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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how the Biden administration has failed to examine the impact environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies will have on the price of food and energy. Thune noted that ESG regulations are designed to choke off investment to the oil and gas industries, and they would significantly impact South Dakota farmers and ranchers due to their natural methane emissions.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, it was good to hear President Biden acknowledge in his State of the Union last week that we still need oil.
“While I’m a big supporter of clean energy and am proud to come from a state that gets the majority of our electricity generation from renewables, the fact of the matter is that even in states like mine, conventional energy sources like oil and natural gas are essential to maintaining an affordable, stable, and reliable energy supply.
“Renewable technologies have come a long way, but they still have a ways to go.
“And we literally wouldn’t be able to keep the lights on in this country without conventional energy sources like natural gas and coal.
“So it was good to hear the president acknowledge that we still depend on affordable and reliable legacy sources of energy like oil.
“But it would be even better if he pursued an agenda that acknowledged it, instead of an agenda that is actively hostile to conventional energy production.
“From canceling the Keystone XL pipeline on day one to hiking taxes on oil and gas companies and making it more challenging for companies to develop oil and gas, the president’s agenda seems designed to do everything it can to discourage production of the oil the president says we need.
“And then, Mr. President, there’s ESG.
“The Biden administration has been attempting to use the long arm of regulation to implement ESG policies – environmental, social, and governance policies – to advance its anti-conventional-energy climate agenda.
“The president’s ESG regulations are designed to choke off investment to the oil and gas industries – and even to other essential industries like farming and ranching due to their natural methane emissions.
“Take, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate-disclosure rule.
“This regulation would require publicly traded companies to disclose information not only about their own greenhouse gas emissions but also in many cases about those of their suppliers and even their customers.
“It would also require companies to determine the effects of climate-related risks on each line item of their consolidated financial statements.
“Now, there are multiple problems with this rule – one notable problem being the fact that it is a totally unworkable regulation.
“Companies have zero control over the emissions of their suppliers and customers, and little to no ability to accurately gauge those emissions.
“But leaving aside the unworkability factor, the major problem with this proposed rule is that it is clearly designed to coerce companies to sever or reconsider their ties with certain industries – notably, of course, the conventional energy industry, but also with other industries like agriculture.
“Mr. President, private companies of course have the right to consider whatever factors they want when determining what companies they will do business with and what they will invest in.
“But the federal government should not be putting its thumb on the scale.
“And the SEC rule is just one of the regulations the Biden administration has put forward designed to discourage investment in industries that aren’t part of Democrats’ Green New Deal vision.
“There’s the Biden administration’s proposed federal contractor rule, which, like the SEC rule, would require companies applying for certain federal contracts to disclose not only their own direct and indirect emissions but also in some cases related emissions over which the contractor has no control.
“The Federal Reserve has stepped outside its statutory role and established a pilot program to analyze climate-related financial risks for the nation’s largest banks.
“The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Fed have all put forward principles for large banks on ‘climate-related financial risk management.’
“And the list goes on.
“And then there’s the Department of Labor.
“In November, the Department of Labor issued a new rule that would allow pension plan fiduciaries – the individuals who manage Americans’ retirement accounts – to consider ESG factors and not just the rate of return when investing their customers’ money.
“In other words, the individuals who manage $11.7 trillion of Americans’ retirement will no longer be required to make investment decisions based solely on maximizing return.
“Instead, they will now be allowed to opt for a less valuable investment if they prefer its environmental profile.
“Let that just sink in for a minute, Mr. President.
“The Biden administration has essentially announced that its top goal is not giving Americans a secure retirement; it’s giving them a retirement that supports the Biden administration’s environmental agenda.
“The Biden administration is apparently happy to let your retirement money suffer as long as the investments are advancing its Green New Deal goals.
“Mr. President, the very idea that the government is encouraging fiduciaries to consider anything but maximizing the return on Americans’ retirement investments is outrageous.
“And I am very pleased to join all of my Republican colleagues on Senator Braun’s resolution to overturn this rule.
“I also reintroduced legislation earlier this week that would require federal financial regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission to estimate the impact their rules would have on gas, food, and energy prices, and prevent them from imposing any rule that would drive up these prices when the economy is struggling with high inflation.
“Which gets to the heart of the matter here, Mr. President: the impact the president’s ESG rules are going to have on hardworking Americans.
“Leaving aside the question of whether or not the government has any business using financial regulation to advance its environmental agenda, the fact of the matter is that choking off investment to the oil and gas industries could seriously impair our oil and gas supply.
“And that would mean two things: higher prices for Americans, and a less reliable supply of energy.
“And that’s a big problem.
“Americans have had a tough two years in the Biden economy.
“The last thing they need is higher energy bills for the long term.
“And the last thing our country needs is a less reliable energy supply that forces us to rely on foreign energy sources, or forces Americans to deal with regular blackouts and other supply problems.
“Mr. President, President Biden talks about building an economy that works for working families.
“Unfortunately, so far his policies have pretty much succeeded in doing the opposite.
“And if the president continues to pursue his radical ESG agenda, working families will once again be the ones suffering.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”