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Last Week Tonight with Congressman Bill Johnson

I was delighted to see our own Congressman Bill Johnson appear in a recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. I was especially delighted to see host John Oliver flatly tell him “shut up” at one point, something I’ve wished I could tell our corrupt, climate change denying Representative for quite a while now.

For context, Oliver hosts a kind of weekly variant on standard late night political talk shows, and spends the bulk of each episode diving deep into a specific topic. The segments are both funny and well-researched, and usually cover important topics that might fly under the radar for most late night hosts.

The segment in question, which can be found in full on YouTube, delves into the topic of America’s power grid. Oliver explores both the recent decline in our energy infrastructure due to its advanced age, as well as the challenges our nation faces in developing a modern grid to accommodate a massive shift toward renewable energy, in order to combat the rapidly escalating climate crisis.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the particular subject of power grids, but I somehow don’t think Congressman Johnson is either, despite an apparent willingness to present himself as such, and to continue shaming the district he represents with his ignorance.

Around 18 minutes into the video, Oliver shows a clip of Johnson grilling Patricia Hoffman, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity (OE) at the U.S. Department of Energy, over the proposed Clean Future Act, which would help to transition us toward a decarbonized power grid.

“What is the return on investment? What is the return on investment?” Johnson keeps yapping at Hoffman like a broken record, interrupting her even as she tries to give an answer about the necessity for this infrastructure toward the health and future of our nation.

Of course, not wanting your kids to be swept up in a climate change-induced firenado isn’t justification enough for Johnson. He wants a specific dollar amount, which Oliver, back in his Last Week Tonight segment, is only too happy to give him, after describing him with a few choice expletives that I really wish I could print here.

Oliver cites multiple studies showing the cost effectiveness of expanding transmission lines across the U.S., including one that predicted approximately $2.50 in benefits for every $1 of cost- a pretty decent return on investment, one might think.

But of course that doesn’t actually matter to Johnson. Evidence doesn’t truly matter at all to those of his ilk. Presenting him with the specific figures he demands isn’t enough, the same way that a 97%+ consensus among the scientific community, half a century’s worth of warnings going back to at least the Kennedy administration, and even buried reports funded by the very fossil fuel industry that created the disaster, aren’t enough to convince him of the runaway climate crisis we are now experiencing. I should know, having delivered a shopping cart full of 100 books on the subject of climate change directly to Johnson’s office two years ago. If he actually wanted to learn what was happening and how to fix it, he would have all the research material he could possibly desire.

But even if I could somehow print off a trillion pages of evidence for Representative Johnson indisputably proving that we were in a climate crisis, it would still pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of dollars he takes in from fossil fuel donors (at least $688,109, according to OpenSecrets.org, as well as, notably, $480,218 from electric utilities.)

Johnson, a supposed Christian who regularly posts Bible verses on his official government Facebook account, is ideologically committed to the notion that greed is good, and that the murderous corporate juggernauts making our planet uninhabitable truly have our best interests at heart.

Johnson’s sustained, willful ignorance cannot be reasoned with, for the simple fact that it’s based exclusively on far right dogma and corruption, rather than actual evidence. And at the end of the day, every last one of us will pay the price for it.

Aaron Dunbar

Lowell

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