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Who Is Refusing to Back the Green New Deal? Follow the Fossil Fuel Money

"The Green New Deal is our generation's last and best hope at avoiding climate catastrophe in our lifetimes. Any politician with a conscience will stand up to the fossil fuel lobby and co-sponsor this resolution."

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks as Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) (R) and other Congressional Democrats listen during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Sen. Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez held a news conference to unveil their Green New Deal resolution. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

With advocates in the midst of a nationwide blitz to pressure lawmakers to commit fully to the vision of a Green New Deal, a new analysis shows that if you want to see where members of the U.S. Senate stand on the issue the best place to start might just be their campaign finance records.

"If your greatest fear at this point is that the Green New Deal is too ambitious, you're not just on the wrong side of history; you’re on the wrong side of humanity." —Marko Marcetic, Jacobin

As Huffpost's Alexander C. Kaufman reports on Thursday:

The 12 senators co-sponsoring the Green New Deal resolution that Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) unveiled earlier this month have accepted nearly $1.1 million from oil, gas and coal companies since entering Congress.

But the 88 senators who have declined to support the measure have collected far more from those industries ― close to $59 million, according to nonprofit Oil Change International, which analyzed 30 years of data. That comes out to about $670,000 per nonbacker, or more than 7 times what the average sponsor took in.

The disparity illustrates what advocates say is a glaring conflict of interest for lawmakers deciding how to move forward on the only proposal yet to emerge that matches the scale of the climate crisis. The donations come from the powerful, deep-pocketed industry with the most to lose from any policy that restricts the sources of planet-warming emissions.

While members of the Republican Party, which largely continues to deny the very existence of the climate crisis, are unsurprisingly opposed to the Green New Deal—a concept the envisions a massive  energy transition that would drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions while creating a massive jobs program and a more equitable economy—reluctance by members of the Democratic Party is what continues to concern proponents of the deal.

According to Kaufman, he based his analysis of fossil fuel industry donations on publicly available filings dating back to 1989 made available by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks such data. The figures, he explained, included donations from both corporate political action committees from the oil, coal, and gas sectors as well as individuals who work in those those industries who gave $200 or more.

In response to the analysis, the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led organization that is part of the grassroots groundswell backing the Green New Deal resolution—put forth in the House by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and in the Senate by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)— said: "It's no surprise that some of the most vocal opponents to the in Congress are some of the individuals who have taken the most money from oil and gas CEOs + lobbyists."

Not waiting for lawmakers to get there on their own, Sunrise and other groups are continuing a massive lobbying blitz of lawmakers ahead of vote in the Senate on its version of the resolution that has been "cynically" called by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican from Kentucky.

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While The Hill on Thursday ran a top headline saying, "Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal," those who have internalized the warnings from the scientific community argue there should be nothing tough about it.

In a column in Jacobin on Thursday, staff writer Branko Marcetic warns that while "liberals and conservatives alike love to decry AOC's Green New Deal as 'unrealistic,'" the thing that's truly "unrealistic is continuing on the path of denial and incrementalism" that has been, and remains, the status quo.

"If the Green New Deal really is 'unrealistic,' then it’s a vision fit for its time," Marcetic writes. "What is more unrealistic than the decades we've spent treating the natural world on which our lives depend as a bottomless garbage dump? Or the way we've siloed the issue of the environment, on which our entire economic system rests, from issues of economy and society? Is it more unrealistic than the idea, widely accepted for years by sober, serious experts, that we can base our entire economic system on digging up and consuming more and more of the Earth's finite resources forever?"

In a comment to the HuffPost, David Turnbull of Oil Change International said one of the reasons that congressional co-sponsors of the resolution have been able to act with ambition is because they "by and large bucked the influence of the out-of-control fossil fuel industry, and that shows in their willingness to stand up for bold climate solutions like what we see in the Green New Deal resolutions."

And as Marcetic concludes, "If your greatest fear at this point is that the Green New Deal is too ambitious, you're not just on the wrong side of history; you’re on the wrong side of humanity."

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