How much damage can two individuals do? If those two people are the Koch Brothers (pronounced “coke”) the answer is, a lot. They are among the wealthiest people on earth, having amassed a global financial empire based largely on fossil fuels. Their business interests generate about $115 billion a year in revenue, according to The Huffington Post.
This week, reports have surfaced that long-time Koch Brothers operative James Mahoney has joined forces with well known Washington lobbyist Charlie Drevna to create a group that will spend about $10,000,000 a year promoting the glory of fossil fuels. Until recently, Drevna was the paid mouthpiece for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade group.
Together, they are encouraging several large refineries and other fossil fuel companies to join their group. One unnamed industry source told HuffPo the plan is to “make the public aware of all the benefits of petroleum-based transportation fuels.” He indicated the campaign is spurred in part by opposition to subsidies for electric vehicles. “They’re worried about state and community subsidies. In 20 years, electric vehicles could have a substantial foothold in the U.S. market,” he said.
“The Kochs have invested heavily in a pugnacious defense of fossil fuel consumption,” said one conservative energy analyst. “They’ve done this in the electricity sector, and as the debate shifts to transportation they’re behaving true to form.” Indeed, money from Koch Brothers interests is believed to be behind attacks on residential solar power in several states, including Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. They have donated a prodigious amount of money to conservative causes over the years, some of which may have been used to fund the infamous Citizens United lawsuit.
The Koch initiative has drawn scorn from Tesla chairman Elon Musk, who is a passionate proponent of electric vehicles.
Worth noting that all gasoline cars are heavily subsidized via oil company tax credits & unpaid public health costs https://t.co/4li5E013Dj
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 19, 2016
Musk’s tweet references a report from the International Monetary Fund last year that said burning fossil fuels costs the world $5.3 trillion a year in direct and indirect subsidies. Among those indirect subsidies are costs associated with global warming, including rising sea levels, loss of animal and plant species, and healthcare for billions of people affected by elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Koch Industries does not oppose electric vehicles,” said Philip Ellender, a spokesman for the company. “What we oppose is government subsidizing and mandating a particular form of energy over another. We oppose all subsidies – even for those industries in which we participate.”
That last part is patently false. A good deal of the money that wound up in the Koch Brothers wallets came from precisely the kinds of subsidies the IMF enumerates. It appears that what the Koch Brothers are really saying is that they have made a ton of money from raping the earth and making people sick and want to be free to continue doing so.
If the new promotional efforts begin as expected later this year, expect to see lots of commercials telling us why destroying the earth is good for us, why earthquakes and polluted groundwater are a small price to pay for energy independence, and how moving away from fossil fuels will throw millions of people out of work.
What do you call people who would trade the health of their own grandchildren for a few shekels? Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 30 pieces of silver?
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