Ring of Fire — May 13, 2015It’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry and the government are horribly intertwined, but a recent investigation by The Guardian reveals just how codependent their relationship really is and just now much it’s costing American taxpayers.
The Guardian examined three specific projects — one each run
by Shell, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Petroleum — and found that all three
corporations benefited from huge tax subsidies granted, of course, “by
politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the
fossil fuel industry.”
Specifically, the investigation found that:
A proposed Shell petrochemical refinery in Pennsylvania is in line
for $1.6 billion in-state subsidy, according to a deal struck in 2012
when the company made an annual profit of $26.8 billion.
ExxonMobil’s upgrades to its Baton Rouge refinery in Louisiana are
benefiting from $119 million of state subsidy, with the support starting
in 2011, when the company made a $41 billion profit.
A jobs subsidy scheme worth $78 million to Marathon Petroleum in
Ohio began in 2011, when the company made $2.4 billion in profit.
Overall, these three projects cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion. There
is no reason the government should be giving these hugely successful
corporations such huge tax breaks, especially when considering the
amount of environmental damage oil production and consumption causes.
“Subsidies to fossil fuel companies are completely inappropriate in
this day and age,” Oil Change International’s executive director Stephen
Kretzmann. “Climate science is clear that the vast majority of existing
reserves will have to stay in the ground, yet our government spends
many tens of billions of our tax dollars – every year – making it more
profitable for the fossil fuel industry to produce even more.”
Unfortunately for Kretzmann — and the Earth, the politicians doling
out these gigantic tax subsidies deny climate change is real and
man-made, or at least they publicly say they are. Admitting that it’s
real and problem would definitely have an effect on campaign
contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
“Big oil, gas, and coal have huge influence on politicians and
governments and they get that influence the old fashioned way — they buy
it,” said Kretzmann. “Through campaign finance, lobbying, advertising,
and super [political action committee] spending, the industry has many
ways to influence candidates and government officials seeking
“Every single well, pipeline, refinery, coal and gas plant in the
country is heavily subsidized. Big Fossil’s lobbyists have done their
jobs well for the last century.”
Seven environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging
safety rules issued earlier this month for trains carrying oil, arguing
the regulations are too weak to protect the public.
The groups, including the Sierra Club and Center for Biological
Diversity, charge that the rules, issued on May 1, will allow industry
to continue to use "unsafe tank cars" for up to 10 years and fail to set
adequate speed limits for oil trains.
"We’re suing the administration because these rules won’t protect the
25 million Americans living in the oil train blast zone," said Todd
Paglia, executive director for ForestEthics, one of the groups bringing
the lawsuit..... more here
Note: groups represented by Earthjustice (Center for Biological Diversity,
Friends of the Columbia Gorge, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, Spokane
Environmental Council, Waterkeeper Alliance) filed suit challenging the
US Department of Transportation's weak new oil train rules:
The press release is here, the legal filing is here, and a New York Times article is here (Ross Hammond of ForestEthics tweeted about the challenge here).