Center for American Progress Action

Dirty Money: Oil Companies and Special Interests Spend Half a Billion Dollars to Oppose Climate Legislation
Press Release

Dirty Money: Oil Companies and Special Interests Spend Half a Billion Dollars to Oppose Climate Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Big oil companies and other special interests have spent millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to defeat clean energy and global warming legislation, according to a new analysis released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The study “Dirty Money” found that the top 35 spending companies and trade associations invested more than $500 million in lobbying and campaign contributions from January 2009 to June 2010 to defeat clean energy legislation. This political pressure spending convinced enough senators to oppose clean energy measures that would have created jobs, reduced oil use, and cut global warming pollution.

“This year had many extreme weather disasters and fossil fuel catastrophes. Yet too many senators ignored these events and instead heeded the extreme views of big oil, dirty coal, and their allies rather than those of the American people,” said Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “America suffered from its hottest temperatures and worst offshore oil blowout, yet enough senators opposed clean energy reforms that made change impossible so far.”

“Dirty Money” found that special interest lobbying activities sped up in 2009 as the House of Representatives began debate on the American Clean Energy and Security Act. These pressure tactics—including direct lobbying and campaign contributions—continued through the Senate deliberations that began last fall.

The CAPAF study includes data on lobbying and campaign contributions by the 20 biggest-spending oil, mining, and electric utility companies. They shelled out $242 million on lobbying from January 2009 to June 2010. Fifteen trade associations that generally oppose clean energy policies spent another $290 million during this time—for a combined total of $1,800 in lobby expenditures a day for every single senator and representative.

Not surprisingly, six of the seven companies with the largest lobbying expenditures are Big Oil companies—ExxonMobil (1), ConocoPhillips (2), Chevron (3), BP (5), Koch Industries (6), and Shell (7). Their 18-month lobbying expenditures total $143 million. In addition, the American Petroleum Institute, a Big Oil ally, spent $11 million to lobby Congress to defeat pollution reductions and maintain their tax loopholes, along with another $126 million on television ads just this year alone.

“While big oil, dirty coal, and other special interests profit from inaction, everyday Americans will pay the price of doing nothing. Clean energy investments and pollution reductions would create jobs, protect public health, and reduce our oil dependence,” noted Weiss. But because enough senators caved to special interests, China will get our clean energy jobs while we are stuck with the dirty energy pollution.”

In addition to the highest temperatures and worst oil disaster in U.S. history, there were many other extreme weather events. There were calving ice chunks the size of Manhattan, record heat waves and wildfires in Russia, and unprecedented floods in Iowa, Tennessee, and Pakistan. These extreme weather events are consistent with scientists’ predictions about global warming, and they portend more catastrophes to come as greenhouse gas pollution spews unchecked from power plants, vehicles, and factories. Yet Big Oil and their allies have successfully helped block any action to tackle these problems by spending millions of dollars to influence lawmakers.

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