A series of Sludge articles written by David Moore in November and December of 2021 reported that at least 100 US Representatives and twenty-eight US Senators have financial interests in the fossil fuel industry.
According to Moore, some seventy-four Republicans, fifty-nine Democrats, and one Independent have interests in the fossil fuel industry. In both chambers, more Republicans than Democrats are invested in the industry, and the ten most heavily invested House members are all Republicans. However, the first- and third-most-invested senators, Joe Manchin (WV), who owns up to $5.5 million worth of fossil fuel industry assets, and John Hickenlooper (CO), who owns up to $1 million, are Democrats. Additionally, Senate Democrats own up to $8,604,000 in fossil fuel assets, more than double the Senate Republicans’ $3,994,126 in fossil fuel assets. Aside from Senator Manchin, and Representative Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), who owns up to $5.2 million worth of stock in oil and gas pipelines, many of the other deeply invested congressional leaders are Texas Republicans, including Representative Van Taylor, who owns up to $12.4 million worth of fossil fuel assets.
Besides directly owning stock or industry assets, members of Congress also profit from the fossil fuel industry in other ways. For example, as Julia Rock and Andrew Perez reported in a September 2021 article for Jacobin, the household of Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) received at least $938,987 from the fossil fuel industry in 2019 and 2020 through her husband’s employment as a consultant for Terra Energy Partners, an oil and gas company that drills on federal lands. Boebert initially failed to report her husband’s income as a fossil fuel consultant on her 2019 congressional financial disclosure forms.
Many of these congressional leaders hold seats on influential energy-related committees. In the Senate, Manchin is chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Tina Smith (D-MN) chairs the Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, Tom Carper (D-DE) is chair of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Haggerty (R-TN) both serve on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, to name some of the most prominent senators.
In the House, members serving on influential committees include Boebert, who serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Armstrong owns up to $10.6 million in fossil fuel assets, including hundreds of oil and gas wells. Nine of the twenty-two Republican members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are invested in the fossil fuel industry.
As Project Censored detailed in the #4 story on the Top 25 list two years ago, these individuals’ personal financial interests as investors often conflict with their obligation as elected legislators to serve the public interest. Senator Manchin cut the Clean Electricity Performance Program, a system that would phase out coal, from President Biden’s climate bill, and Representative Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) delayed passage of the Democrats’ budget bill when it included a clean-energy standard, according to Moore’s December 29, 2021, article for Sludge.
The fossil fuel industry is deeply entrenched in Washington, lobbying to influence policy on crucial issues such as the transition to carbon-neutral energy and green infrastructure. According to OpenSecrets, the oil and gas industries spent $119.3 million on lobbying in 2021. During the 2020 election cycle, the fossil fuel industry gave more than $40 million to congressional candidates, including $8.7 million to Democrats and $30.8 million to Republicans according to another OpenSecrets report.
Moore highlighted why these conflicts of interest are so deadly in his December 29, 2021, article: “In May, the International Energy Agency laid out an ultimatum to policy makers: for the world to have a 50/50 chance at reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, no new fossil fuel developments can be approved, starting immediately.” And, yet, as Moore explained, production of oil and gas is projected to grow 50 percent by 2030 without congressional action. The fact that so many lawmakers have invested considerable sums in the fossil fuel industry makes it extremely unlikely that Congress will do much to rein in oil and gas production.
As of May 21, 2022, no corporate outlets had covered the full extent to which members of Congress are financially invested in the fossil fuel industry. Sludge ran a similar analysis of congressional fossil-fuel industry investments in 2020; that report also garnered no corporate coverage. There have been only two articles by Business Insider that are tangentially related to members of Congress holding stocks in fossil fuel companies. But only the independent media have detailed the exact dollar amounts that our legislators have sunk into the oil and gas business. Corporate news outlets have only reported on the fact that clean energy proposals are stalled in Congress, not the financial conflicts of interest that are the likely cause of this lack of progress.
David Moore, “Senators Cling to Fossil Fuel Stocks as World Heats Up,” Sludge, November 5, 2021.
David Moore, “GOP Rep Picks up Millions in Pipeline Stock,” Sludge, December 10, 2021.
David Moore, “At Least 100 House Members Are Invested in Fossil Fuels,” Sludge, December 29, 2021.
Julia Rock and Andrew Perez, “Lauren Boebert’s Anti-Climate Legislation Is a Self-Enrichment Scheme,” Jacobin, September 13, 2021.
Student Researcher: Annie Koruga (Ohlone College)
Faculty Evaluator: Robin Takahashi (Ohlone College)