The Power and Energy of the Fossil Fuel Industry

If our leaders can't stand up to the vested interests of Big Oil and Big Coal, then we must do it ourselves. It is time for a change.Amidst the devastation that is, or perhaps was, the Gulf Coast, an immense spill in China, thousands of abandoned offshore wells continuously leaking, and the effects of GHG-driven climate change becoming increasingly apparent, one could have thought that now is the time for climate legislation. But alas, no – as evident in the wake, (and I mean wake) of the Senate’s failure to pass any sort of climate or energy bill before they headed off for August recess/vacation. This failure due to the fact that not one Republican would support such legislation, claiming it would raise taxes, raise electricity bills, kill jobs and force more manufacturers to take their factories overseas; just as they did more than ten years ago with the Kyoto Protocol.

Furthermore, somehow the “debate” about climate change continues. Somehow, the don of climate contrarians, Senator James Inhofe, still gets away with pronouncing that “catastrophic global warming is not occurring,” and we are currently in a cooling period that has lasted for the past nine years.  The Heartland Institute insists that global warming does not produce drought but rather the Northern Hemisphere is becoming a “gardener’s greenhouse.” Somehow, the media, continue to promote the idea of a viable and balanced debate about climate change – including CNN and the BBC. Even the public, albeit stressed and overwhelmed by the economy, is less concerned with climate change than it was six months ago, according to a new study from Yale.

This all during a summer of devastating heat waves, in a year already on track to be the hottest on record after the past decade, which has been the warmest decade in recorded history. A year, that nine nations have so far reached their all time temperature records. A year that is, “tied with 2007 as the year with the most national extreme heat records–fifteen.” In addition, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen 36 percent in the last 250 years with half of that rise occurring since the 1970s, and are currently higher than levels recorded over the past 800, 000 years.

So, in despite of recent events, and a mass of scientific and physical evidence – just ask Russia – more than thirty years after the findings of the Charney panel, twenty years since Hansen testified that the current warming trend was “caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases,”  the United States is still doing nothing to mitigate climate change.

The reason? As Paul Krugman so aptly explains: “Follow the money.

Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy.”

They’re all “on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, which has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting climate-change denial, or Koch Industries, which has been sponsoring anti-environmental organizations for two decades…Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.”

For, once again, the massive and massively lucrative fossil fuel industry rears it’s ugly head, and demonstrates that it can, and will, do whatever it takes to ensure its own interests, at the expense of the public, the climate and the planet.

Accounting for 70 percent of the world’s energy supply, the fossil fuel industry constitutes not only the biggest single industry in history, but is the most profitable industry in the world. ExxonMobil, itself, became the world’s largest corporation when the two companies merged in 1999. In 2007, it was worth more than General Electric, Bank of America and Google combined. In 2008, ExxonMobil reported a record annual profit at $40.61 billion.In 2009, it again reported a record-breaking profit at $45.2 billion.

Consider this: From 2005 to 2008, Exxon Mobil spent $8.9 million while Koch Industries contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the climate denial machine. Since 1997, Koch Industries has spent over $48.5 million. Between 2000-2008, Sen. Inhofe, has received at least $662, 506 from oil companies, and $152,800 in coal contributions during the 110th Congress.  During the same time, BP apologist, Sen. Barton has received $1,030,426 from the oil industry and $121,050 from the coal industry.

Accordingly, the administration’s attempt at a moratorium of deepwater drilling was basically dead in the water before it began. Judge Feldman, who originally struck down the moratorium, owned stock in ExxonMobil as well as oil service providers Halliburton, Prospect Energy, Hercules Offshore, Parker Drilling Co., and ATP Oil & Gas.  The three judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled in favor of Feldman’s decision, all own investments in oil. Two of the judges not only attended oil industry sponsored, all expense-paid “junkets for judges“, but had previously worked as oil-industry litigators before their appointments to the federal bench. Even President Obama does not remain unscathed. His 2008 presidential campaign was the top recipient of BP-related donations. And these are just a few examples. You can just guess who’s funding the Republican campaigns this fall.

And so, here we are. It seems the issue itself has reached a tipping point and it is now up to us. No longer can we sit by and hope and pray that our leaders will “get it”. Not while the amount of climate change inducing and global warming emissions continue to increase, the Arctic melts, and temperatures rise. While China is quickly overtaking us in research, development, technology and polices to combat climate change. So, speak with your fellow citizens, call and write letters to your representatives, hold community meetings, rally in the streets. Basically, in the words of Bill McKibben, it’s time to stand up and show our leaders that “We’re Hot as Hell and We’re Not Going to Take It Any More.”

Image credit: Wyatt’s Virtual Drifting’s photostream, courtesy Flickr

Gwenn Morreale
Gwenn Morreale
Gwenn grew up on the campus of Bard College in a small town made famous by Steely Dan in the Hudson Valley. A nature girl her entire life, she was definitely inspired by Pete Seeger and the Clearwater, and was lucky enough as a high school intern to sail on the sloop for an entire week. She holds a M.A. in Media Ecology/Communications from New York University where she wrote her thesis on the contrarian’s use of propaganda to create a debate about climate change. For the past four years, she has been developing outreach campaigns, and researching and writing about climate change and energy efficiency. Prior to this, she has worked in the entertainment industry developing documentaries, and managing a plethora of film, television and theatrical productions in New York and Los Angeles. Currently she resides in Los Angeles and is developing websites and video projects, and researching and writing about environmental issues, for the Sierra Club and the Shadowland Foundation.

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