President Obama pledged last week to pull back oil and gas subsidies in order to direct more dollars toward renewable energy. But can he pull it off? This will be Obama's third attempt at eliminating the subsidies; previous efforts have fallen victim to partisan politics in Congress and the overwhelming influence of fossil fuel lobbyists.
So who exactly are these lobbyists?
A simultaneously illuminating and terrifying LA Times piece reveals the unsavory workings of the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the world with 2009 revenues exceeding $100 billion. The brothers are listed as America's fifth richest people at about $21.5 billion each. Their business endeavors include petroleum and chemical refining, petrochemical products, pipelines, paper and wood products, polymers and fibers, and chemical fertilizers -- in other words, fossil fuels and associated petro-based products.
Why is this so important? Because Koch Industries is the top oil and gas company donor to federal candidates, parties, and groups. In 2010, Koch's $1.8 million in donations exceeded those of Exxon Mobil, Chief Oil and Gas, Chevron Corp., and Marathon Oil.
What's truly alarming are the Koch brothers' growing donations to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which reached $311,500 last year. Within the Committee, nine of the twelve new Republican members signed a pledge from Koch-founded advocacy group Americans For Prosperity to oppose the Obama administration's ability to regulate greenhouse gases. And of the six Republican freshman on the panel, five benefitted from Americans for Prosperity's advertising and grassroots assistance during the 2010 elections. One of the new members has a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff.
Were it not so mortifying, the type of corruption would be almost laughable. How is it that a private oil and gas company has a chokehold on environmental regulation in this country?
"In the past the [House Energy and Commerce Committee] majority viewed the Clean Air Act as an effective way to protect the public," said Jeremy Symons, of the National Wildlife Federation. "Now the committee treats the Clean Air Act and the EPA as if they are the enemy. Voters didn't ask for this pro-polluter agenda, but the Koch brothers spent their money well and their presence can be felt."
As voters, it's our obligation to get to the bottom of the issues to truly understand what is best for our country, not blindly listen to lobbying groups and their political puppets. Fossil fuels are yesterday's energy. If we don't realize that soon, the US will continue to fall behind other countries, like China and South Korea, that are. The consequences are potentially disastrous, not only for our country but the planet as a whole. Last time I checked, this country was a democracy, not a place where rich polluters can buy politicians and change the law in their favor. It's time for the voices of the sane to be heard.
Photo: Demonstrators rally in Rancho Mirage on January 30, 2011, during a retreat organized by the Koch brothers. (Crystal Chatham, Desert Sun)