Coal vs. Wall Street – The New York Times

Climate change is not a partisan issue in many countries. Both right-wing and left-wing parties favor policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even though they dispute the specifics of these policies. This consensus has enabled the European Union to significantly reduce its emissions over the past decades, as the threat of global warming has become clearer.

In the United States, of course, the climate is a partisan issue. Almost all elected Democrats support actions that slow climate change. Almost no Republicans in key decision-making positions — including members of Congress and Republican Supreme Court appointees — support these policies.

Today, the Times publishes an article that examines another part of this question, at the state level. I’ll pass the rest of today’s newsletter lead article to my colleague David Gelles, who wrote the story.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, corporate America has been increasingly embroiled in the nation’s culture wars. Big companies – like Google and Coca-Cola – decided they needed to take a stand on issues like immigration, climate change, gun laws and voting rights.

Corporate America’s positions on these issues have been an attempt to reflect the values ​​of its employees and customers, many of whom are younger and live in major metropolitan areas. As a result, these corporate positions have generally aligned with those of the Democratic Party, leading to a bit of twisting from Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, at one point warned corporations to “stay out of politics,” and other conservatives scoffed at “woke capitalism.”

Recently, Republican officials have also begun to find ways to fight back. This year, Florida lawmakers stripped Disney of special tax status because the company opposed a new education law that opponents are calling “Don’t Say Gay.” But perhaps the party’s biggest effort has received relatively little attention so far: Republican state treasurers are taking action to punish companies they say are focusing unduly on issues. environmental.

Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, used a new state law to ban five Wall Street companies, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, from doing business with the state because, a he said, the companies were distancing themselves from the coal industry.

Similar bans are likely underway elsewhere. Lawmakers in a handful of other states, including Kentucky and Oklahoma, have already passed laws that resemble West Virginia’s. In a dozen other states, lawmakers are working on similar bills.

Three state treasurers also withdrew a total of $700 million from investment funds managed by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, over objections to its stance on environmental issues.

These efforts to penalize corporations are part of a broader push by Republican treasurers to promote fossil fuels and thwart climate action at the federal and state levels. Treasurers work together with a network of conservative groups linked to the fossil fuel industry, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute.

When I spoke with Moore, he framed his efforts to punish Wall Street corporations as a way to protect the livelihoods of West Virginians. If the banks don’t want to do business with the coal companies, he said, why should he do business with them?

In response, the banks say that coal is a bad investment and that all industries are going to have to deal with climate change. Bank officials add that they still do a lot of business with oil and gas companies.

Yet these battles bring the United States closer to a world of red marks and blue marks, in which politics will come to affect parts of life that once seemed separate from it. People on both sides of the aisle fear things have gone too far.

“I don’t like the idea that if you’re a Republican, you have to do business with this company, and if you’re a Democrat, you have to do business with this company,” said Noah Friend, a Republican lawyer who previously has a worked for the Kentucky Treasurer, one of the officials trying to stop climate action. “We already have a lot of divisions in this country.”

But it seems unlikely that the trend will end anytime soon. For Democrats and Republicans, the substance of these fights — over climate, civil rights, religious liberty and more — tends to matter more than the abstract principle that not everything should be partisan.

You can read my story, which includes details on the many ways Republican treasurers promote fossil fuels, here.

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