Dirty energy special interests are desperate to defeat efforts in Congress to pass legislation that would put our country on the road to a clean energy economy. So desperate, in fact, that the oil and coal industries together spent a record $115 million last year on lobbyists and PR gimmicks, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Their associations, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, ponied up over $75 million and nearly $40 million respectively on advertising and other tactics intended to influence public opinion and especially federal policy makers.
A chunk of that money went to pad the pockets of the leaders of the oil and gas lobbies. The IRS documents reveal that API President Jack Gerard last year was paid $1.6 million in total compensation. Not bad at all, considering that Gerard took over API in the fall of 2008 -- his predecessor received $2.7 million in total pay and benefits. Meanwhile, the head of the coal association, ACCCE, raked in $1.7 million in salary and benefits.
While the $115 million doled out last year by Big Oil and Big Coal represents just a fraction of the profits raked in by those industries, their PR and lobbying expenditures last year dwarf the total revenues (approximately $35 million) of the entire wind and solar industries. And it's a safe bet that dirty energy expenditures this year, as the climate bill passed the House and now awaits Senate action, far exceed what oil and coal companies spent in 2008.
Of course, it's no wonder why.
"They're seriously worried that climate legislation and other energy legislation are going to hurt their bottom line," said Kenneth Green, of the American Enterprise Institute. "The level of concern has ratcheted up as the bills have gotten closer, and the level of spending has gone up with it."
Legislation moving through Congress spells the beginning of the end for high-carbon energy sources, which pollute the planet and cause global warming. Shifting to cleaner, low-carbon energy alternatives and cutting our nation's dangerous dependence on oil threatens to cut into the obscene profit margins of the dirty energy cabal.
For the oil and coal industries, to pollute is to profit. And they'll pay whatever it takes to protect the status quo at our expense. The cost is too great for the rest of us to ever let that happen.