Save the Planet, Reward Your Friends, Get Reelected
Is nothing sacred? Congress passes an energy bill in the name of fighting global warming, and what it best accomplishes is passing pork off to campaign supporters of leading legislators. Who would have imagined!?
Tucked away among the $3.2 billion in Congressional earmarks in the recently passed energy and water spending bill is a $4 million grant to a small company in suburban Chicago that is trying to solve the problem of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions.
Mark Schoenfield of Jupiter Oxygen says earmarks play a vital role in financing.
The company, Jupiter Oxygen, which is run out of an office park near O’Hare airport, holds potentially valuable patents for burning coal cleanly but has fewer than 10 employees and sparse revenue. As a speculative venture in an embryonic field, it has little access to capital markets, traditional bank loans or federal grants.
It does, however, have powerful friends in Congress, including Representatives Peter J. Visclosky, Democrat of Indiana, and Joe L. Barton, Republican of Texas, who sponsored the earmark and who together have received more than $41,000 in campaign donations from Jupiter Oxygen executives. In all, company officials and family members have given political donations of at least $150,000 in recent years.
The case of Jupiter Oxygen is an example of how companies in a variety of energy-related businesses, solar, biofuels and wind power, are lining up at the federal trough as the government shovels out billions of new dollars to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and combat global warming.
Enthusiasts call it cutting-edge research on a crucial national priority. Critics of this new genre of federal spending call it “green pork.”
Of course, a lot of the loot goes for ethanol, the latest supposed panacea to achieve energy independence. And the beneficiaries of the latest bill know their lines–it’s all for the public interest. Explains the Times:
Earlier this year, Poet, an ethanol producer based in South Dakota, received a grant from the Department of Energy of up to $80 million to produce cellulosic ethanol fuel from corn cobs and other corn fibers in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The company, the nation’s second-largest ethanol producer (after Archer Daniels Midland, the agribusiness giant), included hundreds of pages of technical and financial information in its application — plus letters of support from 38 members of Congress and dozens of local officials.
“Ethanol is an opportunity for rural development and reducing our dependency on foreign oil,” said Mark Stowers, vice president for research and development at Poet, which used to be known as Broin Companies. “That’s the real reason people wanted to write letters to support the project.”
Of course. People wrote support letters because they want America to be energy independent. Absolutely. By the way, I’m selling shares in a bridge over the Hudson River … .
The best Democratic defense is, so’s your Mama! That is, the GOP was no less shameless. It just had other interests whom it preferred to fund–though ethanol seems to win whomever is in power. While the Democratic response it true, it doesn’t provide a justification for the latest round of “Let’s mulct the taxpayer.”
Perhaps now we can understand why the Democrats are so committed to discussing global warming. It gives them yet another excuse for pork barrel spending.