Dirty Energy Politics in Statehouses

Ever wonder why it's been so hard to pass climate change and clean energy legislation?

By now, most Americans are aware that coal, oil and other members of the carbon club spend generously on top-dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns to pressure Congress to ignore the need for action on global warming and clean energy.  

It's big business.  The Public Campaign Action Fund reported that the coal, oil industries spent more than $427 million in political expenditures in first half of 2008.  (Want to see how much big energy firms are spending on your members of Congress? You can get the lowdown on all that campaign cash at an excellent interactive Web site, Follow the Coal Money.)

Now, we find out how far the grasp of carbon companies reaches-well past Congress to the halls of state legislatures.   A new report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics explains:  "The debate over climate change remains a national issue, and the push to enact mitigating policy at the state level is growing ever stronger. State governments have taken an interest in climate change legislation, including California's tougher emission requirements for automobiles, and formed regional partnerships, such as the Western Climate Initiative."

As the report details:

Electric utilities, oil and gas companies, and mining companies would be strongly affected by [global warming] mitigation legislation. Several industry groups, including the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth (AEEG), the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), have taken a stand against carbon caps or other strong climate change legislation. The coalitions to oppose carbon caps have a membership that extends far beyond the energy companies.  From 2003 through 2007, companies in these industry groups contributed $241 million to state-level political campaigns. Of that total, state candidates and party committees received $143 million, while committees supporting or opposing energy-related ballot measures received $98 million. During the same time period, pro-environmental organizations and alternative energy companies contributed $26 million total: $22 million to influence the outcome of ballot measures and $3.8 million to state candidates and party committees.

What does that influence peddling mean in the context of a specific state?  A recent report on dirty energy money in North Carolina is one example. (Got others? Let me know.)

Now you know why the help of every concerned American is needed to force legislative action on global warming and clean energy. The only limits the big spenders in the carbon club really want are on Congressional action.