Watch: House Republican told to 'search your heart' during contentious climate change hearing

Watch: House Republican told to 'search your heart' during contentious climate change hearing
Image via screengrab.

Consider the hearings held on Wednesday and Thursday by two House committees as a flashpoint laying bare the blatant desperation with which conservatives are clinging to Big Oil’s success instead of caring about their constituents or the planet. On Wednesday, the House Natural Resource Committee held a hearing about how fossil fuel companies rely on blatantly misleading language and images to boost their profiles. As I’ve reported before, polluters employ a dangerous playbook designed to oppress frontline communities and those concerned with the climate crisis.

The Natural Resource Committee even released a study logging these tactics ahead of the hearing. But critics claim that supporting “the energy sector” amounts to using free speech and securing the country’s energy resources, worsening crisis be damned. Publicists painted Big Oil as having moved on from denying climate change, equating doing the bare minimum with somehow being leaders in the movement. Republicans like Rep. Lauren Boebert bashed a witness who was harassed and stalked for an anti-fracking campaign she participated in in Colorado. If y’all think lawmakers behaved any better the next day, just wait for Clay Higgins to speak up during Thursday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on Big Oil’s role in the climate crisis.

Higgins, a notedwhite supremacist, spent his five minutes talking down to an expert witness wholly more qualified to speak on the topic of the hearing’s subject, which was “Examining Big Oil’s Prices, Profits, and Pledges.” Higgins continually called Raya Salter, Esq. “young lady” and outright screamed at her for standing up to people like him on behalf of frontline communities he’s so blatantly ignored. Salter, who is the Founder and Executive Director of the Energy Justice Law and Policy Center and a member of the New York State Climate Action Council, implored Higgins to instead reckon with his own actions.

At best, Higgins is a climate change skeptic. He’s also entirely bought and paid for by the oil and gas sector—which is the top industry he receives campaign donations from—and was the lone dissenting House vote who wanted fossil fuel imports from Russia to remain despite the country’s invasion of Ukraine. “I want you to search your heart and ask your God what you are doing to the Black and poor people in Louisiana,” Salter pushed back against Higgins.

Higgins had his supporters, such as fellow monster Jim Jordan and Yvette Herrell, and Salter received support from Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who slammed Higgins’ conduct. “For the gentleman from Louisiana and the comfort he felt in yelling at you like that, there’s more than one way to get a point across,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And, frankly, men who treat women like that in public, I fear how they treat women in private.” To add insult to injury, Michael Shellenberger mispronounced Ocasio-Cortez’s name without caring to correct it.

Shellenberger was considered by some Republicans to be the only “minority witness” who thinks climate change actually isn’t that bad and that mass casualty events simply won’t happen. He’s the comfort blanket to Republicans who call environmental concern a “war on gas” and think climate activists are dehumanizing. Once a Democrat in name, he’s now simply a traitor to the human race who finds more comfort in Fox News appearances than in acknowledging reality. Many GOP lawmakers only spoke to Shellenberger when they did have a chance to address the panel.

What’s revealing about these hearings isn’t the information we already know about how bad Big Oil is or the quite literal Black and white divisions between fossil fuel worshippers and those who believe that any higher power wouldn’t want us destroying the planet. It’s that, at the core of this issue, white comfort is one of the biggest hindrances to addressing the climate crisis. I want Higgins to feel uncomfortable when Roishetta Ozane began her moving testimony on her experience surviving multiple disasters in Southwest Louisiana by calling the lawmaker out. Addressing white supremacy is a key component in dismantling it and foundational to creating a truly just transition.

Fueling the Climate Crisis: Examining Big Oil’s Prices, Profits, and

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