Bipartisan Pushback Against Villainizing Industry at Anti-Fossil Fuel Conference

Just when we thought anti-fossil fuel activists couldn’t marginalize themselves any further, former Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Bill Ritter (D-CO) – key figures in the climate change movement – pushed back against their extreme rhetoric at the After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy” conference, which was held at Oberlin College last weekend.  EID was on the ground at the conference, reporting each day on appearances by co-founder and #ExxonKnew proponent Bill McKibben and San Francisco billionaire activist Tom Steyer.

On the Saturday panel, Steyer said that oil companies “like making hundreds of billions of dollars. They would like to continue doing it and they are going to push back.” But former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger disagreed with this demonization of the industry, noting that the climate movement needs to be “inclusive” and should not “villainize the oil companies.” As Schwarzenegger put it,

And I think the important thing also is to be always inclusive. It doesn’t help if you villainize the oil companies. […] I think the key thing is that you need to bring them in and make them understand that they should diversify with their investments. Not just their investments in oil but to invest in green energy because this will be the energy of the future. And it will be a smart investment for them also. But, just attacking them and just villainizing them alone is not going to bring them in because they will feel they are on the other side and they will fight and all those things. So you can fight them and you can also negotiate with them and I was always in the belief that the more we bring everyone in and the more we make everyone part of the crusade, the more and the faster we can win this crusade.”

Former Democratic Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who has even been credited with coining the phrase, “new energy economy,” also talked about the importance of collaboration with the energy industry, saying he has a big difference of opinion with McKibben, who also spoke at the conference. As Ritter said,

So it is really interesting to have been here for the last few days, or couple days and especially to have heard the presentation last night by Bill McKibben and some of the presentations made this morning because I would say that I do come at this from a bit of a different orientation […] I’ve chosen this place of policy, and it’s interesting to think about Bill McKibben’s remarks last night and what I call empowering toward the need for speed and to being dedicated to trying to change things through the policy lens. It’s a difficult, difficult thing to do. I hosted a seminar at Colorado State University last week, we had a former chief economist from BP, Christof Rühl, who was part of it because we believe in never having echo-chambers to try and get people of diverse thought to really have the hard discussions.”

Therefore it’s no surprise that Bill McKibben kicked off the conference telling the audience that his anti-fossil fuel agenda was “not completely popular” with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. As he said,

“If Hillary Clinton wins the White House the democratic platform, which thanks to Bernie, I got to help write, he got to name five of the fifteen platform writers and by hanging tough, he made sure that a lot of what we wanted managed to make its way in. Well one of the things that’s in there is a promise that there will be an emergency climate summit within the first 100 days of the new administration  with an eye toward a mobilization like World War II to get us going. I will tell you that this was not completely popular with the people who were negotiating for the Clinton team, but they went along with it and I’m sure they will hold it.”

The “Keep-It-In-The-Ground,” #ExxonKnew movement is so extreme that even at their own conferences, climate change leaders such as Governors Schwarzenegger and Ritter have had to push back. As President Obama put it about their anti-fossil fuel goals in an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio, “we’ve got to live in the real world” – clearly these activists don’t.

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