We Are the United States of Big Oil
Starting last week, the world’s largest oil companies — ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips — began to announce their third-quarter profits for 2012. In the first half of 2012, these companies — all ranked in the top 10 of Fortune 500 Global — earned over $60 billion.
The oil industry reinvests tens of millions of these dollars for political purposes, including nearly all political contributions to Republicans, lobbying, and campaign ads. Through its enormous spending, these five and other Big Oil companies have fought to maintain $4 billion of their annual subsidies, while seeking to undermine clean energy investments:
$105 Million On Lobbying Since 2011, 90 Percent Of Campaign Contributions To GOP
The big five companies have spent over $105 million on lobbying Congress since 2011, according to lobbying disclosures through the third quarter. The biggest spenders were Shell ($25.7 million), Exxon ($25.4 million), and ConocoPhillips ($22.9 million).
The five companies’ oil PACs have donated over $2.16 million to mostly Republican candidates this election cycle. Koch Industries also spends big money to pressure Congress, with $16.2 million on lobbying and more than $1.3 million from its PAC (the top oil and gas spender).
In total, the oil and gas industry sends 90 percent of its near $50 million in contributions to Republicans, far eclipsing their record spending in 2008.
Misinformation Campaigns, Including Over $150 Million In Election Ads
Over $150 million has been spent on TV ads promoting fossil fuel interests, particularly oil and coal, reports the New York Times. In addition to traditional campaign donations, the oil industry has turned to outside groups running attack ads. Earlier this year, Americans For Prosperity — founded and funded by the Koch brothers — launched a bogus ad claiming that clean energy stimulus dollars went overseas.
And the oil lobby American Petroleum Institute has its own campaign promoting myths about oil production and gas prices. For example, API chief Jack Gerard, rumored to be on Mitt Romney’s shortlist for a White House or agency appointment, claimed that oil production on federal land is down.
This is simply not true, since oil production is up 240 million barrels on federal lands and waters under President Obama compared to the Bush administration. And oil companies hold 20 million acres of federal oil, gas leases in Gulf of Mexico that remain unexplored or undeveloped. This is just one of the many myths Big Oil has pushed this campaign cycle.
Behind-The-Scenes Campaign To Defeat Clean Energy
Koch Industries and fossil fuel groups are mobilizing to defeat the extension of modest tax incentives for wind energy, even though oil tax breaks are permanent. The American Energy Alliance, which has Koch ties, aims to make the credit “so toxic” for Republicans it would be “impossible for John Boehner to sit at a table with Harry Reid.”
The Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity is also campaigning against wind energy. Meanwhile, the industry has argued its own century-old tax breaks are necessary to maintain, despite years of record-breaking profits.
Overall, these efforts to keep their tax breaks while weakening public health safeguards from pollution have paid off in Congress and for Republican candidates. The House of Representatives is the most anti-environment in Congressional history, averaging at least one anti-environment vote per day to eliminate or undermine pollution protections, many benefiting Big Oil. And the Romney/Ryan budget plan would give the big five oil companies another $2.3 billion annual tax cut beyond existing loopholes.
After the big five companies’ second quarter profits, ThinkProgress calculated what a typical 24 hours looks like for the oil industry:
In the time it took this page to load, Big Oil made another $4,000 in profits.
Every second, Big Oil spend $1,200 on stock buy-backs. That's equal to 31% of their profits.
The average salary per minute of the CEOs for the three U.S. oil giants is $40.
Every hour, the oil industry spends $16,000 on lobbying expenses.
145,833,333 pounds of carbon pollution have been released so far today by oil refineries.
Every day, the oil industry received $6.6 million in federal tax breaks.
This means in one day: $342 million in profits. One billion pounds of carbon pollution. $60,000 in salary for each CEO. And $167,000 spent lobbying Congress.
Do American citizens or do oil corporations govern the United States? You make the call.