In speeches and press conferences, and occasionally in policy, the Democratic Party in the United States has always claimed the high ground on the issue of climate change and the need to move the country off oil, gas and coal towards renewable energy. As a result, the fossil fuel industry has heavily backed Republican politicians for decades.
But the 2016 U.S. Presidential election has once again proven unique by every measure. A new report by The Wall Street Journal shows that Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pulling in far more money from the fossil fuel industry than her Republican opponent Donald Trump.
The report shows that, through July, Hillary Clinton has received almost three times as much campaign cash from fossil fuel employees than Trump, to the tune of about $525,000 compared to Trump’s $149,000. Her joint account with the Democratic National Committee has also received an additional $650,000 from fossil fuel executives and employees.
Given Clinton’s history with the fossil fuel industry, these contributions are less than surprising. During her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton’s staff was working with TransCanada to obtain approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Clinton has also declared fracked natural gas a “bridge fuel” and she says that coal will play an important role in America’s energy future. The coal comments were made just a few months after she proposed a $30 billion investment to retrain coal workers to work in the renewable energy sector.
Her positions offer a clear picture as to why the dirty energy industry may favor her, but those positions are still far more dangerous to the industry than those of Donald Trump.
After all, unlike Clinton, Trump still claims that climate change is a hoax, and he has made it clear that drilling and fracking and coal extraction will be increased under a Trump administration.
So if her opponent is friendlier to the fossil fuel industry, why the sudden shift from GOP to Democrats in campaign spending?
The answer could have more to do with electability than with policy. The fossil fuel industry has fared exceptionally well under the Obama administration, and the policies are not likely to change under a Clinton administration, so the industry could possibly assume that Clinton’s higher poll numbers give them a better chance of having a friend in the White House.
Still, this move to the Democratic presidential nominee is unprecedented, as The Hill points out:
Since 1989, about 60 percent of the $500 million the industry spent on U.S. elections has gone to the GOP and its candidates, according to the CRP data provided to the Journal.
And so far in the 2016 cycle, oil and gas executives and employees have spent some 90 percent of their $71 million in campaign contributions on Republicans — those not named Trump — according to the Journal.
The interesting thing to note is that the Democratic Party is not favored over the Republican Party, in general — just with the Presidential candidates. House and Senate Republicans are still receiving the majority of oil and gas industry contributions.
As it stands right now, fossil fuel money is going to Republicans over Democrats by a rate of almost 9 to 1. And since we know that Clinton leads Trump, the rest of this money is going to down-ballot candidates.
So if the industry is certain of a Clinton victory — if that is the reason they are favoring her — then they must also feel certain that the Republican Party will retain control of both the House and Senate, since that’s where their money is going.
Studies have shown that individuals and companies that donate money to candidates are more likely to get private meetings with the politician once they get elected and that they are more likely to benefit from legislation sponsored by that politician.
If this trend holds, then America can expect a future dominated by further fossil fuel pollution of our democracy, health and the climate.
Image via WND.com.