As we know, the fossil fuel industry has numerous servants in Washington, D.C. One of those is Rep. Edward “Ed” Whitfield , a U.S. Representative from Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District. Given this district’s location in “coal country,” the influence of coal, and other fossil fuels, on Rep. Whitfield is not particularly surprising. Still, it’s eye opening to actually look at the amounts of cash that have flowed from the dirty energy industry into Rep. Whitfield’s campaign coffers over the years. According to Open Secrets, that includes: nearly $500,000 from “Electric Utilities” (mostly coal fired), $370,000 from “Oil & Gas,” and $280,000 from “Mining.”
With all of this dirty energy money funding Rep. Whitfield’s campaigns, it’s no wonder that he’s a good friend of carbon-based fuels, and no friend at all to clean energy. Rep. Whitfield recently co-sponsored the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which “would permanently remove EPA authority to curb greenhouse gases.” He also voted against clean air, clean water, etc. over and over again, and keeps pushing wildly exaggerated Keystone XL jobs numbers. As if all that’s not bad enough, he’s also a climate science denier who believes that coal should be mined forever.
With regard to clean energy, Rep. Whitfield is notorious for spreading misinformation and outright lies. For instance, this past Wednesday, The Hill reported Rep. Whitfield’s laughable comments about wind power specifically, and clean energy generally.
“If you kill an eagle, and you happen to be a private business or you’re a power generator or you’re an oil company or a chemical company, you’re going to be fined,” he said. “But if you’re a wind energy company, even though the bird you killed may be protected under the Endangered Species Act, you’re going to be protected.
“America will not stand for a government that rewards its friends and punishes its opponents in a … discriminatory fashion.”
There’s so much wrong with these comments, it’s hard to know where to begin demolishing them. First off, on the bird kill issue, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has an excellent fact sheet, “Rhetoric vs. Reality: Wind Energy and Birds,” which among other things explains that “[w]ind turbines are estimated to cause less than three out of every 100,000 human-related bird deaths in the U.S.” In stark contrast, AWEA points out, “[c]oal – which wind directly replaces – is by far the largest contributor to wildlife risks.”
Second, with regard to Rep. Whitfield’s imaginary war against the oil and gas industry, we would remind the good Congressman that the government doles out billions of dollars a year in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and has been doing so for decades. This adds up to a great deal of money, even by Washington, D.C. standards. The Christian Science Monitor reported that about $41 billion a year in subsidies is handed out to oil and gas companies, and that figure does not include the $500 billion per year in adverse health and environmental costs of coal. Whatever the exact number, it’s enormous, and totally refutes Rep. Whitfield’s delusional contention that government “punishes” fossil fuels in any way, shape or form. To the contrary, the government lavishes fossil fuels with taxpayer dollars, and has done so for more than a century.
In addition, oil and gas production are up sharply under President Obama. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas production is up around 4 trillion cubic feet since 2008, while crude oil production is up 1.5 million barrels per day over that same period. As for coal production, it actually went up in 2010 and 2011. If the government’s aim is to “punish” fossil fuels, it’s certainly not showing up in the statistics.
Finally, Rep. Whitfield should read this article, which reports that “[m]ore than two-thirds of the onshore and offshore acreage leased for oil and natural gas exploration remains idle” and this story, about how “[o]il and gas companies have plenty of public land – so much that ”20 million acres of leased lands and nearly 7,000 approved drilling permits lay idle.” Again, there’s no sign of any government “punishing” of fossil fuels. If anything, it’s the opposite, as the government allows natural gas “frackers” to frack and oil drillers to drill with near total freedom.
The bottom line is that, Rep. Whitfield is simply spouting the false talking points of the industries which fund him, and whose interests he loyally serves. This is nothing new for Rep. Whitfield, of course, nor is this behavior isolated to him. Still, no matter how many times a lie is repeated, it doesn’t make it the truth. Certainly in Rep. Whitfield’s case, what he’s saying bears no connection to the truth whatsoever.