Follow the Coal Money

posted by Rainforest Action Network

These days, you’ll find more images of windmills and solar panels in political campaign ads than pictures of cute babies and American flags. Why, then, is it so hard to pass a simple bill promoting solar power? It couldn’t be the influence of the coal industry, could it?

The good folks at Appalachian Voices and Oil Change International have put together a great tool to show the ties between Congress and Big Coal. Want to know how much your legislator receives from the coal industry? Or the top overall recipients of coal cash in the House or Senate? How about which utilities or coal mining companies contribute the most to our elected officials? Click here to find out.

You’ll find that each of the top five (and nine of the top 10) recipients of coal industry money in the Senate voted against the solar bill. In the House, one proposed bill (H.R. 2169) would effectively end most mountaintop removal coal mining by prohibiting the dumping of mining waste into streams. Mountaintop removal mining has leveled nearly 500 mountains throughout Appalachia, burying more than 1,200 miles of streams and destroying hundreds of square miles of pristine Appalachian terrain in the process. Not surprisingly, only five of the 30 top recipients of coal money in the U.S. House have signed on as sponsors of this important bill.

Let’s face facts: to get clean energy, we need a clean government. As I wrote in my new book, Coming Clean:

“It’s time to get dirty-energy money out of politics, and to end corporate welfare to the richest industries in history. Politicians need to show some backbone to help our country create a clean-energy future. Elected officials can step up and disavow campaign contributions, travel junkets, or other financial perks from the coal and oil industries. It’s really quite simple: if we want our government to be independent of the fossil-fuel industry, then politicians have to prove they can’t be bought. And if we want to move decisively to safe and sustainable forms of energy, then we should stop using taxpayer dollars to subsidize some of the oldest and dirtiest forms of energy.

“Imagine what we could do with the fossil-fuel industry’s $49 billion in annual subsidies. We could provide Head Start schooling for all eligible children in the United States (about $2 billion), and medical care for uninsured U.S. kids ($6 billion). Rather than dole out taxpayer dollars to Exxon and other oil companies, we could subsidize the rapid development of plug-in hybrid vehicles or residential and industrial-scale solar arrays. We can declare independence from oil and coal, and clean up government in the process.”

It’s time to start holding politicians accountable to the rhetorical standards they so eagerly set for themselves. Next time you see a political ad touting wind power and the coming energy revolution, see for yourself whether the politician who “approved that message” is full of noble intentions, or just full of hot air.