Texas Is Coming for ‘Woke’ Insurance Companies Next
Don’t worry, helpless insurance companies: the Texas Legislature is here to protect you from big, bad environmentalists. A Texas state senator said during a panel discussion last week at a conference put on by a prominent climate-denier think tank that the state legislature would focus on rolling out legislation this year to punish insurance companies trying to divest from fossil fuels. The big target is ESG, or environmental, social, and governance, a strategy companies can use to make ethical investments.
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 Sen. Bryan Hughes lifted the curtain on upcoming legislation that seemed to mimic the law passed in 2021 forbidding Texas from doing business with financial institutions that have pro-climate policies. 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 very Texas economy, we’re gonna teach them some manners,” Hughes declared, earning whoops and applause from the audience.
Those of you who have been following our coverage of fossil-fuel-friendly policies coming out of Texas may recognize the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the source of some of the wackiest 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 frankly bonkers stuff it pushes out. For instance: Jason Isaacs, a former Texas politician who now runs TPPF’s energy arm and moderated this particular panel, doubled down on the think tank’s rhetoric that fossil fuels lift people out of poverty, calling the Paris Agreement “treasonous” and demanding “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. Its annual summits have been places for Republican power players to test the waters on rhetoric and preview potential policies. And the extent of the think tank’s influence was clear last week. During the panel, Isaacs claimed that TPPF was responsible for the first draft of the anti-ESG bill the Texas legislature passed in 2021. (The organization’s annual conference in January 2021 featured an early discussion about using legislation to combat ESG measures.) More than a dozen similar bills have since passed or been proposed in state legislatures around the country, while anti-ESG sentiment is now an enormous plank in the Republican party, with TPPF-esque talking points floated by potential presidential hopefuls like Ron DeSantis.
Never mind that the panel discussion last week was riddled with 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 to stop” any legislation that would provide economic subsidies for wind and solar.) And never mind that the insurance industry is currently seeing in real time the impacts of climate change and may actually have a vested interest in preventing more people’s homes from being destroyed by storms and wildfires. It was clear from the discussion that the actual financial discussions around the benefits or drawbacks of ESG aren’t the goals of these policies and attitudes; rather, it’s to paint fossil fuels as the world’s savior.
During the panel’s Q&A, a man identifying himself as an oil and gas operator stood and thanked the group for their work in combatting 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 one barrel at a time,” Isaacs added.
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