Fossil Fueled Fury: How Big Oil is Driving the Right’s Attack on ‘Woke Capitalism

In the swirl of today’s political discourse, one term has emerged as the buzzword of 2023: “woke.” Among its prolific users, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis stands out, trumpeting his state as the place “where woke goes to die.” True to the hyperbolic form, MAGA politicians and right-wing pundits wield the term like a weapon, swinging it to strike at any issue that doesn’t align with their agenda, from environmentalism and gay rights to feminism and Obamacare.

Now let’s throw a spotlight on another phrase you might have heard bouncing around conservative circles: “woke capitalism.” This catchy term is often used as a cudgel to criticize companies that dare to deviate from the MAGA narrative.

But who’s really pushing this narrative? According to a new in-depth report by Pleiades Strategy, it appears the strings of this anti-“woke capitalism” puppet show are being pulled by a familiar puppet master: the fossil fuel industry. The report scrutinizes 165 examples of Republican lawmakers bringing anti-ESG (environmental, social, and governance) legislation to the table.

Digging into these anti-ESG proposals, Pleiades found a variety of approaches, from imposing limits on public contracts and pension managers to mandatory disclosures and federal investment rule combats. And guess what? The majority of these proposals are strikingly similar to model bills churned out by four powerful right-wing think tanks: the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the Foundation for Government Accountability.

The puppet master revealed? The American Petroleum Institute. This fossil fuel lobbying heavyweight is shaping anti-ESG policies, fueling the campaign against “woke capitalism” with gusto.

But here’s the kicker, out of the 165 anti-ESG bills Pleiades analyzed, only 22 saw success in state legislatures. So, it seems the public and the lawmakers aren’t buying what Big Oil is selling.

Frances Sawyer, the founder of Pleiades Strategy and co-author of the report, put it perfectly: “The dark-money-funded attacks on the freedom to invest responsibly hit deep opposition from business, labor, and environmental advocates in statehouses across the country this year. Our report shows that the effort to weaponize government funds, contracts, and pensions to prevent companies and investors from considering real financial risks is not a winning platform.”

So next time you hear the term “woke capitalism” bandied about by right-wing voices, remember to ask: Who’s really pulling the strings?