Bill McKibben: How You Subsidize the Energy Giants to Wreck the Planet

6:33 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Just in case you’re running for national office, here are a few basic stats to orient you when you hit Washington (thanks to the invaluable Open Secrets website of the Center for Responsive Politics). In 2011, the oil and gas industries ponied up more than $148 million to lobby Congress and federal agencies of various sorts. The top four lobbying firms in the business were ConocoPhillips ($20.5 million), Royal Dutch Shell ($14.7 million), Exxon Mobil ($12.7 million), and Chevron ($9.5 million).

And note that those figures don’t include campaign contributions, although I can’t imagine why corporate money flowing to candidates or their PACs isn’t considered “lobbying.” When it comes to such donations, the industry has given a total of $238.7 million to candidates and parties since 1990, 75% of it to Republicans. In 2011-2012, Exxon ($992,573) and — I’m sure this won’t shock you — Koch Industries ($872,912) led the oil and gas list.

Or think of this another way: the Senate recently voted down a bill sponsored by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez to end congressional subsidies for the top oil companies. The senators who nixed the measure, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, $264,700), received approximately $1.48 million in oil and gas campaign contributions in 2011-2012; those who voted for it, a mere $400,000. Not surprisingly, this fits a longer-term congressional voting pattern in which money talks. In fact, it shouts.

And of course, a similar pattern can be seen in the presidential sweepstakes (with a similar Republican to Democrat ratio). In the present election campaign, Mitt Romney has already received $598,000 from oil and gas types, President Obama $131,000. The Koch brothers have, in fact, given $250,000 to Mitt Romney’s super PAC, Restore Our Future, and that’s undoubtedly a small down payment on contributions to come. And as novelist Kurt Vonnegut might once have written, so it goes in Washington.

TomDispatch regular Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, suggests that the flood of money through, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor, Washington’s infamous “revolving door” is so overwhelming that we don’t even have an adequate language for discussing it, no less our 1% election or our republic of the richest. Tom

Payola for the Most Profitable Corporations in History
And Why Taxpayers Shouldn’t Stand for It Any More
By Bill McKibben

Along with “fivedollaragallongas,” the energy watchword for the next few months is: “subsidies.” Last week, for instance, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez proposed ending some of the billions of dollars in handouts enjoyed by the fossil-fuel industry with a “Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act.” It was, in truth, nothing to write home about — a curiously skimpy bill that only targeted oil companies, and just the five richest of them at that. Left out were coal and natural gas, and you won’t be surprised to learn that even then it didn’t pass. [cont] Read the rest of this entry →