Press Release

RELEASE: Big Oil’s Favorite Senators

Opponents of Clean Energy Incentives Got Three Times More Big Oil Campaign Cash

Washington, DC – An analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that the senators who last week blocked a comprehensive bipartisan energy tax package received three times as many campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry compared to its supporters. On June 21st, a critical cloture vote failed by 58-35 – two votes short of the 60 needed to end debate and pass the amendment. The clean energy tax package included economic incentives for the development of clean, alternative energy technologies, closed loopholes for big oil, and recovered unpaid royalties on oil from federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It was sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA).

“Big oil’s favorite senators blocked this bipartisan clean energy tax package,” said Daniel J. Weiss, Center for American Progress Action Fund Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy. “Senators that got millions of dollars in campaign cash saved big oil billions of dollars by maintaining loopholes and handouts.”

An analysis of campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry between 2002 and 2007 found that the 35 senators that voted with big oil and against the tax package received an average of $161,382 in contributions from the oil and gas industry during those years, while the 58 senators that voted for the package received an average of only $56,942 over that same period.

The average “no” vote senator running for reelection in 2008 received $181,682 from the oil and gas industry, and senators on the ballot in 2008 voting “yes” received an average of only $81,886. Several senators who may have close races next year voted against allowing the measure to go to vote, including: Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and, John Sununu (R-NH).

The bipartisan clean energy tax package would have provided tax incentives for the following clean energy technologies:

  • Renewable electricity, such as solar and wind power: $12.5 billion
  • Energy efficiency: $3.1 billion
  • Carbon dioxide capture: $1.6 billion
  • Biofuels: $1.3 billion
  • Clean, more efficient vehicles: $1.5 billion.

These incentives would have been funded via closure of tax loopholes worth $15 billion, and $10 billion from a 13 percent severance tax on oil and gas from Gulf of Mexico leases. This is equivalent to the royalties energy companies evaded in the late 1990s due to a procedural error by the Department of Interior.

“Of course these 35 senators are not on the take from big oil,” Weiss said. “But its nearly $8.5 million in direct campaign contributions made sure that when big oil knocks, enough senators answer the call to block progress on clean energy.”