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1 in 4 US senators heavily invested in fossil fuel industry: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The households of at least 28 senators own a combined minimum of $3.7 million and as much as $12.6 million in fossil fuel assets.

More than a fourth of US senators are heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry, potentially presenting a major hurdle in the way of President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate agenda, according to a new report.

This week at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Biden assured world leaders that the United States would meet its ambitious pledge to slash its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

For Biden to achieve that, he will need members of Congress to pass legislation to restrict fossil fuels, an industry in which dozens of senators and their households are personally invested.

Sludge has obtained information revealing that the households of at least 28 US senators— both Democrats and Republicans—hold a combined minimum of $3.7 million and as much as $12.6 million in fossil fuel investments.

“Of the 28 senators, at least 20 hold publicly traded stocks in companies like oil supermajor Chevron, pipeline giant Enterprise Products, or electric utility NextEra that belong to trade associations that are lobbying Congress against taking up strong legislation to curb polluting emissions,” the report said.

“Five senators are invested in energy funds built around oil and gas assets, and three own nonpublic stock in private fossil fuel companies,” it added.

The senators disclose their investments, or those of their spouses, to the Senate Office of Public Records, but details are presented in a very broad manner and often buried in hundreds of pages of paper forms.  

Ironically, at least half a dozen of the senators who are personally invested in the fossil fuel industry sit on environment- or climate-related committees in the upper chamber.

The household of Senator Joe Manchin, who is the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has received over $1 million in income from Enersystems, a coal brokerage firm the Democratic senator established in the 1980s.

Joe Manchin on Capitol Hill on December 1, 2020

Manchin "has stripped the Democrats' budget reconciliation bill of major climate programs that would have transitioned coal-fired plants like the one where the company, now run by his son, holds a prime fuel services contract," the report said.

Other senators whose households are heavily invested in fossil fuels include, John Hickenlooper of Colorado holds up to $1 million in investments in Chevron and other companies, Tom Carper of Delaware holds as much as $274,000 in Chevron and Duke Energy shares; Gary Peters of Michigan owns up to $355,000 in NextEra, DTE Energy, and Pacific Gas & Electric stock.  

The senators have often worked to remove any environmental or clean energy provisions from budget reconciliation legislation to protect their personal investments.

For months, Biden had made no secret of the fact that he wanted to participate in the COP26 climate talks with powerful measures signed into law to prove to the world that the United States was committed to his climate agenda.

However, Biden entered the talks without a convincing deal in hand to present at the UN summit as key components of his domestic climate agenda were frustrated due to powerful fossil fuel interests, fierce opposition from Republicans, and infighting among Democrats.

Scientists have warned that the stakes could not be higher and that failure at the Glasgow summit would hamper the world in its existential fight to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

 


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