The country’s best opportunity to mitigate climate change came three years ago, soon after President Barack Obama took office, with a friendly Democratic Senate and House of Representatives. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (otherwise known as Waxman-Markey, after its sponsors) passed the House – barely.
It later failed in the Senate, punted along until it was eventually abandoned in July 2010. Since then, our elected officials have largely ignored the heat-trapping gases causing enormous disruptions across the planet.
The 2009 bill saw lobbying efforts unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Environmental groups pushing for the legislation, including the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund, spent a record $24.6 million lobbying in 2009, employing nearly 500 lobbyists in their hefty effort.
But even that kind of cash was grossly outmatched by the oil and gas industry, which also had a record spending year in lobbying: $175 million and 807 lobbyists. No wonder the bill didn’t stand a chance.
No piece of legislation since Waxman-Markey has been anywhere near as comprehensive in lowering carbon emissions. And smaller efforts have been decimated by the oil and gas industry’s influence on Capitol Hill. Take a recent vote to end $24 billion in tax breaks for big oil companies. 43 Senate Republicans and four Democrats filibustered to block the bill. All told, the 51 senators in favor of ending subsidies had received a paltry $5.9 million in career contributions from oil and gas. The 47 who protected the subsidies got $23.5 million.