Oh Yeah, That’s Why the Climate Bill Failed

Environmental groups spent a record amount of money on lobbying in 2009, a year everyone thought presented the best hope for signing landmark climate change legislation into law. But for every dollar they dropped, the fossil fuel industry spent almost eight times as much, according to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Last year, as the House debated and eventually passed cap and trade legislation and the Senate began to draft its own bill, environmental groups spent a record $22.4 million on federal lobbying—about double what green groups had spent annually for the previous eight years. Groups like the Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund spent an unprecedented $2.2 million each on lobbying.

But all the green’s green was no match for the fossil fuel lobby. ExxonMobil alone spent $27.4 million in 2009, more than all the environmental groups combined. Oil and gas interests spent a combined $175 million on lobbying.

The report comes as the Center for Responsive Politics launches a new project oil and gas spending in Congress, “Fueling Washington.” The project is great, but this only scratches the surface of the fossil-fuel spending on the issue; the coal industry is also a major player. Electric utilities (much of which are coal-fired here in the US) spent $145 million last year (though there were utilities pushing both for and against cap-and-trade). Coal mining interests spent another $14.8 million. All told, fossil fuel interests spent at least 15 times as much as green groups on lobbying last year.


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.