The United States consumes more petroleum products than any other country in the world. Hand in hand with this high-octane intake are the heavy subsidies the United States government provides to petroleum companies -- allowing tax exemptions at almost every stage of the oil refinement process. It comes as no surprise that Big Oil does everything it can to advocate for these subsidies, since minor policy changes can have a huge impact on the cost of energy production, and of course profits. The individuals below rank among the top ten American politicians who receive the most money from the oil and energy sector.
Conservatives notoriously support the oil industry, often warning of the security risks associated with dependence on foreign oil and associating economic growth with cheaper energy. It makes sense, then, that this list contains only Republican members of Congress. In fact, many of them are GOP power players, including former Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and high profile congressmen New Mexico Senator John McCain and California Representative Kevin McCarthy. All four of these politicians have publicly backed the Keystone XL Pipeline, supported offshore drilling, and voted to continue subsidizing the oil industry.
A handful of individuals on the list hail from the Lone Star State. No surprise there as Texas is America’s largest crude oil producer. Joe Barton, John Cornyn, Kevin Brady have electoral incentives to protect their state’s economic interests, and according to our data, monetary incentives as well. Joe Barton has been an especially vocal supporter of the oil industry, advocating for lifting the ban on crude oil exports, which would dramatically lower global crude oil prices. The former Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he authored the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which provides tax incentives and loan guarantees to various energy industries. Senator Cornyn promoted similar policies, voting against factoring global warming in decisions about the use of federal funds, and against banning oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has also worked to protect oil subsidies. Brady also has considerable influence over Big Oil as the sitting chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the primary tax-writing and revenue-raising committee in the House of Representatives.
Among the less prominent and not-from-Texas characters that make the list, Steve Pearce, Fred Upton, and Don Young, have nonetheless made their names in supporting the oil industry in various ways. New Mexican Representative Pearce voted in favor of offshore drilling and also advocated for drilling for oil off the coast of Florida and Alaska. Michigan Representative Upton sponsored the North American Energy Infrastructure Act which would allow “cross-border energy projects” (such as Keystone) to bypass the President for a permit, and go straight to the state department. Last, Alaska Representative Don Young has repeatedly, and controversially, supported drilling for oil in the Arctic National Refuge by adding provisions for such drilling into twelve bills passed by the House.
As America decides how it’s position on energy and conservation will develop, the oil industry’s influence will become more visible and important as ever.