Wells Fargo, Bank of America Closed for Climate Crimes

Today members of Portland Rising Tide and participants in a training for Power Shift 2011 set out to let major banks in Portland know it’s time to pull investments from dirty fossil fuel infrastructure.  About fifty people visited local branches of Wells Fargo and Bank of America, letting customers know the banks have been “Closed for climate crimes.”  While some participants staged a die-in on the sidewalks, others used mud to stick “dirty money” to the walls and windows.  The group drew interested looks from people on the sidewalks and bank customers using the ATMs, and activists were happy to fill in passers-by on how these banks came to deserve their dirty reputations.

A good time was had by all, and it was great to see so much energy channeled into shining a light on the companies financing some of the world’s most destructive fossil fuel infrastructure.  Yet while actions like this are designed to be both educational and fun, there’s nothing amusing about funding activities that destroy the very livability of the planet.  When Bank of America and Wells Fargo customers arrive tomorrow at the branches targeted by today’s action, they’ll learn about the dirty dealings with fossil fuel companies these Wall Street players ordinarily try to cover up.

Big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America are financing coal and other fossil fuel projects throughout that poison communities and destabilize the climate.  Here in the Pacific Northwest perhaps their worst climate crime is giving capital to companies like Arch Coal that want to transform the region into a major coal export zone.  Proposals to massively expand coal exports in the Washington communities of Longview and Cherry Point would expose people nearby to toxic coal dust from trains – thus the victims of fatal coal poisoning who appeared on the sidewalks outside Wells Fargo and Bank of America today.  Meanwhile coal exported to markets in China and India would contribute to climate change and undo much of the great work the Northwest has done to reduce carbon emissions here at home.

Customers who arrive tomorrow at the Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches which were the focus of today’s action will find these banks’ dirty activities laid out in the open at last.  Both banks have always dealt in dirty financing, but unsurprisingly aren’t keen to brag about it to the people who supply their money.  As people across the country wake up to Wall Street’s role in financing dirty coal, it will be harder for banks to keep their activities behind closed doors.  If you have an account with Wells Fargo of Bank of America, you can help.  Contact your bank and let them know their customers don’t support lending dirty money to fossil fuels.

16 Responses to “Wells Fargo, Bank of America Closed for Climate Crimes”

  1. 1 look at the hypocrite Apr 4th, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Do any of the protesters use electricity?

  2. 2 nickengelfried Apr 4th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Hi “look at the hypocrite,”

    First of all, protests of this type in fact use very little electricity – it doesn’t take much energy to slap “dirty money” on a brick wall with mud. More importantly however, you seem to have missed the whole point of the protest. Yesterday’s action was not about protesting electricity – it was about challenging big banks’ investments in dirty coal and other fossil fuels. Yes, coal is used to generate electricity; so are wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources. I doubt most people who were involved in the protest would advocate eliminating electricity – we just want it to be produced in a cleaner way.

    I think you’re employing a tactic common among those who would rather not have to take responsibility for where their energy comes from, of attempting to dismiss activists out of hand by pinning the hypocrite label on them. In this case it doesn’t work – it just makes you look like you don’t understand the issue, because we nobody at the action was protesting electricity. Please try again.

  3. 3 nedryerson Apr 4th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    do you know how much of the US electricity supply comes from real renewable energy?

    it’s right around one percent.

  4. 4 nickengelfried Apr 4th, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Nedryerson,

    Thanks for correctly identifying the problem: this would be why we’re out there asking big banks and other players to invest in real clean energy. If the US already used mostly renewable power sources, our efforts would not be necessary.

  5. 5 Jim Lockhart Apr 4th, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Thanks for your efforts, your passion and your intelligence…………..Good work!

  6. 6 look at the hypocrite Apr 5th, 2011 at 4:38 pm


    I can’t believe you actually thought that I was talking about the protest using electricity.

    My point is, why not protest in front of the post office, they probably have transported some of the money the banks have lent to the industry, or maybe Bic pens; I’m sure they have been used to sign some of these agreements.

    Protesting is your right, but why not protest the use of the dirty power? Not Banks, post offices, or Bic pens. I just don’t see your point at all.

    P.S. I think one of the nasty banks is loaning “green” technology companies $20 million. Why aren’t you out there touting that?

  7. 7 nickengelfried Apr 5th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Hi again, “Look at the hypocrite,”

    The activists at Sunday’s protests chose to focus on big banks because these financial institutions are enabling construction of new fossil fuel projects by providing the funding. True, banks aren’t the only ones responsible – but without money these projects could not go forward (on the other hand, I think Arch Coal would probably find a way continue its dirty activities without access to Bic pens).

    To address your other point, it’s safe to say Wells Fargo and Bank of America both make some loans to green energy. However that doesn’t excuse them from responsibility for the help they provide to dirty energy projects. When these banks are able to really show they’re committed to clean energy and have relegated their support of Big Coal to the past, then rest assured we’ll give them credit.

  8. 8 look at the hypocrite Apr 5th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Ms. Engelfried,

    I am truly all for clean and efficient energy. I just think that if you are going take time and make an effort to solicit change then aren’t there better ways and places to protest? It’s not illegal for any bank to loan money to a coal electric plant. When did it become the job of a bank to not loan money to a company you don’t like? Many large corporations have instituted programs to reduce their energy use…..they’re not all big bad companies, including the two mentioned in your newsletter.

    Like an earlier poster, I appreciate your passion and desire to change things for the better. I personally get tired of some of the misguided protest (my opinion, obviously.

  9. 9 nickengelfried Apr 5th, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Hi “look at the hypocrite,”

    I appreciate you trying to clarify your stance and your desire for strategic change. Of course we all have differing opinions about what tactics are most effective; however I’ll say that if you wanted to initiate a respectful and productive conversation, launching off your first comment by calling people hypocrites without explaining what you meant probably wasn’t the best idea. Now that you’ve clarified your intentions I’ll accept that you meant well.

    Of course it’s not illegal for banks to loan to dirty energy, but history has shown public pressure campaigns can prompt banks to change their practices, delivering tangible results for the environment and social justice causes. During the ’90s and early 2000s groups like the Rainforest Action Network pressured many large banks to adopt policies that have prevented loans to projects that destroy rainforests. Now many of the folks who fought so hard for those victories are shifting their focus to dirty energy financing.

    In a somewhat different but related vein, student divestment campaigns persuaded many universities foundations to pull their financial support for companies doing business with Apartheid South Africa. This was one small part of an international effort that eventually toppled a racist and anti-democratic regime. Of course at the time many people would have predicted those students’ efforts would never lead to real change.

    I believe a diversity of tactics will be needed to shift the US away from a dirty and unjust energy system – everything from conventional lobbying down to protests of the type I highlighted in my post. Let’s try to be fully respectful of each others’ different approaches.

  10. 10 Old and Gray Apr 18th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Let’s face it. We couldn’t give a ratz ass about future generations.

    The short human life span coupled with the primitive brain that still runs us makes it nearly impossible. In other words, we are all too intrinsically selfish. Altruism does not exist in the human species. Bless those who try. You may have to try and get the human species to evolve a little more and this could mean another 10,000 years. Good Luck.

    We will and are destined to look like Mars in the future. All planets die out eventually. Too bad humans want to speed the death of this planet up. This is only sheer stupidity. Lets human reap what they sow. Their own extinction.

  11. 11 nickengelfried Apr 18th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Hi “Old and Gray,”

    Thanks for writing in – I certainly appreciate you sharing your perspective, though I strongly disagree with the pessimism. I’d say history clearly shows the human species has a capacity for altruism and for caring about future generations. Just look at hundreds of leaders who gave their lives during the US Civil Rights Movement; and in almost any other country in the world you could find similar examples of human altruism of the highest order. Pessimism isn’t just unwarranted – it’s counter-productive, as it discourages people from taking action. If we want people to behave altruistically, the first step is admitting such behavior is possible.

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About Nick

Nick is a freelance writer, climate activist, and a graduate student at the University of Montana. He got his start in activism by helping to establish a new campus recycling system at Portland Community College; since then he has organized to stop fossil fuel projects and open up space for clean energy in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Nick is currently working with activists throughout the Greater Northwest to protect Northwest communities from coal export projects. When not in school or organizing for a clean energy future, he can be found hiking in the natural areas around Missoula, bird watching, or writing a novel.

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