Not so long ago, Mitt Romney used to blast deadly coal-fired power plants and talk up emission caps to curb the “dramatic warming of our planet.” But as the GOP nominee for president, Romney has become dirty energy’s biggest cheerleader. As his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, slams federal investment in wind and solar energy as “green pork,” Romney is loudly championing Big Oil, Big Coal, fracking and the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline that will bring climate-killing Canadian crude to the global export market.
What accounts for Mitt’s extreme energy makeover? Millions of dollars in campaign spending from fossil-fuel titans and advice from the drill-baby-drill crowd might have something to do with it. Here’s a look at Romney’s Dirty Dozen – the lobbyists, CEOs and advisers who are driving his radical dirty-energy agenda.
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Who: Charles and David Koch
Romney Connection: These guys are Mitt’s moneymen: the Koch brothers have personally vowed to spend up to $100 million through superPACs to defeat President Obama.
Dirty Energy: Charles and David – combined net worth: $62 billion – command a dirty-energy empire through Koch Industries, their multinational conglomerate. The brothers operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas and Minnesota that process more than 800,000 barrels of crude daily. They also control dirty-energy distribution, with more than 4,000 miles of oil and gas pipeline, and eight coal docks around the Great Lakes. In addition, the Kochs are heavily invested in oil and gas drilling in the Rockies as well as mining the Canadian tar sands. In 2009, a Koch company told Canadian regulators that it has “a direct and substantial interest” in the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline – which would carry Canadian crude from Alberta to Texas. Romney has made completing Keystone XL a centerpiece of his energy agenda, vowing the $7.6 billion pipeline will happen even “if I have to build it myself.”
Who: William Koch
Romney Connection: The “other Koch brother” has sunk nearly $3 million into Romney’s SuperPAC through a combination of personal and corporate giving.
Dirty Energy: Though no longer involved in Koch Industries, William is still a carbon kingpin. His company, Oxbow Carbon, owns a coal mine in Colorado that sells to the federal government. Oxbow is also a top dealer of petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil refining used by the cement and aluminum industries. Koch calls the Environmental Protection Agency “hyperaggressive.” Romney, too, regularly targets the agency as a top cause of the nation’s economic woes – an approach that alarms George W. Bush’s first EPA chief. “Bashing the agency, saying it’s all the fault of the agency,” Christie Todd Whitman recently said, “I think that gets us into a really bad place.”
Who: Harold Hamm
Romney Connection: Romney’s top energy adviser, Hamm is the architect of the GOP nominee’s proposal to give individual states the authority to greenlight fracking and mining on federal lands – a scheme top environmentalists call a “preposterously bad idea.” Hamm has also given nearly $1 million to Romney’s superPAC.
Dirty Energy: Hamm is CEO of Continental Resources, a top player in the North Dakota oil boom, producing 100,000 barrels a day through fracking. Personally worth more than $10 billion, Hamm has fought to preserve federal tax subsidies for the oil industry.
Who: Jim Talent
Romney Connection: Senior adviser to the Romney campaign.
Dirty Energy: Talent, a former Senator from Missouri, is also a top lobbyist for the coal industry. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, reportedly paid Talent’s firm almost $700,000 for lobbying services in the last six years. In the sales pitch for Romney’s energy plan, Talent writes: “The problem is not that America does not have energy. The problem is that our government – alone among the governments of the world – will not allow its own people to recover the energy that they possess.” Romney has echoed Talent and Peabody by celebrating the climate-killing fuel: “We have 250 years of coal. Why wouldn’t we use it?”
Who: Jack Gerard
Dirty Energy: Gerard is president of the American Petroleum Institute, and the human face of Big Oil. Gerard and API have threatened Obama with “huge political consequences” for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, and after the president called for ending $4 billion in corporate welfare to Exxon Mobil and friends, Gerard accused Obama of seeking to “punish the oil and natural gas industry through tax policy.” API’s plan for America’s energy future is largely indistinguishable from Romney’s.
Who: James Connaughton
Romney Connection: Early member of Romney energy brain trust; top candidate for EPA chief.
Dirty Energy: From 2000 to 2008, Connaughton steered the Bush administration’s grotesque global warming policies as the head of the president’s Council on Environmental Quality. His tenure there began with abandoning the Kyoto treaty and seeking the removal of government climate-change scientists targeted by Exxon. Connaughton also crafted Bush’s Orwellian “Clear Skies Initiative” – much of which was later tossed out in court for not adequately protecting human health. He is now an executive for the power giant Exelon, which operates more than three dozen fossil fuel plants nationwide.
Who: Jeffrey Holmstead
Romney Connection: Brain trust; shortlist for EPA administrator.
Dirty Energy: Holmstead was the fossil fuel lobby’s man inside the Bush administration. As an assistant EPA administrator, he worked to weaken clean-air regulation and block the release of data that didn’t line up with administration policy. Holmstead’s handiwork was ultimately rebuked in court, but his tactics secured the coal industry the equivalent of an eight-year reprieve on strict limits on deadly mercury pollution. Holmstead now lobbies for climate polluters at Bracewell Giuliani.
Who: David Wilkins
Romney Connection: Adviser. A former speaker of the South Carolina House, Wilkins prominently endorsed Romney on the eve of that state’s primary in January.
Dirty Energy: An ambassador to Canada under the Bush administration, Wilkins is now a lobbyist for oil interests in Alberta, including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. He’s also a top proponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline: “Governor Romney would never turn his back on our energy security,” Wilkins has said, “as the President has done with the Keystone XL pipeline project.”
Who: Steven Webster
Romney Connection: Harvard business-school classmate; private equity bigshot; gave $1 million to Romney’s superPAC.
Dirty Energy: Webster started out in the offshore drilling world. The firm he founded was the first owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that BP blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. Webster is now the co-CEO of Avista Capital, a Houston-based private equity firm that invests heavily in oil exploration; he also sits on the boards of nearly a dozen energy firms from Pinnacle Gas Resources to Hercules Offshore.
Who: Joseph W. Craft III
Romney Connection: Has given $500,000 to Romney’s superPAC, plus another $1.25 million to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.
Dirty Energy: Craft is the CEO of Alliance Coal, and he’s trying to squeeze another decade of profits out of coal mining. “The critical issue we’re going to have to look at is what happens in elections,” Craft has said. “Because the only thing, in my view, that can impede the growth in coal gets back to bad public policy.” Hear more on Craft’s bullish outlook here:
Who: Clayton Williams, Jr.
Dirty Energy: Williams’ company drills for gas throughout New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. But he’s most infamous for his brief, toxic candidacy for governor of Texas in 1990, which may explain why he didn’t give to Romney’s superPAC directly. Entertaining a group of campaign staff and reporters at his ranch that year, Williams likened the day’s bad weather to rape: “If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” Williams later half-apologized “if anyone’s offended,” adding by way of justification: “That’s not a Republican women’s club that we were having this morning. It’s a working cow camp, a tough world where you can get kicked in the testicles if you’re not careful.” The comments derailed Williams’ bid. He lost to Governor Ann Richards by two points.