New Analysis: Fossil Fuel Industry Spent Up to $1 Billion in Last 2 Years to Buy U.S. Political System
If fossil fuels were as wonderful as the oil, gas and coal industries would like us to believe, you wouldn’t think they’d have to spend as much as $1 billion over just the past two years “in order to secure a Congress of its choosing and a friendly energy agenda.” Yet that, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress, is exactly what they did.
With Congress largely deadlocked, oil, gas, and coal interests have increasingly focused their resources over the past two years on putting industry-friendly politicians in charge of both chambers and laying the groundwork for the new Congress to advance special-interest priorities such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline and increasing the export of American oil to foreign buyers. According to an analysis of contributions and lobbying data from the Center for Responsive Politics and advertising spending data from Kantar Media Intelligence/CMAG, as published by the Atlas Project, the fossil-fuel industry directly invested $721 million—and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars more through contributions to outside groups—in order to secure a Congress of its choosing and a friendly energy agenda. Of these investments, the fossil-fuel industry directly contributed more than $64 million to candidates and political parties, spent more than $163 million on television ads across the country, and paid almost $500 million to Washington lobbyists in the two years leading up to the November 2014 elections.
And where do the fossil fuel companies get all this money to spend nearly $1 billion in just two years trying to influence public policy? Part of it, of course, is that they are allowed to blow up mountains, treat the air and water as open sewers, and not pay for doing so. According to a Harvard study in 2011, that costs all of us $500 billion a year in negative health, economic and environmental impacts, just looking at the coal industry alone. Second, the fossil fuel industry receives enormous direct subsidies, not to mention untold indirect subsidies. Third, this industry has gamed the system to ensure that it pays extremely low taxes. According to this July 2014 report, for instance, ” large U.S.-based oil and gas companies paid” just “11.7 percent of their U.S. pre-tax income” over the last five years, “far less in federalincome taxes than the statutory rate of 35 percent.”
On and on it goes. Then, these companies turn around and use that money to, essentially, “capture” the government in service of their interests. Does that sound like an industry that is confident it could win on its merits alone, in a fair-and-square competition with clean energy? Again, if that were the case, why would they feel the need to swamp our political system with dirty money in order to tilt the playing field in their direction? As the natural gas industry likes to say, “think about it.”