US courts have cleared the way for wealthy oil industry elites to throw
their massive financial weight behind candidates that support their interests.
This includes the Keystone XL. While rich environmentalists are also free to do
the same, they are nowhere near as numerous or as powerful as those who continue to
earn billions from fossil fuels.
There are some good reasons to delay the Keystone XL pipeline,
however, the ultimate fate of the project is directly related to campaign
finance. There is a war being waged that pits environmental concerns against the fossil fuel
industry. The Keystone XL would transport more than 800,000 barrels of
tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The tar sands are the
dirtiest fossil fuel on earth and a major contributor of climate change
causing greenhouse gases.
finance ultimately has the ability to determine the outcome of many
elections and perhaps even the fate of the Keystone XL. Two important
Supreme Court decisions have made it easier to buy elections in the
United States. The first is the recent ruling in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case and the other is the 2010 Citizens United
ruling. These two rulings, along with lower court decisions, allow for
virtually unlimited funds to determine the outcome of any race in the
The Koch brothers political influence
The influence of the Koch brothers extends to the Supreme Court.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have attended the Koch
brothers’ secret retreats. Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch are
some of the richest and best known examples of wealthy patrons who use
their fortunes to interfere with the political process and protect their
corporate interests. They are estimated to be worth about 25 billion
Koch Industries is the second-largest privately owned corporation in
the U.S. In 2008 they played a prominent role in killing cap-and-trade
legislation. In 2010 they succeeded in electing a slate of candidates
committed to eliminate environmental and financial regulations. The Koch
network spent more than $400 million
on the 2012 election alone including $60 million on anti-Obama ads. The
Koch brothers not only spent money on misinformation, they fostered close ties to the 2012 GOP presidential candidates.
The Kochs oppose environmental protections while they support the
Keystone XL. Reports show that they stand to make $100 million from the
Keystone XL’s construction. They benefit from the tar sands industry in a
number of ways including transportation, refining and the sale of a
variety of finished products. Koch Industries created, or collaborated
with, other companies that are key players in the development of
Alberta’s oil resources. They have also extensively lobbied Canada’s
ruling Conservatives to limit government regulations.
In addition to lobbying for its oil, gas, mineral and chemical interests, Koch Industries and its subsidiaries support climate denial and oppose renewable energy.
According to Greenpeace, the Kochs spent more than $50 million between
1998 and 2010 on climate science attacks. It is interesting to note that
during this period, the number of Americans that believe in
anthropogenic climate change declined substantially.
The Los Angeles Times
reported that Koch Industries and its employees are the largest single
oil and gas donor to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Together, they contributed $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31
Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats. Nine of the 12 new
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee signed a pledge
distributed by Americans for Prosperity to oppose legislation designed
to regulate greenhouse gases.
Harry Reid recently suggested that the Koch brothers are using their
financial might to advocate for the Keystone XL. Reid has accused the
billionaire brothers of “buying America.”
“Anything that’s dirtying the environment, look around and they’re involved in it most of the time,” said Reid. “It’s hard to find anything dirtier than coal. But you look around, you got tar sands — that beats it.”
Wealthy environmentalists counter misinformation
The McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling also
allows rich environmentalists to support ecologically concerned
candidates across the U.S. Men like Tom Steyer are throwing their weight behind environmental
causes like efforts to combat the KXL. Steyer is the founder and
co-managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, L.L.C., one of the
country’s most successful investment firms. He is also the co-founder of
Next Generation, an organization that combats climate change.
Steyer is a billionaire environmentalist who has vowed to spend as
much as $100 million ($50 million of his own money and $50 million from
other donors) on behalf of candidates who back climate change
legislation. Steyer said he and his organization, NextGen Climate, “will
continue to stand up for politicians and leaders who have the courage
to stand up to special interests, like Big Oil, who are in this fight
for their own bottom line.”
“First, since the pipeline would significantly increase
carbon pollution, we know that it fails the climate test laid out by
President Obama last year. Keystone XL is the economic key
to unlocking the Alberta tar sands. As Canadian oil interests have
confirmed, the oil industry cannot maximize the extraction of some of
the world’s dirtiest oil without it,” Steyer said. “Second, our leaders
must demand that in advance of any decision on the project, TransCanada
finally come clean on whether all of the refined oil will stay in the
United States. TransCanada has said the United States should support the
pipeline because it would provide energy independence for the United
States, but they have ducked, dodged and refused to commit to keeping
the refined oil in our country.”
However, there is an important distinction to make between Stayer and
the Koch brothers. As he explained, he’s not the left’s version of the
Koch brothers. “That is not something I embrace. I think there are real
distinctions between the Koch brothers and us,” Steyer
said in an interview with POLITICO and The Washington Post taped for
C-SPAN’s Newsmakers. While Steyer will use his vast personal fortune to
make climate change a top priority in the upcoming midterm elections,
unlike the Kochs, he is not getting involved with politics for personal
gain nor is he a purveyor of misinformation.
Steyer does not have a complex multi-faceted subterfuge machine like
the Koch brothers. He claims he will only get involved in eight midterm
races, while the Koch brothers are likely to get involved in many more.
Despite the efforts of Steyer and others, the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision
unfairly benefits corporate interests more than environmentalists. That
is because there are far more rich people beholden to the
fossil fuel industry than there are wealthy environmentalists. Further, the vast
sums of money made in hydrocarbons dwarfs the earnings of other
individuals or corporations.
The Keystone XL has the support of some very wealthy patrons, far
more than the forces that oppose it. In the final analysis, it comes
down to the choice between the democratic will of the people and the
extraordinary power and wealth of the fossil fuel industry.
Nonetheless we have reason to hope. The Koch brothers’ massive
spending did not succeed in ousting Obama in 2012. Further, a huge
grassroots movement has managed to keep the Keystone at bay for more
than three years.
Source: Global Warming is Real