The Problem

Russ Fugal
7 min readDec 6, 2019

My life is fueled by the cheap energy supplied by burning fossils as fuel. I bet yours is to, and that’s The Problem. Unless you’ve won the lottery and can a build fortress of sustainable solitude, it’s impossible to escape this carbon footprint without turning to homelessness. These are the options placed in front of us by They, the builders of the nation.

I don’t know about you, but I have bills to pay. I need health care, a home, and food for my family. I recognize that, at this moment, I’m more fortunate than most; I manage a large enough cash flow that I’ve saved for a rainy day and could pay my bills for a few months without income; but I need a job just as much as most anyone does.

And that means I need to get to work. My employer’s office is located between an oil refinery and a medical waste incinerator, near no regularly running commuter train or bus stops. My options are to raise my children in the hazardous vicinity or drive to work. I’m fortunate enough to be able to choose the later; and that means I have a carbon footprint.

The winters here are cold and the summers are hot, so my home has an AC and a furnace; and a carbon footprint.

Most of my food isn’t grown locally; there aren’t farms in this valley like there used to be. My food supply has a carbon footprint.

We have some choices. I spend little on entertainment, toys, and vacations so I can afford solar panels and electric vehicles; I have a garden; but I still have a carbon footprint. That’s the only option they’ve provided me.

Who is they? Globalists? Neoliberals? Central planners? Presidents? Merchants? Conspirators?

Well, they are business owners, innovators, city planners, utilities, builders, engineers, politicians, entrepreneurs and investors. The Problem is that they are burning fossils as fuel and the global economy they have built does not permit them to stop.

The Problem is that they are burning fossils as fuel and the global economy they have built does not permit them to stop.

The result is global heating, melting ice, rising seas, changing climates, and extreme weather — including extreme droughts, extreme flooding, extreme hurricanes, extreme ice storms, and extreme heat. These extreme “natural” disasters are manmade disasters. The crime is that this has been known and unaddressed since before I was born. The crisis is that the holocaust, with over 17 million deaths, pales in comparison to the loss of life we will witness if we don’t solve The Problem now.

The climate science is clear, every new gasoline car they build today means your car, all gasoline cars, must be scrapped sooner. Every new gas furnace they install means you will need to pay for an electric replacement sooner. Money down the drain. We need them to throw money at new choices now — not in 10 years.

The climate science is clear, current policies of allowing fossils to burn will warm the world 1.5° by 2030. It also shows that if we will stay below 2° we need economy changing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The UN published a report in November 2019 stating carbon emissions need to be reduced over 7.5 percent a year throughout the 2020s. Solar and wind are cheap today — we don’t need a technology breakthrough, we need a moral one.

The oil and gas extraction companies are generating obscene profits for their investors. They will not stop. There’s too much money to be made. And the chief executives have a legal responsibility to maximize profits — it’s called a fiduciary responsibility — to push oil and gas sales, to destroy our planet and most life on it. The global economy they have built requires, legally, the sacrifice of humanity on the altar of greed. But these rules are manmade, they’re not immutable. We can change them. It is immoral that they profit off the waning economic necessity you and I have to burn fossils, or to delay a transition away from still-profitable extraction of fossils. Delay and denial stuffs cash in wealthy pockets and pounds nails in the coffin of a free society. While many billionaires and some millionaires may survive the 4°C warmer world they are creating, a free society and most of the humble multitude of humanity will not.

This is why I’m running for Congress in 2020, because I’ve talked this over with John Curtis and he’s deaf to the alarm. This September alone, while millions of children schoolstriked for climate, he took donations of $5,000 from Chevron, $4,000 from Count on Coal, $2,000 from the now bankrupt Murray Energy, and thousands more from other Big Coal, Oil, and Gas interests. The sick thing is, he doesn’t even need it; the cash his campaign committee has on hand, nearly $300,000, is about ten times more than his 2018 opponent raised in total.

To fix The Problem, the rules need to be changed. They, the fossil era profiteers, don’t need to be villainized. They are just playing the game — where greed is good, life is disposable, death is collateral — the game that man has made legal. We don’t need to villainize them, we know what evils common men are capable of, we just need to change the rules. But if they think they can buy influence the People’s House, we will rise up and claim our power.

To fix The Problem we need to educate. Personally, I was duped. I am an independent voter, I have been for 16 years; I even considered myself a good environmental steward. But up until 2014, I swallowed two big lies sold by Exxon, hook line and sinker: 1) does carbon dioxide really cause warming? And 2) how accurate are climate models, really?

I was duped. Up until 2014, I swallowed two big lies sold by Exxon, hook line and sinker.

With my science chops as a 17-year-old freshman at Brigham Young University, I would have been easily corrected 14 years earlier had the curriculum tried: 1) any middle school student can quickly set up an experiment in your kitchen to prove that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas; this was first done in 1856 by women’s rights activist Eunice Foote, age 37. And 2) new research shows climate models have been correct since literally 1970. They knew that global heating was a threat 30 years ago, when the average U.S. Senator of today was my age. In those 30 years they’ve knowingly added as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as they did in the previous 200 years. They knowingly duped me and millions more to get away with it; maybe even you.

Yes, these stories are important, revealing The Problem, but there is no standard exam or threshold of knowledge you need to act. Climate activism is not about doing things perfectly; it’s about doing them intentionally. Right now, they are literally doing nothing productive.

So I’m writing ELBA — the Extinguishing the Social License to Burn Fossils Act — which will impose an additional 20% tax on taxable income of all Fossil Era Profiteers (like Exxon) until they divest fully from carbon emitting products. That additional tax on profits escalates to 80% by 2026 and 94% in 2030. Importantly, ELBA doesn’t impose an excise tax on fossils (a carbon tax) because that would be a regressive tax, disproportionately impacting frontline and vulnerable communities, exacerbating systemic injustices, while also leaving intact the moral hazard of their profiting off our economic necessity to burn fossils.

What ELBA manages to do is incentivize fossil era profiteers to invest aggressively in safe energy sources, adapting to the new rules by transforming their business plans, ending all investment in fossil extraction. The market supply of fossils will gradually drop as safe energy options flood the market. No taxes will be added at the pump or to your utility bill, keeping prices low. ELBA also imposes steep import and export duties on coal, oil, and natural gas over the 2020s decade to keep fossils grounded. The import and export duties keep fossils local, preventing profiteers from outsourcing a profitable extraction or sale of fossils to international markets. This is a business-friendly, market-based policy that addresses The Problem head on.

Build your own scenario

This is what I’m running on in 2020.

In solidarity,

Russ Fugal
Utah Third District Candidate for the U.S. House