‘That Would Be the Road to Hell for America’: Bank CEOs Push Back Against Radical Climate Demands From Rep. Tlaib

‘That Would Be the Road to Hell for America’: Bank CEOs Push Back Against Radical Climate Demands From Rep. Tlaib
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) at a press conference in Washington, on July 15, 2019. (Holly Kellum/NTD)
Naveen Athrappully

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) met with resistance when she asked the CEOs of America’s seven biggest banks, during their testimony before Congress on Sept. 21, about the elimination of funding for fossil fuel investments.

“You have all committed, as you all know, to transition the emissions from lending and investment activities to align with pathways to net-zero in 2050 … So no new fossil fuel production, starting today, so that’s like zero. I would like to ask all of you, and go down the list, because again, you all have agreed to doing this. Please answer with a simple yes or no: does your bank have a policy against funding new oil and gas products, Mr. Diamond?” Tlaib asked.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said, “Absolutely not, and that would be the road to hell for America.”

“Yea. That’s fine. That’s fine,” Tlaib responded. “Sir, you know what? Everybody that got relief from student loans [that] has a bank account with your bank should probably take out their account and close their account.”

She continued, “The fact that you’re not even there to help relieve many of the folks that are in debt, extreme debt because of student loan debt, and you’re out there criticizing it,” before moving on to the other bankers.

“We will continue to invest in and support clients who are investing in fossil fuels and in helping them transition to cleaner energies,” Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup, said.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, voiced a similar stance, and said, “We are helping our clients make a transition, and that means we’re lending to both oil and gas companies and to new energy companies and helping monitor their course toward the standards you’re talking about.”

Charles Scharf, president and CEO of Wells Fargo & Company, simply stated, when asked, “The same thing that Mr. Moynihan said.”

Tlaib chastised Diamond, saying he didn’t “care about working-class people, frontline communities like ours, that are facing huge amounts of high rates of asthma, respiratory issues.”

Tlaib said, “We are living through a climate crisis today and a commitment to net zero requires a commitment to ending fossil fuel financing,” otherwise, everyone’s going to pay the price of a public health impact.

“Anything else defies all logic and scientific evidence at our disposal. If your financial institutions aren’t going to follow through on their net-zero commitments, then regulators, including the Federal Reserve and Congress, must step in and make them,” she ended in a warning.

Climate Policy’s Impact on Europe

In what many would consider a debunking of Tlaib’s claims, climate policy—not climate change—has impacted thousands of businesses around the world, adversely affecting the livelihood of millions, which, according to multiple analysts, could result in an economic collapse that would dwarf the financial crisis of 2008–09.

The energy crisis is a starting point of a global economic meltdown that has already begun in Europe, and is soon expected to crossover into the United States. Large-scale business failures in the United Kingdom and Germany are imminent, based on survey data.

Governments are scrambling to distribute subsidies, and will require substantial borrowing that will impact financial stability, while, at the same time, interest rates and fuel costs keep rising.

Europe has enthusiastically supported and implemented energy policies that have resulted in the discarding of fossil fuels and transitioned toward “greener” forms of energy, like wind and solar, which have been found to be unstable and undependable. This led to major economies like Germany depending on Russia for gas supplies.

However, with the current war in Ukraine, and because of the resultant sanctions against, and retaliations by, Russia, Germany is now facing an energy crisis as winter approaches and the imminent demand for heating fuels. Energy prices have spiraled, and reports indicate that 10 percent to 30 percent-plus (depending on the survey) of small- and medium-sized-business owners are facing “existential” threats over the next six months owing to onerous energy bills.

Besides small businesses, Europe’s factories have begun succumbing to dangerously escalating energy bills following retaliatory Russian cutbacks, resulting in an inflation rate of more than 9 percent and a dip in industrial production, which is expected to worsen in coming days.
“In the last month, several companies have had to announce indefinite closures, and many more are on the brink ahead of a life-or-death winter for many operations. Producers face electricity and gas costs over 10 times higher than last year, far exceeding the sales price for their products,” said the European Association of Metals, Eurometaux, in a letter (pdf) to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council.