What is Hell?
Nation's biggest banker has some thoughts--scientists and Ukrainians would disagree
The head of the World Bank got a lot of attention (and rightly so) this week for refusing to answer the simple question of whether global warming was real. But that was only the second most incendiary thing a banker said in public this week; first place goes to Jamie Dimon, CEO of the vastly larger JP Morgan Chase bank (by market cap, the biggest bank that the earth has ever seen). He told a Congressional panel, with great bravado, that Chase had no plans at all to stop lending for the expansion of the oil and gas industry, and that in fact such a plan would be that would be “the road to hell for America.”
Interesting phrasing, that.
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In the first place, if there’s one thing that science has made abundantly clear it’s that continuing to burn huge quantities of oil and gas (Dimon specified that the world, far from cutting emissions in half by 2030, should produce at least 100 million barrels a day for the next decade, an increase on current production) will raise the planet’s temperature till it resembles—well, hell. That is to say, it will be too hot for human survival across wide swaths of the planet, something that is already happening. Here’s a bit of Matthew Bosson’s account of what life was like in China this summer, during what may have been the most anomalous and extended heatwave in human history:
Chickens died or struggled to lay eggs, pigs were hosed down by fire trucks to keep them cool and Sichuan’s famed pandas lay on blocks of ice. People hoisted food to their apartments using buckets and ropes because the power blackouts had left elevators idled. Some simply fled to underground tunnels to stay cool.
As long as we’re on the topic of banks and their links to hell, here’s an account of what sounds like classic hell in the Russian prison camps where Ukrainain POWs were housed these last months:
“It was a nasty time with much pain and torture,” said Mathias Gustavsson, a Swedish national and Ukrainian Azov Regiment soldier who was among the 10 foreigners released from Russian captivity this week
Captured by Russian forces while serving in defense of the Azovstal steel factory redoubt in Mariupol, Gustavsson described his captors as “pure sadist psychos.”
In fact, here’s a before and after picture of one soldier.
I bring these sad stories and images up because at the same hearings where Dimon was demanding ever more oil and gas, he was also refusing to say whether or not his bank was lending to Russian oil and gas companies. Razom, the remarkable group of Ukrainian activists working to end both the climate crisis and the Russian invasion, have made clear that they indeed are:
Citi provides loans, bond issuance, and revolving credit to Russian oil and gas giants Lukoil and Gazprom and the trading company Vitol. HSBC holds shares in Lukoil, Tatneft, Novatek, Gazprom and Rosneft. JPMorgan invested billions in Putin's oil and gas and holds high stakes in Gazprom, Lukoil, Sberbank and Rosneft.
(Dimon told Congress that Chase didn’t precisely own a share of Sberbank, but “it’s in a mutual fund somewhere." That’s nice. California Congressman Brad Sherman made clear that the bank was continuing to fund Russian oil and gas.)
Anyway, as Razom points out, “by maintaining ties to Russian oil and gas, these banks continue the war and genocide in Ukraine, as export of oil and gas provides more than 40% of the income of the federal budget of Russia.” Razom—led by the wonderful Svitlana Romanko, who this newsletter collaborated with on the Heat Pumps for Peace campaign—asks that you sign this petition for a full Western embargo on Russian oil and gas and that you push big Western players, including BlackRock, to get the heck out of the 40 giant “carbon bomb” projects planned for Russia.
Let’s be brutally clear here, since it’s easy to get lost in a lot of obfuscation. The four big US banks—Chase, Citi, Wells-Fargo and Bank of America—are also the four biggest oil and gas lenders in the world. They—followed closely by big Canadian banks—are the money lifeline to the industry that is overheating the planet and underwriting Russian fascism.
A year ago, at the Glasgow climate summit, there was a good deal of hoo-hah from the world’s banks—including these four—about joining the Global Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), a banking alliance designed to begin weaning the world off fossil fuels. There was plenty of concern then that this was greenwashing by these guys, and so it now appears: as GFANZ has begun to roll out some modest steps towards actual change for its members, the American banks are threatening to quit. As the FT reported this week
The banks’ biggest concern is over strict targets on phasing out coal, oil and gas introduced over the summer by the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, a UN-led net zero standard-setting body that accredits pledges made by Carney’s alliance.
As Richard Brooks of StandEarth pointed out, their claims that they want to leave the alliance for “legal reasons” are a sham—instead, they can’t conduct business as usual with even modest reforms. So they're choosing business as usual. And as Brooks also makes clear, their real peril may come from leaving, after all their ostentatious promises. “If banks do not meet the targets they have announced or follow the climate strategy they have communicated, they expose themselves to litigation and reputational risks,” a top supervisor of the European Central Bank said last week.
At any rate, this is the backdrop for the ramped-up campaign to get Americans to cut up their credit cards and start putting pressure on these financial giants. The road to hell—literal hot, torturing hell—is paved with their bad intentions.
In other news from around the world of climate and energy:
+Momentum seems to be building in the fight against Joe Manchin’s side deal that would, among other things, force approval of the MVP pipeline. A great civil disobedience action midweek ended with the arrest of the executive directors of 13 green groups. Feeds to follow as the action heats up this week: Climate Justice Alliance, People vs. Fossil Fuels, and the Appalachia-based POWHR. A real turning point came when Tim Kaine, the West Virginia Senator who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate, came out strongly against Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s plan to ram this deal through. If you want to really get a grasp of why it’s such a bad idea, here’s an easy twitter thread from Abbie Dillen, president of Earth Justice.
+Very strategic essay from Tom Hoy about how oil refineries make good targets for organizing campaigns
In the midst of the climate emergency, we need to look for the most effective use of movement resources to end fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The wariness of investors to finance necessary repairs make refineries a critical strategic vulnerability. Every refinery closed will likely never reopen. Every refinery closed can be an end to part of the vast fossil fuel apparatus destroying our planet.
+EV sales are booming—the Wall Street Journal reported that five of the six top-selling cars in July were electrics or plug-in hybrids. That’s happening faster than car companies anticipated, which is leading to some delays in delivery. But as a funny essay from Jack Ewing in the NYTimes points out, you can now drive them into some of the most remote parts of the continent without worry about finding a charger
I made it home safely, having driven more than 1,000 miles and spent 63.79 Canadian dollars, or about $48, on charging, about a third of what gasoline would have cost me. I did not see any moose and am not planning to take up bow hunting, but if I were so inclined I know now that I could reach the stalking grounds emission free.
Electric planes appear to be coming pretty quickly too.
A handful of airlines, including United, Mesa and Air Canada have started putting orders in for a battery-operated aircraft called the Heart Aerospace ES-30. The Swedish-made four-propeller, battery-powered plane seats up to 30 people and could fly short-haul routes such as Palm Springs to Los Angeles or Denver to Aspen without emitting any carbon. It’s slated to be in the air by 2028.
+If you’re depressed by people like these central bankers and want to know if there’s a world leader worth following, I recommend UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He continues to relentlessly tell the truth, and in surprisingly undiplomatic terms.
“Our world is addicted to fossil fuels. It’s time for an intervention. We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account.
"That includes the banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution. And it includes the massive public relations machine raking in billions to shield the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny.
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