We learned two things in this week’s midterm elections. First, the oil industry can and will spend almost any amount to get their way. We knew that already, but it was really clear this year, as Big Oil spent untold millions to defeat climate-focused ballot initiatives like Initiative 1631 in Washington state for a carbon fee, Measure G in San Luis Obispo County for a fracking ban, and Proposition 112 in Colorado for safer setbacks on fracking.
But even more importantly, we learned that a new kind of principled climate leader is thriving around the country – one that understands the need to stand up to the oil and gas industry. These leaders have courage because of the powerful global movement for climate justice that’s been built over the past several years, and they’re helping a different kind of climate leadership emerge in a big way.
Tuesday’s midterms were a sea change in more ways than one. In a sign of things to come, the number of Congress members who’ve signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge has now more than doubled. Over 30 Members of Congress have now pledged to reject all contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries, with some races still to be called that could increase that number even further.
Despite the fossil fuel industry-sponsored carpet-bombing of advertising against clean energy and climate around the country, many bright spots showed through. Here are just a few of the many highlights:
- New Mexican voters elected Deb Haaland to Congress. Haaland has pledged to vote against all new fossil fuel infrastructure, in line with climate science and the Paris climate goals. She is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and climate justice.
- In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar ran a proudly fossil-free campaign for Congress and won, speaking frequently about a just transition to build a clean energy economy with good-paying, union jobs, and vocally opposing the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
- Stephanie Garcia Richard will be New Mexico’s Public Lands Commissioner. She will have the power to stop fracking, pipelines, and methane leaks in the huge Permian oil and gas basin.
- By a huge margin, voters in Portland, OR, approved a “just transition” tax on the city’s largest corporations to be used to fund clean energy and job training programs.
At Oil Change International, we’ll keep working to ensure our elected leaders understand what it takes to be a true climate leader. Not everything went our way in the midterms, but we have a lot to celebrate – and we’ll keep moving forward together.