Fossil fuel lobbyists are also fighting to put new restrictions on clean energy alternatives such as solar and wind power.
MINNEAPOLIS — As of April, the oil and gas industry had already spent over $34 million to influence American politics this year. Fossil fuel companies are one of the top sources of funding for Washington lobbying firms, and their deep pockets allow them to far outspend those who seek to protect the environment and the earth’s resources from exploitation.
The figures come from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization working “to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more transparent and responsive government.” According to their data, lobbying from the energy sector topped $141 million last year. The top single corporate spender was Koch Industries, Inc., which spent $13.8 million in lobbying, followed by Exxon Mobil and Occidental Petroleum, one of the country’s top oil producers.
The center’s overview of oil and gas funding suggests that while both parties receive funding from the oil and gas industry, that money has increasingly flowed to the GOP for the last two decades, with 90 percent going toward Republicans during the 2012 election cycle.
Lobbyists have pushed for expanded government support for pipelines such as the Keystone XL, the controversial pipeline designed to move dangerous tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to export terminals on the Gulf Coast. Oil industry money is also poised to boost Arctic offshore drilling, a practice that drew widespread outrage from environmental groups after President Obama voiced support for it in April.
Meanwhile, lobbyists have successfully targeted environmental regulations and scientific funding that supports research into climate change. Lamar Smith, a Republican representative from Texas, appeared before a climate change denial conference last week, where he celebrated recent attacks on both the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, according to DeSmogBlog’s Kyla Mandel. Smith chairs the Congressional Science, Space and Technology Committee, and the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the oil and gas industry are Smith’s largest donors. Under Smith’s watch, NASA’s earth science budget has dropped by 40 percent.
Fossil fuel lobbyists declare war on earth
Energy industry lobbyist Richard Berman compared his work to warfare in a secretly recorded appearance before energy industry executives last June:
“‘If you think about it these groups, the Sierra Club, who is the natural enemy of the Sierra Club? Who is the enemy of Greenpeace?,’ he said. ‘You know at the surface, you would love to be a group like that because everyone should be in favor of you, who could be against you? That’s very difficult to overcome and they play on that, and they trade on that, and that’s our opportunity and also our challenge. So it is an endless war.’”
The industry has been accused of waging a war on sustainable energy, with groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council — a secretive think tank that brings corporate lobbyists together with state legislators to create laws — and the Koch Brothers targeting pro-alternative energy policies such as solar energy tax credits and support for wind power.
But the conflicts supported by fossil fuel money aren’t just metaphorical: Oil industry lobbying can also be directly linked to the push for war, as fossil fuel corporations seek new resources to exploit in foreign nations. Memos leaked in 2011 show how oil firms directly supported the war in Iraq. Even after many U.S. troops left the country in 2012, the oil industry remained behind in Iraq, with BP and Royal Dutch Shell earning billions from lucrative contracts in the Middle East.
Given Republicans’ vocal support for war on Syria and opposition to a peace deal with Iran, it’s a certainty that the industry stands to profit from those countries’ oil reserves as well.
Watch John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, admit that wars are fought for oil: