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Two New Stories Highlight Koch Brothers' and Fossil Fuel Industry's Unwillingness to "Stand on Their Own Two Feet"

3 min. read

In our continuing series on how the fossil fuel need to "stand on their own two feet" and get off the taxpayer-funded corporate welfare dole, two recent articles drove the point home.

First, see Joe Nocera's op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, "Corporate Welfare for the Kochs."

So what happened on Feb. 1, 2013? On that day, the Arkansas Legislature was informed that Big River Steel had a new investor: none other than Koch Minerals, which is part of Koch Industries, the Koch brothers’ privately held industrial conglomerate. The Kochs, you see, had decided to take a 40 percent equity stake, making them the project’s biggest investor. In doing so, of course, the Kochs were taking advantage of the same “corporate welfare” they had long condemned — while relying on the kind of government credit agency they are trying to dismantle in America.

When I asked a Koch Industries spokesman about the company’s willingness to take advantage of tax incentives and other government goodies, he gave me the standard response to such queries. “Koch Industries has consistently opposed and actively lobbied against all forms of corporate welfare, including those we currently benefit from,” read an emailed statement. “With that said, we will not put ourselves and our employees at a competitive disadvantage in the current marketplace.” In other words, the Kochs believe there is nothing hypocritical about employing government subsidies they oppose.

You can't get much more hypocritical than that, and it might be shocking except for one thing: this is standard operating procedure in the fossil fuel industry. Thus, we've had fossil-fuel-funded pundits and "think tanks" railing for years against (relatively small) subsidies for clean energy, yet continuing to feast on government subsidies and other favors (e.g., lax environmental enforcement on fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining) themselves, just as they've been doing for over a century. As for why the taxpayers continue to subsidize a mature, extremely profitable industry, particularly one that's highly polluting, is mostly a story of powerful, entrenched, politically-connected industries throwing their weight around in Congress and in state capitols. But that doesn't make it right.

Along these lines, we strongly recommend the new MediaMatters piece on the Koch brothers' highly misleading arguments (aka, "lies") about how they use "dark money" to influence our political system in their favor, specifically to protect the subsidies that flow their way. In fact:

In a detailed report on Koch Industries, the Center for Public Integrity wrote: "Oil is the core of the Koch business empire, and the company's lobbyists and officials have successfully fought to preserve the industry's tax breaks and credits." The report documented that Koch lobbyists have worked to preserve billions of dollars in oil industry subsidies, including the Section 199 manufacturing tax deduction and the "last-in, first out" accounting rule.

Of course, the Kochs are free to try and get everything they can from our political system. But given their incessant refrain about the "free market" and getting rid of "corporate welfare," you'd think they might practice what they preach once in a while. So far, they haven't done so, and there's no sign of that changing any time soon. Keep that in mind the next time you hear one of the Koch-funded mouthpieces demand that wind and solar "stand on their own two feet."