European Companies Spend Big to Block Climate Action in US

| Mon Oct. 25, 2010 11:12 AM EDT

Some of Europe's biggest polluters are dumping money into US politics, in an effort to undermine progress on climate and energy. The oil giant BP, the chemical company BASF, the cement and concrete manufacturer Lafarge, and pharmaceutical company Bayer were among the biggest donors. Combined, European companies gave $240,200 to senators who blocked climate action, which accounted for 78 percent of their total campaign donations this year.

The figures were released in a new report from the Climate Action Network Europe on Monday, using data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The information, said CAN Europe, shows what "appears to be a coordinated effort by European polluters to influence United States climate and energy policies through targeted donations to candidates who oppose action on climate change." (Foreign companies, through their US-based subsidiaries, are able to give to candidates via political action committees—and this year their spending has soared.)

A large chunk of that money—$107,200–went to candidates who deny that climate change is a problem, like Senators James Inhofe (R-Okla.). But Democrats who acknowledge the problem yet still block action also made out well—with Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) leading the pack at $47,500. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), architect of several legislative attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, also received $16,000 from the companies surveyed by CAN Europe.

Other big recipients of the EU largesse: Jim DeMint (R-SC) at $13,000, John Cornyn (R-Texas) at $11, 000, John Barrasso (R-Wy.) at $10,000, Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) at $10,000, Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) at $10,000, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) at $9,500, Orrin Hatch (R-Idaho) at $8,000, David Vitter (R-La.) at $7,500, Richard Burr (R-NC) at $7,000, James Inhofe (R-Okla.) at $6,000, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) at $5,500, and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) at $4,500.

Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant, gave $108,100. The UK-based oil titan BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, with $18,000 of that going to senators who blocked action on climate change. This is particularly notable, as prior to the oil spill, BP was one of the companies that the bill's authors were touting as supporting climate legislation. A number of these companies have said publicly that they support action on climate, but their campaign spending actively undermines action.

As CAN Europe points out, this funding serves their purposes on multiple levels. The EU has been out ahead of the rest of the world in acting on climate change, aiming to cut emissions 20 percent by 2020. Countries have proposed increasing that target to 30 percent, but many of these companies, through groups like Business Europe and the Alliance for a Competitive European Industry have pushed back. Their big argument? The EU should wait until laggard countries like the US pass climate laws before they take more aggressive action. The failure to act in the US also handcuffed global action in Copenhagen last year. Thus, subverting US climate action serves their greater purpose of stopping tougher action in Europe, too.

“It’s appallingly hypocritical for these European polluters that are supporting anti-climate crusaders in the US to simultaneously fight against strong climate legislation in Europe, based on the false premise that the EU can’t make meaningful emissions cuts without the US on board," said Tomas Wyns, CAN Europe senior policy officer.

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