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Inert Gas (and oil and coal) - Darren Goode on the Power of Policy Inertia and How it Works in Favor of Fossil Fuels

2 min. read

by Tigercomm President Mike Casey

Cleantech deniers - you know, the "small government" guys who get paid by the fossil fuel lobby - don’t like to talk about the reality of the massive amount of taxpayer-funded welfare flowing into the fossil fuel industry's overflowing coffers. Not to worry, we’ll keep discussing it with guests such as Center for American Progress energy finance expert Richard Caperton, who told us that fossil fuel interests’ use of Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) "costs us $1.5 billion a year," and that the fossil fuels lobby’s big advantage in shoving pollution clean up costs onto the rest of us.

The question still hangs over clean energy reporting: How does the dirty energy lobby get away with it, especially when we’re trying to cut the budget deficit? During our recent interview with Politico senior energy reporter Darren Goode (see part 1 here),  it was clear that it's largely the power of inertia.

As Goode explained:

The oil and gas industry...[has] been around for a long long time, and they've learned how to sell their product pretty well. The clean energy industry...there's a little bit of a learning curve...The oil and gas industry of course has the luxury of having things that are permanently on the books...they don't have to keep getting their stuff extended... It is a lot harder when… every couple years you have to fight to keep yourself on, because it's a lot easier...just to not do anything...It's really difficult in Congress to take something out.

As they taught us in high school, "an object at rest stays at rest." The fossil fuel version would go something like this: Those who are at the public trough get to remain at the public trough  – because they pay politicians a rent to stay there. Have your doubts? Check out Oil Change International's analysis, indicating that Keystone XL tar sands pipeline supporters got "six times more [in campaign contributions] from the oil industry than opponents" did. OpenSecrets.org shows how much money this is: "Individuals and political action committees affiliated with oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 million to candidates and parties since the 1990 election cycle." For the fossil fuel lobby, it’s rent-based inertia that maintains a playing field tilted towards fossil fuels, and that stalls clean economy scaling, so those who might be disrupted get to stay inert.