Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Energy companies spend $500 million to block climate legislation

Research from a Washington-based pressure group, The Center for American Progress Action Fund, has uncovered the extent to which energy companies and their supporters have lobbied to dissuade American politicians from pursuing climate change legislation.

It is the lack of progress in America which is having a knock on effect in the world's climate change negotiations.

The report, Dirty Money, says the $500 million figure is likely to be an underestimate, since company donations to trade associations are kept secret and a recent Supreme Court decision allows corporations to spend money to defeat electoral candidates without any disclosure or reporting requirements.

How is the money made up?

Since 2009, when the House of Representatives began debating the American Clean Energy and Security Bill, the entire electric utility industry spent over $264 million on lobbying alone through the first half of 2010.

Oil and gas interests spent a record $175 million lobbying in 2009, a 30% increase on the previous year, and have already spent $75 million in 2010.

The oil, gas and coal industries together have spent over $2 billion lobbying Congress since 1999. These three industries spent $543 million on lobbying in 2009 and the first half of 2010.

To put this in some perspective, alternative energy companies spent less than $32 million on lobbying in 2009 and $14.8 million this year.

Who are the biggest spenders? They are in order:

1. ExxonMobil
2. ConocoPhillips
3. Chevron
4. BP
5. Koch Industries – who also bankroll the right wing Tea Party
6. Shell
7. Southern Company, a major utility with significant coal-fired power generation.
8. American Electric Power.

The largest trade association working to defeat clean energy and global warming legislation is the Chamber of Commerce, which spent almost $190 million during the last year and a half.

The mystery is, why they spend so much money stopping the inevitable, when others in business are grasping the opportunities of the future.

On the other side...

These businesses who are embracing the future are not your usual tree huggers any more: recently, Marius Kloppers, the Australia-based BHP Billiton chief executive, called for a carbon tax. BHPBilliton, one of the largest mining companies in the world, with revenues of $10 billion in its coal business.

The World Wildlife Fund's Climate Saver program engages companies to make voluntary binding commitments to reduce their own emissions. It includes cement-maker LaFarge, IBM, Coca-Cola, and drug-maker Novo Nordisk.

The U.S. Climate Action Partnership calls for climate legislation with a membership that includes Duke Energy, PG&E, Johnson & Johnson, Dow Chemical, Ford Motor Company, DuPont, and General Electric.

Walmart's call to its supply chain to report and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions has catalyzed action in their 60,000-member supplier base. They have also, for example, just announced a project to cover the roofs of many of their stores with thin film PVs.

And there are plenty of examples in the UK, who are working in partnership with the Carbon Trust.

It's not surprising then, that environmental campaigners are increasingly targeting these few climate-change denying, oil-junkie, companies who are holding back progress and safety for the rest of the world.

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