Wednesday, September 16, 2015

To Understand Republican Presidential Candidates you need to Follow the Money

Republican Presidential candidates are powered by fossil fuels. Climate denial is de rigueur for anyone who hopes to secure the GOP nomination for president.

If you want insight into what drives the policy positions of Republican presidential candidates all you need to do is follow the money. Although we are still very early in the race, unprecedented financial support has poured into the campaigns of those who are prepared to ignore the facts about climate change.

In the first Republican debate, climate change and the impact of the fossil fuel industry was a non-issue and we have no reason to believe that the second (scheduled for September 17) will be any different.

It is widely known that fossil fuel interests and their Republican minions are hostile to efforts to combat climate change.

In the last presidential election cycle Rick Santorum shook up the Republican primary process with his vitriolic brand of climate denial and support for fossil fuels.  In February 2012, Rick Santorum said climate change is a hoax and advocated for an energy plan that relies heavily on fossil fuels, the Colorado Independent reported. Rick Perry was even reported to be on the payroll of a controversial oil pipeline company in Texas.

Slate published an article arguing that Scott Walker just might be the worst Republican candidate for the environment because of his long track record of “undermining pro-environment programs and policies while supporting the fossil fuel industry.”

Walker became infamous for his pandering to the oil industry when a prankster pretending to be oil billionaire David Koch. Walker opposes governmental regulations except for those that hinder clean energy. Walker imposed regulations to keep wind turbines further away from homes and signed a pledge never to pass a carbon tax. He has also raised money for the Heartland Institute, an organization that spreads climate misinformation.

In 2015 the Guardian reported that eight of the 17 GOP hopefuls are being heavily funded by big oil (seven out of 16 now that Perry has dropped out of the race). In August a total of at least $62 million was poured into Republican presidential campaigns by dirty industries or those with related interests.

Of that number two remaining candidates have received the lions share. They are Ted Cruz and to a much lesser extent Jeb Bush. Cruz took almost more than half of all the money given to the eight presidential candidates. What does the $36.5m from just four wealthy sources with links to fossil fuels interests buy? Climate denial on steroids.

While many Republicans hedge or question whether it is caused by human activities, Cruz ignores the reams of scientific research and straight out denies the existence of climate change. In February 2014, he told CNN that data did not exist to support the “so-called scientific theory” of global warming.

In March Cruz told the Texas Tribune that “satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years”.

In August at a forum organized by the energy tycoons the Koch brothers in California, Cruz repeated his outlandish assertion that “the data and facts don’t support” the phenomenon of climate change.

If Cruz managed to take the oval office he would give the fossil fuel industry the keys to the White House.

Jeb Bush, has raked in a total of $13.3m from nine separate donors with ties to the fossil fuel industry.

The consummate politician Bush has been more nuanced with his statement on climate change. He has done what many other Republicans do so well, he has introduced an element of doubt, just enough to make people question the veracity of the science. The absence of certainty also has the effect of precluding action. Bush has criticised Pope Francisfor his outspoken call for drastic change to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem”, telling the pope to keep out of global affairs. In May, Bush called the science on climate change “convoluted”, lambasting the vast majority of scientists who say it is now beyond doubt as “really arrogant”.

He added: “I don’t think the science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural.”

Five other Republican presidential candidates have received smaller amounts from those linked to fossil fuels: Carly Fiorina ($.2m), Lindsey Graham ($1m), Bobby Jindal ($1.2m), Scott Walker ($1.8m) and Donald Trump ($1.8m)

Trump has considerable holdings in a number of oil companies including ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum. According to financial disclosure records, he also has $250,000 worth of stock in TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. In 2011, he was reported as saying that it is “an outrage our president isn’t approving the Keystone pipeline”, the oil pipeline that runs from Canada to the US that has become a focal point of environmental agitation over combating climate change.

Although the costs of climate change have been widely documented, if elected Republican Presidential candidates will ignore global warming and pander to oil interests. Undiminished use of fossil fuels will generate emissions that will contribute to a range of catastrophic climate impacts including crop shortages and devastating extreme weather events. 

No comments: