In October 2019, Rep. Rick Larsen told me to my face that he did not support a Green New Deal and that the United States can both meet the goals of Paris and also facilitate historic growths in the aviation industry, specifically air travel. He told me that he could not support the Green New Deal because it threatened the same aviation companies that bankroll his campaigns to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He explicitly said so in February 2019, not long after the Green New Deal resolution was released:
Rick explained to me that there have been a myriad of innovations in aerospace, like the use of biofuels, more efficient engines, lighter materials, and connecting aircraft on the tarmac to the electrical grid. He told me that these innovations will allow for air travel to expand in the coming decades while also being climate conscious. While that may sound nice, it is not enough to curb the emissions needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement—at all. In fact, you won't find a single climate scientist who believes this industry-peddled myth.
If we want to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, limiting warming to 1.5ºC by 2050 (a goal that is rapidly becoming out of reach) then air travel must be reduced. Period. By refusing to acknowledge this reality, self-described environmentalist Rick Larsen is rejecting the science on climate change.
June was the deadline for the first step in the CORSIA Plan, a United Nations initiative administrated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meant to offset the carbon emissions of the global aerospace industry. A mirror of the controversial carbon credit purchasing scheme devised under the Kyoto Protocol, which was found to only increase emissions in the long run anyway, it mandates no fundamental changes to the industry whatsoever.
I'm very confident that it's precisely because CORSIA and ICAO are not holding industry giants to account for the massive amount of carbon emissions they're responsible for is why aviation trade groups—like Larsen donor Airlines for America—embrace and praise it. They know that airlines and aerospace manufacturers like Boeing won't have to organize any sort of systemic change.
Even in the most optimistic scenario, where there is complete and total adoption of biofuels in aviation, the industry would still represent an eighth of the entire planetary carbon budget if we wanted to limit warming to 1.5ºC by 2050, the Paris Agreement's goal. That's 24,000,000,000 (billion) tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next thirty years.
There are no signs of slowing down. From 2013 to 2018, emissions from airlines jumped a whopping 32%. Emissions are growing 70% faster than expected. Similarly, there is no massive undertaking to adopt biofuels or other clean technologies for aircraft. I presume that in Rep. Rick Larsen's mind, this is no problem since industry lobbyists and shady trade groups are providing him with very slick presentations of their fancy high tech “green” projects. Those aforementioned projects, electrified airport vehicles, biofuel engines, lighter materials, mean absolutely nothing and are mere PR stunts by the aviation industry to protect their profits and their obscene wealth.
In fact, ICAO said four years ago that even with the most optimal efficiency gains, it would not be enough to curb emissions to the levels needed to limit warming without also limiting the growth of air travel. On top of that, the globe would need to be constructing 328 “large biorefineries” per year—about one per day—in order to achieve that ideal scenario. It goes without saying that there is no nation on this earth that is building this kind of infrastructure at the pace needed. Even if we were doing that, the globe would next need to replace every single aircraft with models constructed from lighter materials and using biofuel engines.
This doesn't even get into the complicated politics and logistics of biofuels in the first place.
In summary, “this analysis shows that additional technological and operational improvements beyond even those described [in the best case] Scenario 9 will be required to achieve the global aspirational goal of 2 per cent per annum fuel efficiency”.
Secondly, airlines often will cherry-pick data and obfuscate their true carbon footprint through many different ways of showcasing their data. For example, “Spanish flag carrier Iberia, which reduced emissions per seat by about 6 per cent in 2017, but increased absolute emissions by 7 per cent”. According to a study from CityWatch, in 2018 year-over-year impact of all of the active climate initiatives for the 58 biggest airlines result to “an improvement of 1 percent,” and that it “falls short of the industry's goal of achieve a 1.5 per cent increase in efficiency“.
Airlines really want you to believe that market-based “carbon offsets” and so-called “efficiency gains” makes their flights somehow more environmentally friendly. False.
Ignoring this reality represents a cowardly show of leadership from the incumbent. The aviation industry knows its massive carbon emissions are incompatible with the drastic reforms climate science says is necessary to happen soon if we are to avoid catastrophic warming. We cannot achieve net zero emissions in time if we are to continue placating massive airlines and aircraft manufacturers. So, why does Rick take a backseat to climate? Perhaps is has something to do with the almost $1.5 million he receives in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel transportation industry—much of it from aerospace.
But it isn't only aerospace, no, Rick also receives much of this money from auto manufacturers, railroads, and maritime corporations all of whom have funded litigation and organizations opposed to policies meant to combat climate change.
These corporate entities and trade groups have a vested interest in maintaining business as usual for as long as possible—even when “business as usual” means 4ºC or 5ºC of warming, which could trigger a mass extinction event on the scale of half of all species on Earth.
The donations below are from 25 corporate donors and trade associations representing 353 contributions totaling $630,250. Sadly, this only scratches the surface as it is less than half of what OpenSecrets has found in their analysis.
Last year, Brazilian aerospace conglomerate Embraer contributed once to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $1,000. (💰)
Brian Mier on Brazilian Political Scandal
“The investigation has really just restructured the economy, the defense strategy and destroyed strategic industries. Embraer was the third-largest airplane company in the world, and it was attacked by Lava Jato; the US government got something like $134 million in fines from Embraer, so it was weakened for the kill. They had to change the laws to allow Boeing to purchase it. And so now this airplane industry, that received hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded government subsidies over the last 40 or 50 years, is now owned by Boeing.” — CounterSpin from FAIR (June 21, 2019)
In 2008 and 2009, international shipper Overseas Shipholding Group contributed twice to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen totaling $2,000. (💰💰)
Greenbrier Marine and Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. Announce Vessel Delivery
“Greenbrier Marine, a division of The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. (NYSE: GBX), announced today that it has delivered the OSG 204, a 204,000 barrel capacity oil and chemical tank barge,” — PR Newswire (June 2, 2020)
Since 2015, Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier has contributed three times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $3,000. (💰💰💰)
Since 2013, the National Air Transport Association—an industry group representing charter airlines—contributed four times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $5,000. (💰💰💰💰💰)
“[A]ttached is sample language for a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) tax credit” (March 19, 2020)
NATA was a part of a campaign to lobby legislators to consider their own industry-crafted tax break for use of “Sustainable Aviation Fuel”. SAF is not full biofuels, like what ICAO says is a necessary transition. Instead, it's a “blend“ of gasoline jet fuels with some biofuels.
Between 2003 and 2012, cruise giant Holland America contributed seven times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $5,250. (💰💰💰💰💰)
Huge Cruise Ship Stuck in Port After Climate Protesters in Small Boats Block Vessel's Exit: 'Cruises Kill Climate'
“The Zuiderdam vessel—operated by the British-American cruise company Holland America Line—was blocked from departing Kiel in northern Germany on Sunday by around 50 activists, Deutsche Welle reported.
The protest group released a statement explaining its actions on Sunday afternoon, as activists were already in the water. The press release lamented the ‘catastrophic local and global consequences of cruises’ and demanded an end to ‘exploitative working conditions’ for staff aboard.” — Newsweek (June 10, 2019)
Since 2004, the industry group National Marine Manufacturers Association has contributed six times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $6,500. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💵)
The NMMA is an influential industry association representing manufacturers of commercial marine vessels, equipment, and infrastructure. They regularly consult with the Envronmental Protection Agency in crafting In their history of political activity, they have contributed to the campaigns of Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.
Between 2009 and 2015, industry group Airlines for America contributed five times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $8,500. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💵)
Airlines worried flight shaming will lower profits
“Environmental crusader Greta Thunberg is starting to make some U.S. airlines nervous. The Swedish teenager, who has been vocal about combating climate change, may have played a role in a recent 4% drop in the number of commercial passengers flying in Sweden, where the term ‘flygskam,’ or flight shame, has gained popularity.
Airlines for America, a trade group for U.S. air carriers, responded: ‘We are confident that when our passengers know the facts about our environmental record and all we do to connect the world, they will remain proud to fly,’ spokesman Carter Yang said.” — The Detroit News (February 10, 2020)
Between 2014 and 2019, Hawaiian Airlines contributed five times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $9,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
While Hawaiian Airlines joined an international climate study in 2017, doing so did not commit them to produce any results on reducing emissions. Nonetheless, the positive press the company received was amplified to greenwash its record of burning millions of gallons of jet fuel per year to sustain their business. Again, as has been determined by climate scientists, no level of gains in efficiency will reduce emissions enough to meaningfully combat climate change. Often, these changes aren't out of the interest of climate, but rather to increase profits by reducing fuel consumption.
Since 2016, European aerospace conglomerate Airbus has contributed six times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $9,500. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💵)
EU Lets Airbus Write its Own Weak Rules on Aviation Emissions
“One of the world’s two biggest commercial aircraft manufacturers got to write its own rules on greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to privileged access to the European Union’s decision-making process, an 18-month investigation by Brussels-based Transport & Environment has revealed.
‘Yes, we can live with this,’ a representative of Airbus SE wrote, after reviewing successive drafts of the EU regulation in 2015. The acknowledgement appears in a series of emails T&E obtained, a year and a half after it first requested them.” — The Energy Mix (December 1, 2017)
Since 2014, JetBlue Airways has contributed five times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $10,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
Instead of committing to replacing jets with biofuels or reducing flights, JetBlue instead opted to “offset” their carbon emissions this year by giving donations to nonprofits focused on conservation and renewable energy efforts. While this may sound like a heartwarming gesture, it does not commit the airline to any real, structural changes to its operations and rather adds another line to their balance sheets. Furthermore, since announcing this in January with promises to begin in July, JetBlue has yet to release any other public statements containing updates to this project.
Since 2005, aircraft engine and auto manufacturer Rolls-Royce has contributed twelve times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $17,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
In June 2020, Rolls-Royce said that they will commit to having “carbon neutral operations” by 2030. Not included in their statements were commitments to a broad divestment from fossil fuel engines and infrastructure combined with an ambitious effort to retool their manufacturing—no—instead they're setting themselves to “improving the efficiency of engines” and deploying more gas-electric hybrid ships.
Too little, too late.
Since 2004, maritime manufacturer Brunswick Corporation has contributed seventeen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $20,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
Since 2014, Delta Airlines has contributed seven times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $20,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
U.S. Congress to oppose EU law on aircraft emissions
“House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a provision in sweeping aviation legislation that would put Europe on notice over its mandate for airlines worldwide to pay for carbon emissions from their planes while flying in Europe.
The bill is expected to be passed by Congress in the coming weeks.
Compromise language expressing opposition to the law is less strident than a House-passed bill in October that sought to exempt U.S. carriers entirely from the EU measure that took effect January 1.”
“U.S.-based carriers affected by the EU policy are American Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines and Delta Airlines. U.S. carriers have raised fares to cover costs of complying with the change.” — Reuters (February 1, 2012)
Between 2006 and 2015, Singapore-based shipping container company American President Lines contributed fourteen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $20,500. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💵)
APL dredging 'disposal events' stir environmental fears
“A fast-moving dredging proposal aims to allow larger container ships in port while creating more land at the American President Lines terminal, with work on the project starting next spring. But residents want to know more about wildlife impacts and offshore ‘disposal events’ involving potentially contaminated soil.” — The Arctic Sounder (November 29, 2019)
Since 2014, Toyota has contributed fifteen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $23,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
Toyota’s Support of Trump Emissions Rules Shocks Californians
“[T]he good vibrations between Californians and Toyota may be receding this week after the automaker sided against the state in an increasingly heated fight over fuel economy standards for automobiles. Toyota backed the Trump administration by saying that the federal government’s authority should supersede the state’s in setting emissions limits.” — The New York Times (October 29, 2019)
Since 2010, cargo and charter airline Atlas Air has contributed sixteen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $29,500. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💵)
Amazon's rising air shipments fly in the face of climate plan
“[A]ccording to an analysis of Department of Transportation data by Cargo Facts Consulting, a Luxembourg-based advisory firm with a global staff and more than four decades of history.
It crunched data from Air Transport Services Group Inc and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings. Both supply planes and pilots for [fellow Larsen donor] Amazon Air.
In July, Amazon Air flew 136 million lbs of goods in the United States, according to the data. That was up 29% from the year earlier and just 9 million lbs short of December 2018, when the peak holiday shipping season was in full swing.” — MarketScreener (November 6, 2019)
Since 2006, marine terminal corporation SSA Marine has contributed eighteen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $32,500. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💵)
Opponents of SSA Marine Bellingham coal terminal pack hearing
“The [Gateway Pacific Terminal], proposed by Seattle-based SSA Marine Inc., would permit loading of bulk export commodities, principally coal, aboard ships primarily bound for Asia.”
“Detractors worry about negative impact on fisheries, noise and dust pollution, and many also are opposed to the idea of exporting coal during a time when global warming is a growing problem.
Much of the coal will move northbound through Seattle on BNSF Rail tracks.”
“Opponents included members of the Lummi Nation, who spoke about desecration of ancestral sites, and environmental leaders, according to a story in the Bellingham Herald. About 2,000 people attended the hearing, according to the newspaper.
Since 2009, United Airlines (and Continental) has contributed ten times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $33,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
United Airlines: Stop blocking international action on climate change
“When the International Civil Aviation Organization (or ICAO) negotiators meet in Montreal later this month, they will decide on the design and timeline of a system to reduce air travel’s footprint on the climate. A final vote will be held in September. But United and other US airlines have unleashed a horde of lobbyists, PR flacks, and “experts” to muscle the ICAO into making the carbon reducing proposals as toothless as possible.
This isn’t the first time United has declared war on sensible environmental regulation. Last year, the European Union passed a law requiring airlines to cut their pollution at a cost of just $3 per passenger on one-way trans-Atlantic flights. United responded by lobbying aggressively to get the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that allows the administration to prohibit U.S.-based airlines from complying with the EU’s climate law, risking a trade war with Europe. United’s CEO Jeff Smisek wrote an unhinged op-ed in Hemispheres, his company’s in-flight magazine, arguing that the EU had no right to regulate flights taking off and landing in Europe..” — SumOfUs and 350.org
Since 2013, Southwest Airlines has contributed sixteen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $36,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
Since 2008, rail freight giant CSX Corporation has contributed thirteen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $37,500. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💵)
Global Climate Coalition: Climate Denial Legacy Follows Corporations
“GCC Astroturfing: Kochs, ExxonMobil, and Others Support Kyoto Opposition
A. In 1996, the GCC wanted to expand its reach, announcing a new State and Local Committee to engage in climate change dialogue on the ground across the United States.
B. Documents show this plan was to be implemented with the help of organizations in the now infamous Koch network, front groups and organizations created or supported by GCC industry-members like ExxonMobil, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and CSX Corporation.” — Climate Investigations Center (April 25, 2019)
Since 2003, railroad owner and operator Norfolk Southern Corporation has contributed fifteen times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $38,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
Since 2003, Alaska Airlines has contributed thirty-one times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $42,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
Since 2003, BNSF Railways, the largest freight rail network in the U.S., has contributed thirty-one times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $71,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
A Major but Little-Known Supporter of Climate Denial: Freight Railroads
“The four largest American freight railroads—BNSF Railway, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and CSX—have sat at the center of the climate-denial movement nearly since it began, documents and studies show. These four companies have joined or funded groups that attacked individual scientists, cast doubt on scientific consensus, and rejected reports from major scientific institutions, including the United Nations–led Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their effort has cost at least tens of millions of dollars and outlasted individual leaders and coalitions.” — The Atlantic (December 13, 2019)
Since 2003, Union Pacific Corporation, one of the oldest rail companies in America, has contributed thirty-six times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $71,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
Tribes score victories against Union Pacific, fossil fuel projects
“In a victory for residents, tribal communities and environmental groups, the Columbia River Gorge Commission has upheld a Wasco County decision to deny Union Pacific its permit to run additional rail lines through the town of Mosier, where one of its crude oil trains derailed and burned only a year ago.” — Street Roots (June 16, 2017)
Since 2003, Boeing has contributed fifty-eight times to Citizens to Elect Rick Larsen for a total of $78,000. (💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰)
State carbon-tax initiative pencils out nicely for Boeing
“And for Boeing and all other manufacturers in the state, in order not to disadvantage them against out-of-state competitors, the initiative almost entirely eliminates the state’s business and occupation (B&O) tax. The ballot measure has provoked opposition from labor groups and even environmental groups as well as businesses.”
”I-732 would further reduce Boeing’s B&O tax rate to nearly zero, saving it tens of millions of dollars more.
The carbon tax imposed on the plane maker will likely be substantially less than the B&O tax savings.” — The Seattle Times (October 7, 2016)
As chair of the influential House Subcommittee on Aviation and an involved member of the House Infrastructure Committee, Rick could use his platform to be a climate hawk; to champion policies to radically change our nation's transportation to put us aggressively on a path to net-zero carbon. He doesn't. He actively chooses not to.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Can we trust Rick Larsen to fight for a habitable planet?
Can we trust him to take on the deep pocketed aerospace industry—while taking tens of thousands of dollars from them?
Can we trust him to take on railroads who fund climate denialist organizations—while taking tens of thousands of dollars from them?
Can we trust him to take on automakers hellbent on easing emissions regulations—while taking tens of thousands of dollars from them?