Big Oil’s Big Year

Photo by Steve Wampler, via <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sgw/2892058635/">Flickr</a>.

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In case you were feeling sorry for Big Oil now that the Obama administration has proposed cutting their tax breaks, the 2009 lobbying figures for the industry are available. And the industry spent big: $154 million on lobbying last year alone. That’s more than any previous year, and more than any other energy interest looking to shape the debate on Capitol Hill.

Lobbying disclosures analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics found that oil interests spent 16 percent more on lobbying in 2009 than in 2008. ExxonMobil alone spent $27.4 million on lobbying, the second biggest business spender in 2009, while Chevron spent $20.8 million, ranking seventh. Electric utilities followed close behind, spending $134.7 million last year.

By comparison, energy interests categorized as “miscellaneous” spent just $29 million on lobbying. This category includes groups like the American Wind Energy Association, local water districts, ethanol companies, smart grid promoters, and various others. Environmental organizations spent approximately $21.3 million last year on lobbying—which, if you’re counting, is just 7 percent of what fossil fuel interests spent.

And this isn’t all of it; CRP has only tallied 80 percent of the lobbying disclosure forms, and a more detailed report is expected later this month. It’s important to note that not all energy companies are lobbying against climate change legislation. A number of electric utilities have been supportive of measure to cap and reduce carbon dioxide pollution. But the lobbying totals show just how much these industries are spending to influence what that legislation might look like.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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