s largest block of public land, as the federal government balances more drilling with environmental concerns amid an ongoing energy crisis, The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow reports. 

Last year, a federal judge blocked construction permits for Willow that were approved during the Trump administration, ruling that the government failed to assess how burning the oil pulled from the ground would warm the planet.

But now, the Interior Department‘s Bureau of Land Management will soon complete an environmental review of the project. The decision will come after a gas leak at another ConocoPhillips plant forced residents in a nearby village to evacuate their homes.

Environmentalists warn that Willow’s climate impact could be catastrophic, as it could unlock 3 billion barrels of oil, potentially derailing President Biden’s goal to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030. But proponents of Willow contend it would bolster domestic energy production, saying that failing to approve the project would allow oil to be drilled elsewhere in the world, probably under less stringent environmental rules.

Energy security concerns topple climate ambitions at G-7 summit

Leaders from the Group of Seven major industrial nations met on Sunday in Germany to kick off a three-day summit that is already testing countries’ commitments to tackling climate change amid an energy crunch sparked by the war in Ukraine. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Germany is pushing for the G-7 to reverse a May promise to end government financing of overseas fossil fuel projects by the end of the year, Alberto Nardelli, Chiara Albanese, and Jess Shankleman report for Bloomberg News. According to a draft of the proposal seen by Bloomberg, Germany is asking the rest of the G-7 countries to “acknowledge that publicly supported investment in the gas sector is necessary” as a temporary response to the current energy crisis in Europe. At the same time, the proposal said, any new funding for fossil fuel projects would need to be in line with climate objectives and “without lock-in effects.”
  • A possible price cap on Russian oil is also on the agenda, Sarah Marsh and Andreas Rinke report for Reuters. The proposal would allow European nations to import Russian crude oil, but only at a discounted price, in an effort to lower gasoline prices and undermine Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s oil revenue.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, one of the architects of the measure, has been privately telling world leaders that it would be one of the best options right now to minimize chances of a global recession, according to people familiar with the conversations, Katrin Bennhold and Jim Tankersley report for the New York Times. 

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