Tech giants want to burn the planet. Why yell at Feinstein?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein went viral for all the wrong reasons recently. Her sin: giving a group of elementary school children a blunt lesson in climate change pessimism.
In a videotaped encounter, Feinstein rebuffed the kids’ efforts to get her support for the Green New Deal. The 10-year plan calls for a massive investment to stimulate the economy by transitioning to clean energy. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and environmental activists champion it as a way to create jobs and prevent climate catastrophe.
Feinstein was having none of it. She forthrightly assured the children there’s no hope for a Green New Deal in the Senate. When pushed, she boasted of her million-vote margin of victory in 2018 and archly reminded a 16-year-old that minors can’t participate in elections.
“Get off my lawn!” seemed to be the only line missing from her tone-deaf performance.
As it turns out, many lines were missing. The video was heavily edited to reflect the worst of the exchange, and the Twitter outrage mobs came for Feinstein.
Perhaps she deserved it. But in focusing their anger on a Democratic senator from California who just got re-elected to a six-year term and sees climate change as a threat to national security, climate activists missed a bigger story – one that lends context to Feinstein’s dim view.
According to a report by Brian Merchant of Gizmodo, California tech giant Google – along with Amazon and Microsoft – has quietly gone into the oil business. The goal: to use artificial intelligence, big data and other advanced technology to maximize oil exploration and production.
“Google is using machine learning to find more oil reserves both above and below the seas, its data services are streamlining and automating extant oilfield operations, and it is helping oil companies find ways to trim costs and compete with clean energy upstarts,” wrote Merchant. “It’s striking to see Google transforming itself into a veritable innovation arm of the fossil fuel extraction industry – at precisely the time when an understanding that climate change poses an existential threat to populations across large swaths of the globe has never been more acute.”
Amazon and Microsoft have also eagerly entered the oil business. The companies declined to comment for Merchant’s story, and Google failed to respond to an inquiry from The Sacramento Bee.
To recap: The most brilliant technology companies in the world are using their power to make sure we extract as much oil as possible from the ground. They’re doing this despite the fact that scientists say 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe.
They’re also doing it despite their own vaunted commitments to solve the climate crisis at the 11th hour.
The Feinstein video got zillions of views, but Gizmodo’s blockbuster report about the biggest tech companies in the world helping to destroy the planet for money slipped under the radar.
It’s the latest in a string of unfortunate revelations about our intensifying climate crisis. For example, in the last few days alone we learned that:
An iceberg the size of
New York City is breaking off of Antarctica, raising worries about rising sea levels.
dioxide in the atmosphere may result in the disappearance of stratocumulus clouds, resulting in much higher temperatures than current models predict.
●● volatile climate may increase the likelihood of giant storms, called ARkStorms, that could turn some Central Valley cities into lakes and create 1.5 million climate refugees.
The kids are right to feel passionate and make demands. Feinstein made herself an easy target, but the truth is that no one is doing enough on climate. Not government, not business, not journalists – no one.
Some are even trying to make the problem worse.
Feinstein no doubt regrets her rudeness, but she may have also done the kids a favor. She demonstrated the difficulty of getting “responsible adults” to act with urgency.