How Can You Make a 5,800% Rate of Return While Stifling Your Competition? Invest it in Our Elected Officials.
The fossil fuel industry exerts undue influence over the political process in America. Our District’s government contributes to the industry’s leverage in Congress and the direction of our energy future through its ownership of stock in many of the top fossil fuel companies – including millions of dollars in Exxon, Chevron, and BP. The nationwide movement among cities and institutions that are withdrawing their investments from these companies holds out hope that we can reduce the industry’s political influence by bankrupting it in the public consciousness, while shifting the conversation to responsible city and university investment portfolios across the country.
How does fossil fuel money influence politics?
According to analysis by Oil Change International, the fossil fuel industry spent over $347 million lobbying the 110th Congress (2009-2010). Over $24 million was used as direct campaign donations. During this same period, the industry received over $20 billion — with a “b” — in government subsidies. That is to say that the industry gets a 5,800 percent return on its investment in lobbying.
Climate Progress reported that the industry wields its influence in two ways. They spend millions of dollars pressuring legislators to oppose any measures that will impact their bottom line. Still more campaign donations are funneled to legislators who support the fossil fuel agenda and campaigns that oppose any changes to the current energy regime. For example, congressional supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline received six times the amount of money from the industry than opponents.
Over the years, other lobbying efforts included:
- Opposition to Clean Air Act pollution reduction requirements.
- Resistance to efforts to address global warming in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454 and the American Power Act.
- Opposition to closing tax loopholes that save oil companies billions of dollars.
- Opposition to the “Community Right to Know” requirement, in which shale gas producers must publically disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing via the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, H.R. 2766.
- Opposition to restrictions on using tar sands as an energy source.
- Resistance to improvements in energy efficiency and increased usage of wind, sun and other renewable energy sources.
- Through its political connections, the fossil fuel incumbency has successfully delayed a shift to rational energy policy, including new energy markets and a more competitive energy economy.
Assaults on renewable energy and any type of energy reform are nothing new. What is new is the industry’s effective declaration that it intends to exploit all current fossil fuel reserves regardless of the environmental consequences. There is more carbon in the ground and on the books than can be burned if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Yet these firms continue their status quo, investing billions in exploratory drilling and prospecting in order to inflate their reserves and bolster stock prices.
This power and influence is not free market capitalism – it represents a rogue industry with a business plan that cannot be executed within the ecological limits of our planet.
Is our democracy helpless against the fossil fuel industry’s money and lobbying influence? What can the people of DC do to counter this type of power?
We must send a clear message that it is unacceptable for the industry to develop fossil fuels carte blanche. DC must stop investing in fossil fuel companies. Divesting the city’s funds from fossil fuels demonstrates that DC will no longer be complicit in the industry’s stranglehold on energy progress. It will show that we do not want our money in an industry that undermines the future of the planet. In this way, we chip away at the fossil fuel industry’s image and reduce its ability to retain political influence.
Sign the petition. Feel good. Let’s do this.
Written by Johnny