DITCHED: Dark Money and Political Influence with Dr. Leah Stokes

In the United States, electric utilities are an outsized influence on our political process. Utilities can be a force for good but as UC Santa Barbara professor Leah Stokes explained to ODP this past spring, “There is an abundance of shadow, dark money, and nonprofits groups whose missions’ are to stifle clean energy progress and I think this is one way the utilities have been able to so successful and discreetly amassed political power and influence historically.” 

This paradigm needs to change, but what are the obstacles? That’s the conversation that Political Climate podcast host Julia Pyper had with Dr. Stokes in this week’s episode of the DITCHED miniseries:

In the face of a mounting climate crisis, financial institutions are re-evaluating their relationships with coal, gas and oil. But while the divestment movement is picking up speed, it isn’t on a one way street. 

There is still lots of money flowing into fossil fuels through various public and private channels. At the same time, fossil fuel interests are spending heavily to influence policy that protects their assets and future growth opportunities. 

In this episode, we speak to Leah Stokes, assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara about her research on how fossil fuel companies and electric utilities are slowing the shift away from polluting resources.

This is the fourth episode in the Political Climate miniseries called DITCHED: fossil fuels, money flows and the greening of finance. Listen and subscribe to Political Climate wherever you get podcasts!

Listen to the full episode here. 

Recommended reading:

  • Guardian: How the oil industry has spent billions to control the climate change conversation
  • Sierra: Bailout: Billions of Dollars of Federal COVID-19 Relief Money Flow to the Oil Industry
  • E&E: Big Oil, meet Big Green  
  • Bloomberg: Utilities Are Slowing Down the Clean Energy Transition
  • S&P: Ohio bribery scandal increases scrutiny of how utilities use ‘dark money’ groups
  • Energy and Policy Institute: Paying for Utility Politics
  • Short Circuiting Policy

Catch all DITCHED episodes in addition to our regular Thursday shows! Listen and subscribe to Political Climate on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you get podcasts!

Up Next

Planet Earth’s Most Potent Optimist: Christiana Figueres

Planet Earth’s Most Potent Optimist: Christiana Figueres

The planet needs an optimistic woman and fortunately for us, we have a really powerful one — Christiana Figueres. After having guided the Paris Climate Accord to completion — she served as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-2016 — now Figueres is trying to change the narrative around achieving a sustainable future. 

Continue Reading 298 words
North Carolina Plans For Green-Infrastructure To Counter Storms

North Carolina Plans For Green-Infrastructure To Counter Storms

North Carolina Coastal Federation has a nature-based plan for dealing with heavy rainfall that captures and filters water instead. Green infrastructure includes solutions like rain gardens, restoring wetlands, and permeable pavement. The state plan calls for comprehensive incorporation of nature-based stormwater strategies across roadways, farmland, and in new building construction. 

Why This Matters: It’s not just sea-level rise that causes increased flooding and infrastructure damage: heavy rains can be just as disruptive. Using plants, dirt, and other natural ways to handle excess water is often simpler and more cost-effective than their conventional counterparts.

Continue Reading 505 words
Scientists Develop Wearable Electric Generators, Harness the Power of the Human Body

Scientists Develop Wearable Electric Generators, Harness the Power of the Human Body

The world is becoming more and more like The Matrix every day, at least in one particular way: scientists have figured out how to use the human body as a battery. No, your body can’t produce enough energy to create a global simulation, but it can produce enough heat to charge wearable devices like smartwatches and implants like pacemakers. 

Why This Matters: Battery production and disposal have been problematic for decades. Mining for rare earth metals like such as cadmium, mercury, lead, and lithium threatens environments and communities across the globe.

Continue Reading 495 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.