The always interesting Ron Brownstein writes:
Rarely has the Democratic Party identified as unconditionally with an industry as it is doing today with the emerging clean-energy sector, the companies and investors leading America’s transition toward a lower-carbon economy that relies less on fossil fuels and more on efficiency and such renewable power sources as solar, wind, and biomass. If the industry grows as its supporters hope, this emerging alliance could profoundly shape not only the nation’s energy strategy in the 21st century, but also its politics.
Because they generate so much wealth, energy interests always influence politics. For decades, oil and gas companies have treated Washington like an especially lucrative well: They have pursued tax breaks (such as the oil depletion allowance) and diplomatic help in securing supplies abroad while resisting any other federal economic or environmental regulation, such as limits on the carbon emissions linked to climate change.
To support its agenda, oil wealth has long funded conservative politics. The industry, especially the fiercely anti-government independent producers who emerged in Texas in the 1930s, provided gushers of money–first to oil-patch Democrats like Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kerr, and later to Republican politicians and conservative campaigns considerably to the right of those men. Through the late 20th century, oil titans like H.L. Hunt, Hugh Roy Cullen, and the Koch family provided huge sums to causes that ranged from uncompromisingly conservative to crackpot paranoid. Even now, the oil and gas industry remains a bedrock source of funding for Republicans: From 1990 through early this year, the industry contributed $241 million to federal campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Three-fourths of that money went to Republicans.
People tend to underestimate the influence that special corporate interests like energy companies wield. It’s not just campaign donations, it’s the so-called think tanks that generate WaPo op-ed and CNN talking head propaganda.
I’m all for clean energy and all for replacing AEI, the Heritage Foundation, and the McArdle fiance charity fund with better institutions. But there’s also a level at which I fear that as we enter what is likely to be a long period of Democratic political domination, we’ll be merely exchanging one set of corporate masters for another.