Carbon Billionaires
Issue #
182

To truly address climate change head-on, the United States would have to agree to a treaty that requires profound changes to the coal, oil and shale gas industry, as well as its transportation and manufacturing sectors. This seems about as likely as the government taking over ExxonMobil, thanks in no small part to the influence of the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.“As the top spenders to stop climate policy in the planet’s most polluting nation...the two oil barons from Wichita hold hostage any progress in Washington and hence any meaningful global deal,” said Victor Menotti, executive director of the International Forum on Globalization. He co-authored a new report unveiled in Doha, titled “U.S. Carbon Billionaires and the U.N. Climate Deadlock.”

Menotti tracked how Koch money is funneled through lobbyists and think tanks to thwart environmental regulation of the fossil fuel industry and deter subsidies for renewable energy solutions.

“The disparate influence of large corporations and wealthy individuals in contrast to the sway of the bottom 90 percent of Americans needs to be addressed,” he concluded, “for meaningful change in environmental policy to materialize.”

This is the same conclusion drawn by activists trying to stop the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry toxic tar sand slurry from Alberta, Canada, to be processed into crude oil by U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast. Koch Industries has a massive stake in seeing the project move forward. Its subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, already operates a refinery in Minnesota that handles about 25 percent of tar sands imports to the United States.

Ramsey Sprague, a spokesperson for the Texas Tar Sands Blockade, joined in via online videostream to a press conference Menotti held at COP-18. After describing how activists had locked down 25-feet inside a section of pipe as an act of civil disobedience, he was asked what he steps he wished the Koch brothers would take.

“We don’t want billionaires,” Sprague replied. “the problem of extreme concentration of wealth and power is what undermines democracy. There is too much power in too few hands.” He argued that even the negotiators at the COP do not directly report to billionaires, “they are unauthorized to strike deals here to save the planet because of that extreme concentration of power.”