First, congrats to JP Morrell on the win. JP always seemed to understand the point of my candidacy, and gave me encouragement on the campaign trail. I look forward to working with him on climate solutions for New Orleans.
I’m so relieved to have my campaign over and done with. Now, back to clowning as usual. Ha! Not possible. Life is a series of irreversible transformations. We can never go back to what we were before. Everything changes.
My run was to confront climate change, an unfolding tragedy that is affecting all of us. Indeed, there are few New Orleanians who have not already suffered from the degradation of our ecosystem. It is obvious that the increasing intensity and frequency of hurricanes are driven by our overheated oceans, even as these rising oceans threaten to take the ground beneath us. The single greatest contributor to climate change is the fossil fuel industry, and pollution from this industry’s local operations has made local cancer rates among the highest in the nation. Sadly, under policies of both the Republican and Democratic parties, the degradation of our ecosystem and the suffering that engenders will only get worse.
Louisiana is an essential hub in the nation’s fossil fuel operations, accounting for nearly one fifth of the nation’s petroleum refining and over half of the nation’s export of liquified natural gas. Yet perversely, despite being a national hub of the most lucrative industry in the world, Louisiana is among the poorest states in the nation, currently ranking dead last in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of states’ social and economic outcomes for its citizens. These outcomes are not accidents; these outcomes are policy choices. The policies of Louisiana’s governments are what they have always been, the exploitation of her people for the enrichment of the very few.
Norway, comparable in size and population to Louisiana, also has an economy based on fossil fuels, yet it has managed its fossil fuel industry for the economic benefit of the entire nation, not just the very few. Despite lacking the resources of the United States, every Norwegian enjoys guaranteed free health care, free higher education, and thirty-five paid days off per year. Despite being a much poorer nation than ours, Norwegians earn 75% more than Louisianians, while their government holds in trust over one million kroner (about $115K) per capita for its citizens. These outcomes are not accidents; these outcomes are policy choices.
The physical damage done by the fossil fuel industry is a crime, which is why the fossil fuel industry must end. But the exploitation and impoverishment of our state by the most lucrative industry in the world is a disgrace on our government officials that defies description. On Saturday’s ballot were various amendments, contorting the constitution, ostensibly to address “funding issues.” Such amendments are a regular, pathetic charade, insultingly asking Louisianians to believe that our state lacks resources. The state has all the resources it needs. State officials simply have to adequately tax the fossil fuel industry, rather than subsidize it, the most lucrative industry in the world. It is an outrage that Louisiana exists in our current state of deprivation.
Entergy is a fossil-fuel-heavy energy company and our only local Fortune-500 company, number 300. It is also a government-protected monopoly with a guaranteed profit margin for a service that none of us can live without. And despite being entrusted with these advantages, Entergy has proven a bad faith actor in our community. Entergy was instrumental in ending Louisiana’s subsidy for residential solar panels that had made our state fifth in the nation in per capita solar installation. (In addition to staving off climate change, solar panels also provide power when Entergy fails.) On October 16, 2017, Entergy defrauded the City Council, paying actors to pose as private citizens, disrupting the Council meeting with their paid talking points for an otherwise unwanted gas plant that did not perform as advertised after Hurricane Ida.
Soon we will have a new City Council. I call upon Helena Moreno, JP Morrell, Joe Giarusso, and whoever emerges from the December runoffs, to maximally use the Council’s authority over Entergy. The Council must press Entergy to move to renewable sources at maximum speed, harden the grid, and ease the energy burden on our poorest citizens. The people cannot continue to accept deprivation while corporations reap enormous profits. We must expect and demand material benefits from the wealth passing through our city and state.
This statement was written collaboratively by Bart Everson and David Bryan.