Fine Print in US Congress Climate Deal

Climate Power’s analysis of fossil-fuel lobbying and the Schumer-Manchin deal arrives as fossil fuel companies begin reporting a surge in profits for the second quarter of 2022.

(Nopple, CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

The oil and gas industry, one of the most powerful corporate forces in American politics, has spent more than $200 million over the past year and a half to stop Congress from slashing carbon emissions as evidence of their catastrophic impact — from deadly heatwaves to massive wildfires — continues to accumulate in stunning fashion.

That topline estimate of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying outlays and congressional election spending in the U.S. was calculated by Climate Power, which provided its findings exclusively to Common Dreams.

Nearly 80 percent of the industry’s campaign donations during the time period examined went to Republican candidates, according to Climate Power, whose analysis draws on data from OpenSecrets.

Until Wednesday night, when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced a surprise deal on climate investments, it looked as if the industry’s influence campaign had fully paid off, having helped crater the Democrats’ sweeping Build Back Better package.

Earlier this month, Manchin — the leading individual recipient of oil and gas industry cash in Congress — informed the Democratic leadership that he would not support moving ahead with renewable energy spending as part of a less ambitious bill, an apparently fatal blow to the hopes of climate action this year and possibly years into the future.

Sen. Joe Manchin in 2017. (Third Way Think Tank | Flickr)

Manchin, for now, appears to have reversed course, striking an agreement with Schumer that contains a historic $369 billion in climate and energy spending, including billions to speed the country’s lagging transition away from fossil fuels. If accepted by all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, the reconciliation bill can pass without GOP support.

Schumer, who said the measure would put the country “on a path to roughly 40 percent emissions reductions by 2030,” announced that he expects a vote on the legislation by next week. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a key swing vote, has not commented on the deal.

Noreen Nielsen, a senior adviser to Climate Power, told Common Dreams that with the new framework, “a strong signal was sent that deep pockets only go so far.”

But while climate advocates welcomed the proposal overall as a potential game-changer for the environment, they also stressed that the deal is littered with the fingerprints of the oil and gas industry, which — according to Climate Power’s new analysis — has spent $63.5 million on lobbying so far this year.

As part of the agreement, Democratic leaders — including Schumer and President Joe Biden — agreed to reform the regulatory process for pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure in the coming months, a victory for Manchin and his industry backers.

Such reforms could clear the way for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fracked gas project in West Virginia and Virginia that, if completed, would spew 89,526,651 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere each year.

Jamie Henn, the director of Fossil Free Media, said late Wednesday that it is “incumbent on every green group and climate activist” to “fight like hell to make sure the Mountain Valley Pipeline is never built.”

“No communities should be sacrificed for political gains,” Henn added.

The bill, in its current form, would also mandate oil drilling lease sales off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico.

NASA scientists and Coast Guard swimmers collect data on arctic ice, in the Chukchi Sea on July 9, 2010. (NASA/Kathryn Hansen)

Climate Power’s analysis of Big Oil lobbying and the Schumer-Manchin deal came as fossil fuel giants began reporting their profits for the second quarter of 2022.

Early Thursday, Shell announced a record-shattering $11.5 billion in profits for last quarter. ExxonMobil — which is also expected to announce a profit surge — and Chevron are set to report earnings on Friday as the industry continues to exploit Russia’s assault on Ukraine to push up costs for consumers.

According to a study published last week, the global oil and gas industry has raked in nearly $3 billion in profit per day over the past five decades as it has sown disinformation about its central responsibility for the climate crisis and tanked efforts to address destructive warming.

In the words of Aviel Verbruggen, the study’s lead author, those staggering profits have given the fossil fuel industry the ability to “buy every politician” and “every system.”

“I think this happened,” Verbruggen told The Guardian.

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

8 comments for “Fine Print in US Congress Climate Deal

  1. robert e williamson jr
    July 31, 2022 at 18:51

    Reform, real reform would be taxing the oil companies at a rate commensurable to an amount or the amount that the raw product extracted would be worth had those companies paid the government fair prices for drilling rights to procure the product and prevent them from charging any amount to this raw product or resource.

    Oil company profits are shameful and oil companies should be contrite and willing to pay for their “blank check” of profits.

    The oil companies are not the only industry that needs extremely tightly regulated at this point in time, the nuclear power generating industry needs to be nationalized also considering they will, number one never clean up their messes and the extent that government funds have been used to fund the growth of the industry.

    Pay the workers well but limit oil and other energy produces profits or at least tax them in a manner that forces them to render some of those profits as revenue to support members of society that are at risk because of the mismanagement of out failed congress who got bought off.

    We need a break from the war business mentality that currently reins supreme. Taxing these defense industry economies should be done because of the exclusive nature.

    Thanks CN

    What does it take to get people to understand we all are being “HAD”!

  2. John
    July 31, 2022 at 18:11

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
    — President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, March 13, 1962.

  3. Eugene
    July 31, 2022 at 18:08

    It is also important to watch where the money actually goes. IIRC, the last proposal, was very big on corporate tax credits and grants. So, they’ll hand out $Billions of taxpayer money to the corporations in order to try to solve the problem the corporations have created in the first place. 21st century pseudo-capitalism.

    Trying to scan a summary of the proposal, I see its very big on helping rich homeowners who can afford to upgrade their home, they’ll get big tax credits. If you rent, or if you make so little that its impossible to pay the bills every month, the Democrats offer no help to you. Just like with that Minimum Wage increase that is so badly needed in this age of 10% inflation. And yes, the words ‘tax credits’ show up again and again, with respect to corporations. So, this is a big corporate handout package, just like one would expect from the far, far, far-right-wing Wall Street Dems.

    No Billionaire left behind, and a bit of help for the sort of millionaire homeowners that are the only people the Dems ever give a dang about.

  4. littlewing
    July 30, 2022 at 18:10

    What else is in that bill?
    There is always something lingering worse than the actual name of the bill.

  5. Tim N
    July 30, 2022 at 11:19

    The word “reform” in the article should be in quotes every time it’s used. C’mon now.

  6. Westley
    July 30, 2022 at 08:30

    Greta hawked the Davos Green No-New-Investments in Fossil Fuel created to rake in the money The US Climate Deal will accelerate the money inflow even more whether the conflict, which gets the blame, continues or not, or whether farmers are dispossessed, or hundreds of millions world-wide will die this winter (which will be attributed to a decline in the birth rate). Media seems to offer the choice between starvation “suck-it-up” or annihilation by the “enemy.” Chris Hedges has often repeated we have to go into the streets to change this. Nothing less will work.

  7. renate
    July 29, 2022 at 11:37

    No surprise, as was to be expected when Manchin and Schumer work together. We, the voters are the suckers. Why they wasted so much time to get there beats me.

  8. Dienne
    July 29, 2022 at 08:50

    I wouldn’t get any hopes up about this. First, they’re already signaling that Sinema is going to be the rotating villain this time. Second, even if it somehow passes, it’s not nearly enough, especially when, as your article notes, there are goodies for the oil and gas industries buried in it that are going to undo a lot of the good of the bill. And then there’s the fact that it comes out to less than $40 billion a year, while the military budget gets over $800 b/year and the military is by far the largest environmental threat to the planet.

    And to think Democrats are doing this for a mere 4th of what Republicans work for.

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