Follow the Money: How Dirty Energy Donations Impact Our Energy Policies

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | October 9, 2012 | Elections, Energy Policy

A well-known politician once famously quipped that ‘all politics is local.’  However, the reality is that our elected leaders (and therefore our laws) are influenced by money originating well beyond our local districts. Big Oil and Big Coal have donated well over $150 million to political campaigns in the past decade in the hopes of buying access to and influencing Congress.

It goes without saying that we cannot transition to an economy powered by clean, renewable sources of energy until we understand which companies are pumping dirty money into politics, which politicians are receiving it, and how these contributions are affecting important climate and energy legislation.

To help citizens track the flow and influence of fossil fuel money in US politics, Oil Change International created an interactive website called Dirty Energy Money.A few minutes clicking around on this website reveal that

  • the 111th Congress (2009-2010) was the dirtiest we ever had – taking in over $25 million from the oil, gas and coal industries through the end of 2010;
  • Southern Company is the fourth biggest spender nationally donating more than $4,871,627 in the past decade;
  • it pays to be in Leadership, as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) has pulled in more than $1.6 million during his career;
  • location matters: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) who represents oil-rich Louisiana, has collected more than $1.2 million during her career; and
  • Big Oil is the bigger spender, contributing more than 60% of the dirty energy funds in the 112th Congress.

These contributions come with a price: elected leaders from both parties continue to use our tax dollars to provide billions of dollars in ‘thank you’ subsidies to fossil fuel industries each year.  At a time when Americans are struggling to keep up with rising energy costs, and when our nation should be reducing our dependence on these fossil fuels, further subsidies for these polluting industries are simply unacceptable.

Early voting for the 2012 elections has already begun, so visit Dirty Energy Money to see which fossil fuel companies are trying to buy the candidates you’ll see on your ballot.  If we expect Congress to take a lead in crafting a clean energy economy, we must ensure that they are listening to their constituents and not just oil and coal lobbyists.

Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to this website is provided as a citizen education tool.

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