A Return of 5800%? That's What the Fossil Fuel Lobby Gets

If we had to choose the most crucial policies that every major organization recommends – from the World Bank to the International Energy Agency to the OECD – there would be two:
1. Stop subsidizing fossil fuels and use that money to invest in renewable energy
2. Implement a carbon tax

Right now, we’re not getting either policy, and for good reason. The powerful fossil fuel industry is making a great return on  investment (ROI) by lobbying against both.

For every dollar "invested" in lobbying and campaign contributions, the industry gets a return of 5800%! $350 million invested in the 111th Congress (2009-2010) resulted in a generous $20 billion-plus in corporate tax hand-outs and anti-regulatory policies for the fossil fuel industry.

That’s according to the report, "Polluting our Democracy and Our Environment: Dirty Fuels Money in Politics," by Oil Change International and Sierra Club.

"To put it plainly, the priorities of Congress have been distorted and scarcely resemble those of the vast majority of the American people," says the report.

And that’s just on the federal level! States face the same pressure, and now organizations like ALEC are moving to the most local levels.

Oil Subsidies

Clearly, the key to fighting climate change and getting free of fossil fuels is fighting dark money in our elections.

While the majority of Americans want fossil fuel subsidies eliminated (Republicans (52%), Democrats (67%)), and favor   more investment in clean energy instead (nearly a 2-to-1 margin), and say climate should be a national priority (71%),  and are upset about spills from exploding trains, coal ash and chemicals, here’s what we get from Congress: 300 anti-environmental votes since 2010, for example:

2012-2013: 

  • 95 attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act
  • 145 attacks on the EPA
  • 47 votes for more offshore drilling
  • 53 votes to block action on the climate crisis
  • 57 attempts to defund or repeal clean energy initiatives

2013 – Now: 

  • 44 votes to block action on the climate crisis
  • 88 votes attacking public lands and wilderness
  • 44 attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act
  • 68 attacks on the Clean Water Act

Globally, the world subsidizes the industry to the tune of $2 trillion a year, about 3% of global GDP or 9% of all annual country budgets, according to the International Monetary Fund. Compare that to the $88 billion spent to subsidize renewable energy in 2011, and the fact that eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would lower world carbon emissions by 13%.

In 2009, the G20 promised to stop fossil fuel subsidies, but have since failed to act. The only positive move is President Obama’s decision to publish federal subsidies as part of the International Open Government Partnership he launched.

Recognizing that American elections have become "a front for legalized bribery," the "Government by the People Act" has been introduced in the House, which would provide incentives for candidates to run on small donations.  If they agree to that, small donations would be matched 6-9 times from a "Freedom from Influence Fund." The bill has 150 co-sponsors and a companion bill will soon be introduced in the Senate.

They Could At Least Pay Taxes!

And all this comes as Big Oil makes obscene profits and many pay virtually nothing in taxes.

"They vacuum up billions in tax subsidies while exploiting every loophole they can possibly find to avoid paying their fair share of taxes on their massive profits, according to "The Sorry State of Corporate Taxes, by Citizens for Tax Justice.

Overall, the oil, gas and pipelines industry paid a tax rate of 14.4% from 2008-2012, paying taxes of only $32 million while they raked in profits over $223 billion. And during that time, they got $45 billion in subsidies.

Read the report, "Polluting our Democracy and Our Environment: Dirty Fuels Money in Politics":

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