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Frances Beinecke’s Blog

Not All Lobbyists Are Created Equal: The Current Energy Bills

Frances Beinecke

Posted September 23, 2008 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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I am an environmental advocate. That means sometimes I travel to Washington to lobby Congress on behalf of the issues NRDC cares about. Big Oil companies dispatches lobbyists to the Hill as well. Last week we covered the same ground: the House vote on the energy bill.

Does that make us equals--two special interests pushing for pet legislation? No. Though we may walk down the same Congressional corridors, my colleagues and I do it to protect the air, water, and landscapes that every single American relies on. Big Oil does it to protect the profit margins its shareholders benefit from.

The $200 Million Ad Budget

According to the nonpartisan group Public Campaign Action Fund:

  • Big Oil spent $427.2 million so far this year to shift public opinion and influence Congress on critical energy issues.
  • Its budget for advertising on these issues--in addition to its usual product ads--was a staggering $201.2 million.

I can assure you that as a tax-exempt nonprofit, NRDC doesn't come close to those resources. It reminds me of one of the numerous battles we fought to protect the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. NRDC worked so hard to print gracefully designed black and white fact sheets to persuade Congress how precious the refuge was. Oil companies, on the other hand, could fund trips to Alaska, airplane rides over the North Slope, and tours of Potemkin-like drill sites.

Dirty Fuels Get a Boost from House Bill

Those resources can be influential, as we saw last week. The bill that the House passed contains many vital renewable energy provisions that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create millions of new jobs, but Big Oil and its allies managed to shoe-horn in measure to advance dirty fuels and expand offshore drilling.

  • For instance, the bill lifts a moratorium on developing oil shale, thereby opening 2 million acres of federal lands--virtually for free to oil companies--to a process that releases four times as much global warming pollution as conventional fuel.

Who Benefits from More Dirty Fuel?

In whose interest is more dirty fuel? Yours? Drivers at the gas pump? The Western cities whose drinking water aquifers will be despoiled by drilling? The coastal communities that will be battered by global-warming intensified hurricanes?

It certainly won't be in the interest of job seekers. According to a recent study done by the Political Economy Research Institute at the UMasss-Amherst and released by NRDC:

  • The US can create 2 million jobs by investing in clean energy technologies.
  • That's 4 times as many jobs as we could create from investing the same amount in the oil industry

More dirty fuels are in the interest of fuel companies. Big oil has been in charge of America's broken energy policy for decades and they have left us more addicted to oil than ever. That fills the coffers of oil companies. Remember that Exxon just posted the best quarterly profit ever for a corporation, besting its already astronomical record.

Instead of Dirty Money for Shareholders, Clean Solutions for All

If dirty fuels don't serve your interest, what would? Shifting to a sustainable energy system that relies on clean technologies and renewable energy. This will:

  • Insulate us from global oil price spikes
  • Create millions of new green jobs
  • Eliminate our dependence on oil, and
  • Protect our nation from the ravages of global warming

It's time to remind our representatives that they are public servants. As the energy debate shifts to the Senate, we want to make sure that Big Oil and its allies don't load us up with dirty energy policies or strip our the clean solutions that benefit all of us.

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About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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