One of the issues that Oil Change has tried to highlight is how oil money corrupts and corrodes politics. Big Oil has always had hordes of cash to spend to influence legislation on energy and climate. Big Oil always expects to get its way as its pockets are deeper than its opponents. For years it has outspent its opponents, watering down legislation.
And despite the greenwashing that the industry now takes climate change seriously, it continues to act in its own interest, rather than the public interest.
On June 26, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed what was known as the Waxman and Markey Bill, by a vote of 219 to 212. The final version of the Bill that passed the House Floor differed substantially from the version that was originally introduced by the two politicians. The Bill had been so watered down that many environmental groups oppose it in its current form.
Now a new analysis by MAPLight.org, a groundbreaking public database which shows the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes, shows just how much influence companies had on the legislation. It was not just supporters of Big Oil, but timber, nuclear and agricultural companies too.
Having compared voting patterns with commercial contributions, MAPlight came to the conclusion that: “House members’ positions on changes to the bill tended to correlate with financial support from the interest groups that would benefit from these changes.”
Although the Bill underwent significant changes from when it was first introduced to when it was voted on in the House – known as the Floor vote – many of the changes were made behind closed doors. Only one committee – Energy & Commerce offered a record of its markup process. An analysis of this shows the influence that money has over politics:
Letting Oil off the Hook – Representative Raymond “Gene” Green (Democrat from Texas) offered an amendment to change one word form “source” to “emission point.” This one word would have had the potential to significantly increase eligibility for industrial polluters like oil and gas refiners to receive carbon allowances.
Green’s amendment was agreed by the Energy and Commerce Comittee, which received on average $72,119 from the oil and gas industry from 2003-2008. Green himself received $177,913 from the oil and gas industry – more than twice as much as the average for Energy & Commerce Committee members.
Nuclear Becomes Renewable – Representative Fred Upton (Republic from Michigan) offered an amendment to redefine renewable energy to include nuclear energy. According to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) “This amendment would have redefined what energy sources count towards the renewable electricity standard (RES) to include all nuclear energy.”
Although the amendment was actually defeated by 29-26 votes, Nuclear energy industry contributors gave nearly twice as much money to legislators who voted Yes as they gave to legislators who voted No.
Redefining Renewable Biomass – Representative Greg Walden (Republic from Oregan) sponsored an amendment which would have broadened the definition of renewable biomass. According to the LCV, “enacting Walden’s amendment would have removed critical safeguards that prevent habitat on our nation’s public and private forests from being plowed up in the name of biofuels production.”
An analysis of those who voted shows that those who voted for the amendment received an average of $25,745 each from the Forestry and Paper Products industry, ten times as much as the $2,541 received, on average, by each member voting No.
Exemptions for agricultural polluters – Concern for agricultural interests featured prominaently in the final compromise. George Radanovich (R-CA) offered an amendment that “cancels cap-and-trade provisions if 43,846 agriculture jobs are lost because of the law’s enactment.” Radanovich’s top contributing group is the Crop Production and Basic Processing industry, providing more than twice as much money in campaign contributions any other industry from 2003-2008.
“I’m continually surprised by how direct the relationship is between the supporters of the bills, their financial backers and the correlations between campaign contributors and votes.” said Dan Newman, executive director of MAPLight.
Should we be surprised?