Fossil Fuel Pollution: Disinformation and Political Corruption

The fossil fuel industry is the primary driver of climate change, they pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink, they also subvert democracy and deceive people with clever disinformation campaigns. 

The spill off the coast of Huntington Beach in California is another tangible reminder of the destructive impact of fossil fuels. This pipeline breach may not equal the scale of the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska or the ongoing toll on wildlife from BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, but it has destroyed sensitive wetlands and killed thousands of fish and birds. 

Thousands of spills occur each year all around the world and southern California is no exception. In Santa Barbara there have been two major oil spills in recent years,  Earlier this year a similar spill in Israel devastated parts of the Mediterranean coastline. These events illustrate the dangers of spills and more specifically the dangers of transporting fossil fuels. The Huntington Beach spill is but the latest ecological disaster in what amounts to a long list of petrochemical sponsored ecocide

It is impossible to ignore the craven self-interest of an industry that prioritizes profit above the sanctity of life. Even without spills, fossil fuels pose a danger to many life forms including humans. Particulate matter from the burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people every year and fracking contaminates the water we drink with known carcinogens

Just as particulate matter pollutes our air and chemical-laden hydrocarbons contaminate our water, the fossil fuel industry contaminates our politics. They pour millions into the coffers of lawmakers effectively buying legislators to kill efforts to combat the climate crisis. After decades of delaying climate action, they are now setting their sights on undermining climate provisions in President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better infrastructure plan. 

Disinformation is one of the tools they use in their unholy crusade against the truth. The oil industry’s disinformation efforts are a matter of public record and API is at the center of this disinformation apparatus  They have launched a series of ad campaigns in swing Congressional districts in an attempt to kill support for renewable energy. This includes the $150 million Clean Electricity Performance Program provision in Biden’s plan. 

“We’re using every tool at our disposal to work against these proposals,” API’s president and CEO Mike Sommers, told CNN.  According to a report by InfluenceMap API has spent $423,000 on Facebook ads since August 11. The same source says that ExxonMobil has spent $1.6 million on political ads on Facebook in the same timeframe. They also report that these ad spends intensified as lawmakers appeared to be coming closer to an agreement at the end of September. Together these ads have been viewed more than 50 million times. 

Industry disinformation campaigns have misled the public for decades and succeeded in delaying climate action. The fossil fuel industry not only subverts the truth they actively interfere with the workings of democracy. Conservative governments around the world peddle disinformation, but the Republicans are the leading purveyor of fossil fuel disinformation.  Big Oil buys politicians and political outcomes and Republicans controlled by the fossil fuel industry succeeded in killing climate action.  Buying off lawmakers is a key part of their strategy in their ongoing war against climate action.

If you follow the money trail you will find that the oil industry uses its wealth to influence politicians especially the GOP. While Republicans have received the lion’s share of this money, some Democratic lawmakers are also on the take. This includes the two senators (Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema)  who are standing in the way of Biden’s climate agenda.   

Manchin is the West Virginia Senator who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He received more campaign donations from the oil, coal, and gas industries than any other Senator according to OpenSecrets. Manchin also owns millions of dollars worth of stock in a coal brokerage firm (Enersystems Inc) that he founded in 1988.  According to his Senate financial disclosure report, that firm paid him almost half a million dollars in dividends last year. It should come as no surprise that both Manchin and API are focused on gutting the Clean Electricity Performance Program provision. 

As reported by Grist, an analysis of campaign disclosures by Exxon Mobil Corp. lobbyist Keith McCoy revealed Manchin and Sinema are among a handful of Democratic lawmakers listed as allies. According to this analysis, Sinema is the second-largest recipient of oil money.  Others include Mark Kelly (Arizona), Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire), Chris Coons (Delaware), and Jon Tester (Montana). 

Mother Jones reports that in the last couple of weeks alone Sinema earned thousands of dollars per head at fundraisers sponsored by corporate interests who oppose Biden’s agenda. A secretly recorded sting video by Greenpeace UK revealed that Exxon buys legislators including both Manchin and Sinema to prevent climate bills from becoming law.  

It is not too late to stave off a climate catastrophe but we must act now to curtail big oil and its influence. We know what we must do to address the climate crisis but the first thing we need to do is work towards the elimination of fossil fuels. The demise of the KXL stranded assets and declining financial support foreshadows Big Oil’s demise. The end is near for dirty energy and polls suggest the GOP’s disinformation efforts are faltering. However, politicians bought by the fossil fuel industry threaten to slow this demise and once again kill climate action in the U.S.

The fossil fuel industry is willfully destroying life on the planet. They already kill millions of people every year, they also destroy biodiversity and devastate entire ecosystems. It will get much worse if we fail to reign in climate change causing emissions. 

The turpitude and hypocrisy of the fossil fuel industry know no bounds, they even target kids to obstruct climate education.  It is not hyperbole to say that the fossil fuel industry is rotten to the core and guilty of crimes against humanity. If life on the planet is to survive we must end fossil fuels

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