Climate Protesters Disrupt Democrats, Financiers, Big Tech at Energy Summit
Climate Protesters Disrupt Democrats, Financiers, Big Tech at Energy Summit

By Nathan Worcester

The Politico Energy Summit on May 18 revealed a growing fissure between the Biden administration and the left wing of its base, as the president seeks to position himself as a centrist ahead of the 2024 election.

As Citi’s Val Smith spoke during a panel discussion, a protester piped up to demand that Smith’s bank divest from fossil fuels.

A group called Stop the Money Pipeline took credit for the action on Twitter.

“We cannot continue business as usual. There are no jobs on a dead planet,” they wrote, describing Citi as a significant funder of fossil fuel projects.

The Epoch Times has contacted Politico to confirm the account from Stop the Money Pipeline.

Climate protesters disrupted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April. The protest’s organizer asserted that President Joe Biden is guilty of “ecocide,” citing the partial approval of the Willow oil project earlier this year.

Activists with the group Extinction Rebellion block traffic during a climate change protest in downtown Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Climate Defiance, the group that led the actions at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, also participated in the Politico summit protests, according to its social media posts.

Smith defended the protesters after she was interrupted.

“I’m glad that they were able to have their voices heard, but I also think we have an important message to get through today,” she said.

Money and Political Influence

Politico’s summit was at the Schuyler in Washington.

The event brought together high finance, corporate America, and the Democratic Party, including political insiders such as Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Smith was heckled while speaking with Microsoft’s Melanie Nakagawa, Department of Energy Loans Program Office Director Jigar Shah, and Forbright Bank’s John Delaney.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tours the Strategic Petroleum Reserve site at Bayou Choctaw in Louisiana on May 24, 2022. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

Delaney, reportedly worth over $230 million in 2015, was previously a Democratic representative from Maryland. He also ran for president in 2020.

Smith repeatedly stressed that her institution “gets pressure from all sides.”

“Citi is also the world’s most global bank,” she said, telling the panel that jurisdictions and interest groups across the planet all seek to influence the bank’s operations.

Delaney said the ongoing debt ceiling fight between Democrats and Republicans is “utterly pointless and a complete waste of time.”

“Not that the fiscal trajectory of the country is not worthy of a lot of consideration. It is, and it’s troubling and concerning, but obviously the debt ceiling has nothing to do with that,” he said.

Delaney also suggested that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent climate disclosure rule could easily be overturned.

Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) speaks at an event in Las Vegas on Nov. 17, 2019. (Bridget Bennett/AFP via Getty Images)

Nakagawa called the rule “a really good signal regardless of whether it takes effect.”

She drew attention to the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, in effect as of January 2023. It mandates greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2050 from many companies “where appropriate,” among many other sustainability reporting requirements.

“That’s something that is top of mind for many companies today, who are looking at what their disclosure requirements are going to be, what they’re reporting on–and that’s already there,” she said.

The moderator, Politico’s Debra Kahn, asked participants whether they expected the “not that great” economy to impact the current green push.

“When it comes to our sustainability commitments, Microsoft’s still very committed to be carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste, all by 2030, and are bullish on the investments that we’re making,” Nakagawa said.

Shah, of the Department of Energy, said many of the loan requests he has received are not as vulnerable to large macroeconomic trends as venture capital.

The U.S. Department of Energy building in Washington, D.C., on July 22, 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)

“Those projects are funded by equity from pensions, insurance companies, and large sovereign wealth,” he said.

Shah told Kahn that those capital flows were “unaffected by the rest of the overall macro market.”

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