Fossil Fuel Political Contributions Have Grown 11,761 Percent

The fossil fuel industry may not know how to keep its pipes from leaking, trains from derailing or slurry from spilling, but boy do they know how to invest. A new report from the Sierra Club and Oil Change International found that the oil, natural gas and coal industries increased their political contributions by a jaw-dropping 11,761 percent from 2008 to 2012.

Why such an absurd increase? The report points to the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which allows donors to funnel unlimited amounts of corporate and outside group money into political campaigns and elections.

The money was clearly invested wisely because the industry received $20.4 billion in federal subsidies during the 111th Congress while spending $347 million on congressional contributions and lobbying. That means the industry hauled in $59 in federal subsidies for every single dollar spent. A 5,800 percent rate of return? Not bad!

The report shows that the fossil-fueled priorities of Congress are badly out of step with the American public’s strong support of clean energy, as recent polls have indicated:

  • By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, voters think the country should be investing more in clean energy sources and energy efficiency rather than in fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. (Greenberg, Quinlan, and Rosner Research, January 2014)
  • 72 percent of Western voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to "promote more use of renewable energy - like wind and solar," including 44 percent who say they would be "much more likely" to vote for such a candidate. (Colorado College, January, 2014)
  • 67 percent of Americans want the government to invest more on "developing wind and solar power." (Gallup, March 2014)
  • 72 percent of small business owners support a national renewable energy standard that would require 20 percent of all our electricity from clean energy sources by 2020. (ASBC, June 2013)

Not only is Congress rewarding the fossil fuel industry, but it is blocking essential new climate and energy policies while launching legislative attacks on existing environmental protections for clean air and water. The American people are ready for a shift to clean and renewable energy, but convincing Congress while the fossil fuel money continues to flow is a hard sell.