The oil, gas, and electricity sectors spent tens of millions more to lobby Congress in the first quarter of 2009 than their renewable-energy counterparts. Big whoop, right? You could have guessed that.
But the disparity between their spending — at a time when Congress is seriously considering far-reaching climate and energy legislation — is striking.
According to the latest lobbying data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, the oil and gas industry spent nearly $44.6 million lobbying Congress in just the first three months of this year, and ranked second only to the health care and pharmaceutical industries in total spending. Electric utilities spent $34.4 million, and businesses in the energy and natural resources sector as a whole spent $102.7 million.
To find out how much clean-energy businesses spent, you have to search down into the “miscellaneous energy” category, which includes wind, solar, biofuels, hydro, and other industries — and even then their combined spending only totaled $14.4 million. The American Wind Energy Association was the biggest renewable spender in that category, at $1.2 million. No other organization or company in the category topped $1 million.
Environmental groups have spent even less — just $4.7 million so far in 2009. The biggest spender among green groups was the Environmental Defense Action Fund, which laid out $300,000.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a staunch opponent of climate action, tops the list of individual spenders on all issues, at $15.5 million. Also on that list: ExxonMobil at $9.3 million, Chevron at $6.8 million, ConocoPhillips at $6 million, and General Electric at $4.8 million.
Of course, it would be wrong to assume that all of these big-energy spenders are lobbying against a climate bill. ConocoPhillips and GE, for example, are both members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, and ConocoPhillips’ senior vice president testified in support of the House climate and energy bill last month. But it does give you a sense of just how much renewable-energy groups and enviros are being outspent on the Hill.
Energy and environment both ranked among the 10 issues that have generated the most lobbying so far this year. And as the climate debate drags on this Congress, energy is likely to remain a top focus for big spenders.