Big oil, the Arab lobby and the American right

0620covdcAmerican politics has always been dominated by special interest groups, including foreign interests. It is in the nature of its checks and balances democratic system and its deregulated economy.

A recent report by the Climate Action Network [pdf] shows how “BP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda.” According to the Guardian, “80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change. These included incumbents who have been embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and the notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.”

The report claims that

the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, which are some of Europe’s biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240,200 to senators who blocked action on global warming – more even than the $217,000 the oil billionaires and Tea Party bankrollers, David and Charles Koch, have donated to Senate campaigns.

The biggest single donor was the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108,100 to senators. BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, of which $18,000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change. Recipients of the European campaign donations included some of the biggest climate deniers in the Senate, such as Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming a hoax.

The foreign corporate interest in America’s midterms is not restricted to Europe. A report by ThinkProgress, operated by the Centre for American Progress, tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern oil coal and electricity companies.

Foreign interest does not stop with the elections. The Guardian reported earlier this year that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group that is suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are some of the foreign corporations funding the anti-climate change Chamber of Commerce, a major route of corporate donations to right-wing political candidates:

– Avantha Group, India (at least $7,500 in annual member dues): power plants

– The Bahrain Petroleum Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil campany

– Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil company

– Essar Group, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas, coal power

– GMR, Bangalore, India ($15,000): coal power, mining

– Hinduja Group, London, UK ($15,000): the Gulf Oil group

– Jindal Power, New Delhi, India ($15,000): coal power

– Lahmeyer International, Frankfurt, Germany ($7,500): power plant engineering

– Punj Lloyd, Gurgaon, India ($15,000): offshore pipelines

– Reliance Industries, Mumbai, India ($15,000): oil and gas, petrochemicals

– SNC Lavalin, Montreal, Canada ($7,500): mining, power plant, and oil & gas engineering

– Tata Group, Mumbai, India ($15,000): power plants, oil & gas

– Walchandnagar Industries, Mumbai, India ($7,500): power plant, oil & gas engineering

– Welspun, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas exploration

Meanwhile, California is a key battle ground in the fight between Big Oil and American democracy. There, Proposition 23, to be voted on on November 2, will reverse 2006’s Proposition 32, the law that attempts to reverse global climate change. Writes Rebecca Solnit:

“According to data from the California Secretary of State’s office,” Kate Sheppard recently reported in Mother Jonesmagazine, “more than 98% of contributions to the pro-Prop. 23 campaign are from oil companies. Eighty-nine percent of the contributions come from out of state… Valero contributed $4 million, Tesoro gave $1.5 million, and a refinery owned by the notorious Kansas-based billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, of Koch Industries, kicked in another $1 million. Just last week, Houston-based Marathon oil contributed $500,000.”

Actually, Tesoro and Valero are headquartered out of state, but their refineries in California gave us 2.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals in our air and water last year, and they’d like to continue offering the citizens of my state these gifts that keep giving illness, death, and long-term environmental devastation without interference. The coming vote is not about protecting fancy places for upscale hikers — the stereotype used to portray environmentalism as a white-person’s luxury movement — it’s about air quality for inner-city people, especially those who live near refineries and harbors. This is the kind of environmental degradation that’s about childhood asthma and increased deaths from respiratory illness. In other words, Prop. 23 is part of a corporate war on the poor. A vote for Prop. 23 is a vote to turn the lungs of poor children into a snack for dinosaurs, to put it in bluntly Hollywood-ish terms.


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