Activism oil company logos

Published on May 6th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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Oil Companies & U.S. Chamber of Commerce — One & the Same?

Continuing on with our series on 350.org’s The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for Me campaign, let’s take a quick look at some ties between the Chamber and the oil industry.

As you may have heard, and 350.org recently noted, large oil companies are having a ball, raking in billions and billions of dollars in profit (that’s right, not revenue but profit) while the U.S. economy suffers:

Exxon Mobil nabbed $10.7bn; Shell pulled in $6.9bn; Chevron, $4.5bn; and last but not least, BP, after accounting for oil spill losses still made out with $7.1bn.”

Despite tremendous profits, the U.S. government thinks the oil companies still need a ton of help ($4 billion worth of it)! Taxpayers give oil companies $4 billion in subsidies every year. No small change. And while the GOP tried to cut funding for numerous useful services and programs, like NPR, to “save” money/cut wasteful spending, the fact is that the oil companies walk away with a ton more government support than these useful, relatively small “wastes of money” year after year.

Now, you know oil companies themselves drop a hefty money bag on politicians’ laps, but something you may not be aware of is how much the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does so on their behalf, or how much the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does to legally protect the fat cats who run these companies.

Regarding a push to cut the oil industry’s $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies, let’s see how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce responds:

Here’s what Karen Alderman Harbert, a US Chamber official had to say at a recent House Natural Resources Committee hearing:

When Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) asked whether Harbert supported the billions of taxpayer subsidies that go to Big Oil, she refused to give a yes or no answer. She instead tried to squeeze in a pitch for why Big Oil subsidies are necessary, even with billions in profits. She feels that denying those subsidies would be unfairly, “singling out the oil and gas industry and penalizing it.”

Yes, poor oil companies, making billions upon billions of dollars in profit a year and the U.S. public wants to stop giving them $4 billion dollars worth of food stamps. How could we do that to them? The industry destroys our environment, whole regions of the country (like the Gulf coast), but we are being “unfair” in our effort to stop paying their bills. (Ridiculous.)

In a post on the U.S. Chamber Watch blog, we learn a little more about the ties between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its top members, oil companies. These are some questions from a quiz it published on its site Earth Day:

Q. This week marked the one year anniversary of the British Petroleum (BP) gulf oil spill, after which Chamber President Tom Donohue came under fire for saying that American taxpayers should help pay for the oil spill cleanup. In the past year, how else has the Chamber helped BP remain unaccountable to the American people?

a.) Chamber lobbied against bill making it easier for victims to sue for damages
b.) Chamber helped defeat LA bill making it easier for state to sue BP for damages
c.) Chamber unabashedly supported and continues to support deepwater drilling
d.) All of the above

A. If you answered “D,” “all of the above,” you are correct. The U.S. Chamber had been “shilling” for BP long before the oil disaster and ratcheted up its support immediately following the spill. In the fall of 2009, while many other large corporations had already distanced from the Chamber over climate issues, a BP spokesman embraced the Chamber noting, “Yes, BP is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and expects to remain so.” And as the reporter explained, that news likely caused Tom Donohue to “breathe a sigh of relief.”

Q. The U.S. Chamber has legally defended which of the following companies when environmental-related lawsuits were brought against them?

a.) Chevron
b.) Citgo
c.) American Electric Power Company
d.) Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc.
e.) Duke Energy Corporation
f.) Exxon Mobil
g.) Cinergy Corporation
h.) All of the above

A. If you answered “H,” “all of the above” you are once again correct. The (litigation-hating?) Chamber has filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the companies listed above and many, many more when others were trying to hold the corporations accountable for damages to human life and the environment.

Convinced yet that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce might just be a more pleasant name for Big Oil lobbyists? I hope so….

Keep reading about this topic and share the word, if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t speak for you.

  1. “U.S. Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for Me” Campaign Growing Fast
  2. Why Nike, Apple, Best Buy, Johnson & Johnson, & Others Don’t Jive with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  3. Money Pollution: How the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tries to Screw the U.S.
  4. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for Me — How About You?
  5. Does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Speak for You {INFOGRAPHIC}

Top image via anolobb




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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



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