An executive producer for the new documentary on Robert "Beto" O'Rourke's failed Senate campaign is an executive for Texas-based Oil States International who says carbon-based fuels will continue to "rule the world" for the foreseeable future.
The documentary, Running With Beto, debuted at Austin's South by Southwest Festival on Saturday. Among the film's handful of executive producers—a credit often reserved for those involved with production financing—is Lias "Jeff" Steen, executive vice president at Oil States International.
O'Rourke, expected to soon make an announcement on whether he will run for president, has run into problems with environmental activists over his ties to the oil industry.
O'Rourke supports radical environmentalist policies such as the Green New Deal, but after taking a "No Fossil Fuel Money" pledge, he ended up taking hundreds of thousands in contributions from the oil and gas industry. The $476,325 O'Rourke raised from the industry made him the second-biggest recipient of its money all cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
O'Rourke aides privately pushed back on the criticism, arguing it's impossible to raise money in oil-rich Texas without taking donations from the industry. Among the contributions was the maximum allowed $5,400 from Steen, who has argued against the idea that the future of energy won't include carbon-based fuels.
"Carbon-based fuels rule the world, and that's not going to change any time soon," Steen said in a 2017 interview.
Though the Green New Deal calls for the United States to transition entirely to zero-emission energy resources, Steen argues, "there's no avoiding the need for more petro production," according to an industry journal profile of him.
"The world burns almost 100 million barrels of oil daily, and that has been going up approximately 1 percent a year, Steen says, and with the global population increasing at roughly the same rate, there’s no avoiding the need for more petro production," the profile stated.
Press contacts for Running with Beto did not respond to numerous inquiries on the role Steen played in the film's production. A call to Steen at Oil States International was not returned.
Also involved in the film are former Obama White House aides Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor.
O'Rourke called the Green New Deal the "best proposal" he's seen to ensure his hometown of El Paso remains inhabitable.
"I'm really excited about the leadership there to meet our commitment to the generations that follow," O'Rourke told Buzzfeed. "It is the best proposal that I've seen to ensure that this planet does not warm another two degrees celsius, after which we may lose the ability to live in places like El Paso. It's going to take that kind of effort to ensure that we meet our commitments."
O'Rourke has also made comments that have rubbed environmentalists the wrong way. During a debate with Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), he said deciding between oil and gas and renewable energy was a "false choice."
His aides indicated to Bloomberg that they thought the criticism of his oil ties were coming from potential 2020 primary opponents.