Last week, House Republicans passed a sweeping energy bill containing so many pro-fossil fuel provisions that climate advocates and progressives noted it may as well have been written by the industry itself — and, as a new report reveals, Republicans parroted talking points lifted verbatim from industry lobbyists as they argued for the bill.
“Energy security is national security.” That’s a quote from a letter sent to House leaders by Big Oil’s most prominent industry lobbyist, the American Petroleum Institute (API), last month. As a report by Accountable.US seen exclusively by Truthout reveals, it also happens to be a quote that was repeated word for word on the House floor last week by at least four Republican members of Congress as they debated H.R. 1, which Republicans passed on Thursday.
GOP Representatives Ronny Jackson (Texas), Bill Johnson (Ohio) and Carol Miller (West Virginia) and Del. Jim Moylan (Guam) repeated this phrase verbatim in debates leading up to the bill’s passage.
Others, like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), deviated slightly from the wording, but kept similar phrasing: McMorris Rodgers said that the bill would “restore American energy dominance and bolster national security,” while Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) claimed that “President Biden’s energy policies … threaten our national security.”
The “national security” quote is just one of several examples raised by the report, which only further confirms what climate advocates have long known: When it comes to energy and environmental policy, there is essentially no distinguishing between many Republican politicians and fossil fuel lobbyists. In many cases, in fact, high-powered Republican legislative staffers come directly from fossil fuel lobbying and the API; often, Republican lawmakers are themselves coal or oil barons.
“Rather than fighting to protect consumers from Big Oil’s ruthless price gouging and dangerous pollution, the House GOP would rather regurgitate industry talking points and vote to weaken critical environmental protections, silence frontline voices, and give our public lands away to extractive industries” said Jordan Schreiber, Director of the Energy and Environment Program at Accountable.US, in a statement provided to Truthout.
Other statements were just as damning. At least six Republicans prattled on on the House floor about foreign “adversaries” or “adversarial” nations that the U.S. will supposedly have to compete with unless Congress grants yet more power to the fossil fuel industry. This is a blatantly false statement, debunked time and again by experts — and one that’s conveniently favorable to the fossil fuel industry.
If H.R. 1 isn’t passed, the U.S. “will cede our position as a global energy leader and instead become reliant on foreign adversaries to supply our energy needs,” API said in its letter, sent on March 14. The group emphasized “cementing our energy independence.”
“We cannot allow our energy security to be surrendered to our adversaries,” McMorris Rodgers said on the House floor 15 days later. “Securing our energy independence … ensures that foreign adversaries can’t use these resources to threaten us,” Moylan said on March 23. “This legislation will get us one step closer to becoming energy independent and then dominant,” Rep. Cory Mills (R-Florida) said the day before the bill was passed.
The supposed burden of energy regulations, a longtime bugaboo of the fossil fuel industry, was a sticking point. While API called out “onerous regulations,” several Republicans went on about “burdensome” ones. And claims about the “rise” of or “growing” demand for energy were also repeated by politicians.
“Demand for energy will continue to rise in the coming decades,” API wrote, and “oil and natural gas are going to play an important role.” Said Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) on March 29: “America’s growing power demand […] far outweighs renewable resources capacity to keep up.”
These quotes come on top of the fact that the bill itself is essentially a fossil fuel wish list, as climate advocates have pointed out. Targets of H.R. 1 include the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which has long been a thorn in the side of the fossil fuel industry, and the recent Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which cuts into Big Oil’s energy dominance. People like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) noted the similarities between the bill and the oil lobby’s agenda on the House floor last Tuesday.
“The central argument and logic of this bill is that if you give Big Oil everything they want, then perhaps they will lower our gas prices. It’s a form of trickle-down fantasy that just will not make life easier for everyday Americans,” she said.
H.R. 1 reads “as if you gave a pen to an oil lobbyist and wrote down everything that they’d want,” she went on.
If API and other industry lobbyists did play a role in writing the legislation, it wouldn’t be the first time. Last year, when coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) waged an attempt to push through similar legislation that would have massively expanded the oil and gas industry, a one-page summary of the legislation that circulated through Congress bore the watermark of “API.”
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