A new report from an ongoing study on climate-related lobbying released today by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity (CPI) shows that California corporations are major players in climate change-related lobbying activity.

According to the KQED-FM blog “Climate Watch”:

Not surprisingly, “Big Oil” is a big spender. San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. clocks in at more than $36 million since 2003. And PG&E, one of California’s largest utilities, is shown spending more than $34 million just in the last two years ($19 million in the third quarter of 2008 alone).

Silicon Valley is well represented on the list, including some firms whose stake in climate policy is less obvious; eBay, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Intel are all in the half-million-plus club. Government records show Intel declaring more than $12 million on climate lobbying since 2003.

The ongoing CPI investigation shows that climate-relating lobbying “reached a fever pitch” in the third quarter of 2009. More than 460 new businesses and interest groups entered the lobbying fray in the weeks before the House of Representatives neared its historic vote on climate change legislation in June 2009, bringing the tally of registered climate lobbyists to approximately 1,150. Of course, most of the action has been focused on the climate change and energy bills before Congress — the one passed by the House and the other still before the Senate.

A CPI analysis released earlier in 2009 showed that more than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change within the past year, “as the issue gathered momentum and came to a vote on Capitol Hill. That’s an increase of more than 300 percent in the number of lobbyists on climate change in just five years, and means that Washington can now boast more than four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress.”

Although the knee-jerk response to this study might be to assume that all of these lobbyists are out to weaken the climate legislation (and, eventually, destroy the planet), the CPI data shows that major environmental groups and companies with a stake in green technologies have also splashed out in an attempt to present the multiple benefits to our economy and the environment of a new clean energy future — and to try to counter the influence of the lobbyists representing polluting fossil fuel industries.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, for example, each spent at least $1 million from 2008-2009. It’s pennies on the dollar when compared to the obscene amounts spent by Chevron and others, but hey, at least those on the right side of the climate change issue are part of the debate.

So, the next time someone you know makes an ignorant comment about the powerful environmental lobby (according to this fact-challenged individual, when the environmentalists aren’t busy spending their vast resources manipulating lawmakers, they’re spending their time manipulating data to fool the world into believing a vast climate change conspiracy), you’ll know just the Web site URL to provide to him or her. (This one: http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/global_climate_change_lobby/. Sorry, it’s a long one.)

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that our message and our moral stance to protect our planet and our continued existence on it is what is powerful to millions of people all over the world — not necessarily the size of our wallets. That being said, have you considered making a holiday donation to your favorite environmental group? In light of this study, it’s clear that organizations like CLCV need all the help we can get if we are going to continue to represent your strong environmental values to elected officials in Sacramento and in Washington. Those of us engaged in lobbying (yes, that includes CLCV) can’t give you an end-of-year tax write-off, but we can give you that warm holiday glow that comes from knowing you did the right thing.

If you’d like to know more about the power of lobbyists on the national level, the CPI study site includes a searchable database of all federally registered climate lobbyists.

Posted on December 29, 2009


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