By Ariel Gans
October 29, 2021 Open Secrets
The oil and gas industry spent more than $81.9 million on lobbying in the first three quarters of 2021 — $2 million less than it spent by this time last year.
Days ahead of the COP26 climate change summit, the annual U.N. emissions gap report found the G20 — a group of 19 countries and the European Union — collectively are off-track to meet the emissions-cutting pledges they made in the 2015 Paris agreement. The International Energy Agency report said companies must immediately cease investment in new oil and gas development if the world wants to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Despite the concerning report and another year of increasingly severe weather events, 184 oil and gas organizations have reported lobbying at the federal level so far this year.
Koch Industries, a Kansas-based refinery conglomerate linked to the conservative-leaning Koch Foundation, tops the list of lobbying spenders at $8.8 million during 2021 so far. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell spent $5.3 million, and Chevron Corp spent $5.1 million as its stock value soared.
The oil and gas industry has consistently pumped more than three-quarters of its campaign contributions into Republican candidate campaigns since 1996. So far in the 2022 election cycle, Republicans have received 77% of the industry’s money — $8 million — even as other traditionally GOP-inclined industries such as electric utilities have shifted to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets data.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has acquired much of his net worth through ties to coal companies, is opposing key climate change provisions in the Democratic domestic spending package being spearheaded by President Joe Biden. In 2020, Manchin made between $591,950 and nearly $1.5 million from a coal brokerage company he founded in West Virginia. The company, Enersystems, represents 71% of his investment income. Manchin has also brought in tens of thousands of dollars in income from Farmington Resources, a mining company run by his son. Between 2011 and 2020, Manchin received between $80,000 and $250,000 from dividends and interest in the company. In the last 10 years, Manchin has made between $4.9 million and $5.1 million from coal companies.
Plus, Manchin receives more donations from oil and gas industry PACs and employees than any other congressperson. The chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin took in $577,000 in campaign contributions from the industry during the first three quarters of 2021. He received $385,000 of this during the third quarter as other Senate Democrats tried to appease him to vote for a scaled-down version of the spending package.
The Clean Electricity Performance Plan, a $150 billion plan that would have rapidly replace the nation’s coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy, was dropped from Biden’s newly-negotiated domestic spending framework after Manchin, whose vote is crucial to the agenda’s passage, told the White House he strongly opposed it.
“Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they’re already doing,” Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon told Reuters on Oct. 15. “He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability.”
The new framework still includes $555 billion in climate change provisions.
On Thursday, executives from some of the largest oil and gas companies testified in front of the House Oversight Committee to discuss if top industry officials misled the public on the dangers of climate change and oil and gas production.
Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods and Chevron CEO Michael Wirth voiced strong opposition to allegations that the company spread disinformation regarding climate change, though multiple reports suggested the companies invested in advertisements denying climate change for 40 years after they first recognized the environmental consequences of fossil fuels in the 1970s.
“Any suggestions that Chevron has engaged in an effort to spread disinformation and mislead the public on this complex issue is simply wrong,” Wirth said.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) asked if the companies would commit to an independent audit to verify their funding has not gone toward spreading climate denial. Additionally, Khanna wanted to know if the executives would stop funding the American Petroleum Institute. The group, which is the largest U.S. trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, has been accused of lobbying against environmental measures.
“You can tell them to knock it off for the sake of the planet,” Khanna said at the hearing. “You could end that lobbying.”
The hearing comes at a time when U.S. crude-oil and propane prices are at multi-year highs due to a global supply chain shortage.