Don’t worry, helpless insurance companies: The Texas Legislature is here to protect you from big, bad environmentalists. A Texas state senator last week said during a panel discussion at a conference of a prominent climate denier think tank that the state legislature this year would focus on rolling out legislation to penalize insurance companies that attempt to divest from fossil fuels. The big goal is ESG, or environmental, social and governance, a strategy that companies can use to invest ethically.
During a panel discussion Last week at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s annual summit — creatively titled “ESG = Everyone’s Suffering Guaranteed” (lol, you guys! Lol!) — Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes lifted the curtain on upcoming legislation that would passed law in 2021 prohibiting Texas from doing business with financial institutions pursuing a pro-climate policy. This time, Hughes said, the legislature would target insurance companies that have similar policies.
“If they’re going to mess with money that belongs to Texas retirees and undermine the Texas economy itself, we’re going to teach them some manners,” Hughes declared, drawing applause and applause from the audience.
Those of you who have been following our coverage of Texas fossil fuel-friendly policies may recognize the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the source of some of the craziest pro-fossil fuel rhetoric in the Republican Party, including the idea that coal was responsible for ending slavery. It’s easy to laugh at TPPF and the downright insane things it pushes out. For example: Jason Isaacsa former Texan politician who now heads the energy arm of TPPF and moderated this particular panel, doubled down on the think tank’s rhetoric that fossil fuels lift people out of poverty, called the Paris Agreement “treason” and demanded “human rights tribunals” for people like Bill Gates and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for their work on climate.
But TPPF has proven to be a substantial force in Republican politics. The annual summits have been places for Republican powers-that-be to test the waters for rhetoric and review possible policies. And the extent of the think tank’s influence was evident last week. During the panel, Isaacs claimed that TPPF was responsible for the first draft of the anti-ESG bill that the Texas legislature passed in 2021. (The organization’s annual conference in January 2021 contained an early discussion on using legislation to counter ESG measures.) More than a dozen similar accounts have since passed or been proposed in state legislatures across the country, while the anti-ESG sentiment that is now a huge plank in the Republican Partywith TPPF-like talking points floated by potential presidential candidates like Ron DeSantis.
Never mind that last week’s panel discussion was full of holes, bad science, and logical fallacies. (During the panel, Hughes called a coal plant in his district “clean” and vowed to “do everything” [he] can stop any legislation that would provide economic subsidies for wind and solar energy.) And never mind that the insurance industry currently is see the consequences of climate change in real time and may even have a vested interest in keeping more people’s homes from being destroyed by storms and forest fires. It was clear from the discussion that the actual financial discussions about the pros or cons of ESG are not the goals of this policy and attitude; rather, it is to paint fossil fuels as the savior of the world.
During the panel’s Q&A, a man who identified himself as an oil and gas operator thanked the group for their work in fighting ESG policies.
“You’re helping the people of Texas, so thank you,” Hughes said.
“It’s people like you who are lifting the world out of poverty barrel by barrel,” Isaacs added.