One Quick Trick for Curbing the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Political Influence
We might never find out how much money the United States has handed to the fossil fuel industry under the guise of pandemic stimulus. As reported in Politico, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans on keeping the details of which companies are getting pieces of the $500 billion in federal bailout funds a secret, citing it as “proprietary” and “confidential” information. The Small Business Administration is also now withholding its Paycheck Protection Program loan data from the Government Accountability Office, shielding it from oversight.
Such lavish spending to prop up an economically troubled, environmentally unsustainable industry represents a decent return on investment for dogged lobbying. Fossil fuel money is ubiquitous in Washington. While most of the industry’s lobbying dollars flow to Republicans, Democrats also receive money and hold their own loyalties to fossil fuels. Environmentalists’ and anti-lobbying activists’ attempts to curb that influence mostly haven’t worked—green groups would be hard-pressed to outspend oil companies, and campaign finance reform has mostly stalled since the Supreme Court struck down limitations on corporate spending.
A forthcoming report from researchers Carla Skandier, Mark Paul, and Rory Renzy for the People’s Policy Institute outlines what might sound like a novel solution to these problems: nationalizing the fossil fuel industry. “The simplest case for nationalization is that it’s a one-time buy out for the political capital of fossil fuel interests,” Paul told me. “If we can neutralize lobbyists and shareholders, we can put our planet’s needs above short-term profits. There’s been nothing that’s done more damage to climate progress than the political power of the fossil fuel industry.”