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Oiling The Machine: Fossil Fuel Dollars Funneled into the U.S. Political Process

October 20th, 1997

Executive Summary

Oil, coal, gas and auto industry interests have funnelled substantial funds into U.S. federal elections since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

During that same time the Clinton Administration has failed to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels, and has so-far failed to support strong international targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. At the Rio Summit it was agreed to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000 at 1990 levels. Instead, greenhouse gas emissions are forecast to rise by 13% by the year 2000 and escalate further post-2000.

The Clinton Administration does not appear to even be discussing CO2 emissions reductions targets. Without a position on a reduction target the President and Vice President's concern for climate change is empty rhetoric. Supporting early action by industrialized nations is essential to prevent dangerous climate change.

Around 98% of US CO2 emissions come from the combustion of coal, oil and gas; with oil accounting for over 40%, coal 35% and natural gas 22% of energy related emissions. The United States alone produces about a quarter of global CO2 emissions.

This report assesses the:

  • contributions made by major mulitnational oil, coal and auto companies based in the United States to Congress
  • comparison of funding to the Democrats and Republicans
  • sectoral funding (oil and gas, mining and automotive) to the members of three key Senate committees: Energy and Natural Resouces, Environment and Public Works, and Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Source data was supplied by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP)

By failing exert leadership on this issue, the Clinton administration has bowed to the Republican-controlled Senate, playing directly to the industry-promoted agenda to derail international climate control agreements.

On June 12, 1997, the Republican-dominated Senate adopted, by a vote of 95 to zero, Resolution 98, recommending that the United States should not sign a international agreement unless it contains specific new commitments for developing countries. This Resolution is inconsistent with the Berlin Mandate, agreed by the U.S. government, upon which new agreements must be based

Conclusions: Key Companies

Oil and Gas Sector Total

Oil and gas interests have donated $ 53.4 million since 1991 to candidates and their parties. $20.8 million was donated in the 1995/6 period alone of which 77% went to the Republicans.

Oil Companies

Eight major oil companies, together with the Petroleum Marketers Association, donated $12.5 million to Congressional candidates and the parties in the last 6 years; 75% of this donation went to Republicans.

Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), Chevron, Exxon and Amoco alone gave more than a million dollars each during this period, with ARCO topping the league table with $3.4 million in donations. Enron, a natural gas company, also gave over $1million.

Altogether these these fossil fuel producers gave over 70% of their contributions to Republicans.

The Republicans received a total of $9.3 million from the oil companies and their marketers, and the Democrats received a total of $3.2 million.

These figures include PAC (Political Action Committee) donations which are given to individual candidates plus soft donations which are given to the two political parties.

Coal Companies

Two international coal companies alone - Cyprus Amax and Peabody - plus the National Mining Association (replacing National Coal Association in the earlier years) gave a total of $1.3 million; 80% of this total went to the Republican Party and their candidates.


The Big Three automakers (Chrysler, Ford and General Motors) gave $3.2 million in donations; together with a major donation from the National Auto Dealers Association of $5.9 million gives a total of $9.1 million.

65% of this total went to Republicans. 72% of the National Auto Dealers Association contribution went to Republicans ($4.3 million).

Key Senate Committees

Greenpeace evaluated sectoral donations to members of three Senate committees: Energy and Natural Resources, Environment and Public Works, and Commerce, Science and Transportation. These three committees play a key role in climate policy issues. Committee membership comprises 50 Senators, taking into account duplication.

Oil, mining and transportation interests have donated $ 11.7 million dollars to the current Senators from these three committees between 1992 - 1996. This group of 50 Senators represents half of the Senate. 77% of those donations went to Republican senators.

Oil and gas contributions made up $7.8 million, or two-thirds of the total, of which 80% went to Republican Senators.

Eight Senators received their highest donation from the oil and gas sector, all are Republican Senators: Nickles (Oklahoma), Thomas (Wyoming), Burns (Montana), Murkowski (Alaska), Inhofe (Oklahoma), Kempthorne (Idaho), Allard (Colorado), and Bailey Hutchison (Texas). Senator Murkowski is the Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Nineteen Senators (38%) had a donation from oil and gas companies within their top three donations, only two of those were Democrats.

The Republican senators received over 70% of total donations in each of the three Committees.

Oil and Gas Sectoral Totals

The Oil and Gas sector includes production, marketing and downstream activities, including companies involved in refining, distribution and transmission.

$53.4 million dollars have been give in donations by this sector since 1991. In the 1995/6 period the total donation amounted to $20.8 million of which 77% went to Republicans.

soft 5,103,433 4,514,6839,481,670

Mining industries have given approximately $6.7 million in donations since 1991. This total also includes metal mining, non-metal mining and mining service industries. In 1993/4 around half of the money came from coal mine operators.


Hard donations include both PAC (Political Action Committee) donations to individual candidates and individual hard donations (over $200); soft donations are those monies going to political parties.

Major Oil and Gas Companies

These companies represent the 'seven sister' major multinational oil companies. Also included is Atlantic Richfield company - ARCO - which tops the league table of politican contributions from oil companies with donations of $3.5 million since 1991.

1991/2 total1993/4 total1995/6 totalTotal
BP (Am.)117,400107,450 355,929580,779
Shell Oil 287,350109,000114,850511,200
total oil 11,823,505
PM Assn262,325189,725277,888729,938
total oil & PMA 12,553,443

* Petroleum Marketing Association.

Figures include the hard donations through the Political Action Committee (PAC) and soft donations to political parties.

The Oil Agenda

All of these oil companies are members of the Global Climate Coalition with the exception of BP. However BP and the other seven oil companies are members of the American Petroleum Institute, one of the sponsors of the 'Global Climate Information Project' the lobby group currently running a $13 million advertising campaign intended to derail agreement at the Climate Summit in Kyoto.

In an aggressive campaign started mid-1997 these groups contend that tougher climate controls for industrialised countries are unfair, and that developing countries are being let off the hook.

On June 12, 1997, the Republican-dominated Senate adopted, by a vote of 95 to zero, Resolution 98, recommending that the United States should not sign a international agreement unless it contains specific new commitments for developing countries. This Resolution is inconsistent with the Berlin Mandate, agreed by the U.S. government, upon which new agreements must be based.

The politics of the oil industry are blatant. The Head of the Global Climate Coalition has been reported recently admitting that requiring new commitments for developing countries could be a treaty killer. Exxon Chairman and CEO, Lee Raymond, warned developing countries on Oct 13, 1997, that supporting tougher climate controls could strangle economic growth - a major concern for developing countries.

Texaco, Mobil and Exxon, along with Australian fossil fuel company, BHP (Broken Hills Propriety Ltd) have also put funding into a controversial economic modelling exercise by the Australian government, currently being used to justify Australia's obstructive position in climate treaty negotiations. BHP is an Australian company with major assets in coal and oil; it is active in the current U.S. industry anti-climate advertising campaign.

For the entire report, visit Greenpeace's website.