Seen those ads urging a NO vote on Initiative 1631, featuring the likes of Chevron lawyer Rob McKenna? They’re appearing on pretty much every commercial break on local television stations, and they’re paid for by a few extremely wealthy oil companies that really don’t want to be held accountable for their polluting ways — even though they’re flush with money. Lots and lots of money:
BP [formerly British Petroleum] has hailed its best quarterly profit in five years as it reaped the benefits of a higher oil price as well as bigger earnings from its stake in Russia’s Rosneft.
The UK-based oil giant said underlying replacement cost profit — its headline earnings figure — had more than doubled to $3.8bn (£3bn) in the third quarter compared to last year.
Brent Crude prices averaged $75 a barrel during the July-September period, up from $52 for the same quarter in 2017.
Initiative 1631 is a proposed law currently being voted on by the people of Washington State. It would put a price on pollution beginning in 2020 and use the revenue raised to accelerate our region’s transition to clean energy responsibly and equitably. The measure is supported by a coalition of many hundreds of organizations that includes the Northwest Progressive Institute.
The Yes on I‑1631 coalition is easily one of the most diverse political coalitions in state history. It includes businesses like Microsoft, Expedia, and REI; unions like UFCW Local 21, SEIUHealthcare 775NW, AFSCME, and AFT-WA; environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy, civic organizations like the League of Women Voters, hospitals, and health advocacy groups, plus newspapers like The Olympian, The News Tribune of Tacoma, The Herald of Everett, and The Stranger.
The NO on I‑1631 campaign is doing its best to astroturf, but the PDC reports don’t lie. Pretty much all the money behind I‑1631 is coming from out of state oil companies that own refineries here and don’t want to have to pay for the pollution they emit. It would detract from their massive profits — and they don’t want that.
BP is by far the largest funder of the NO on I‑1631 campaign, having supplied nearly $13 million to bring the clean energy and clean water plan down. Eight years after BP wreaked havoc on the Gulf of Mexico when it lost control of its Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the company is back to making big bucks from its polluting ways.
However, BP isn’t the only Big Oil giant doing very, very well. The second largest contributor to NO on I‑1631, Philips 66, also had a bountiful third quarter.
Phillips 66 beat analysts’ estimates for third-quarter profit on Friday, as it benefited from higher refining margins, sending shares of the independent oil refiner up as much as 5.4 percent in late-afternoon trading. Margins for most independent U.S. refiners, which processes heavy crude from countries such as Venezuela and Canada to diesel, gasoline and other products, have been boosted as U.S. crude’s discount to Brent widened to more than $10 a barrel.
Ditto for Marathon Petroleum, the third largest NO on I‑1631 funder:
Marathon Petroleum Corp. made a profit of $737 million in the third quarter. The Findlay-based refiner released its earnings Thursday. For investors, the profit worked out to $1.62 per diluted share, but was down 18 percent from the third quarter of 2017.
And Chevron, Rob McKenna’s patron? Their profits are way up, like bigly:
Chevron reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts’ expectations on Friday, as record-setting oil and gas production boosted the company’s bottom line. Shares of the oil major were rose more than 2 percent on Friday. Chevron posted a profit of $4.05 billion for the quarter, more than double its earnings from a year ago. That came out to a profit of $2.11 per share, slightly beating Wall Street’s expectations for $2.06 per share, according to Refinitiv.
What all these recent earnings reports tell us is this: All of these oil companies can easily afford to clean up their act… they just don’t want to. What they want is business as usual. Their rationale for fighting I‑1631 can be summed up by villain Lord Cutler Beckett’s infamous mantra in the second and third Pirates of the Carribbean movies: It’s just… good business.
Big Oil can’t buy votes directly because the law won’t allow that, so they’ve settled for the next best thing: Spending record sums on ads to convince as many Washingtonians as possible to doubt the wisdom of investing in a future that doesn’t involve burning fossil fuels to generate energy for the Pacific Northwest.
If we could eavesdrop on Big Oil’s lobbyists and the executives they report to, we might hear them saying something akin to Beckett’s slogan when scheming against I‑1631, only tailored for 2018: Nothing against your clean energy ambitions, Washingtonians. Defeating 1631 is just… good business for us.
Big Oil doesn’t want I‑1631 to pass because they’re convinced it would be bad for their business. But what about our business? Specifically, our business climate here in this great green land known as Cascadia? Well, the truth is, passage of I‑1631 will benefit our economy. I‑1631 makes investments that will enable us to generate energy sustainably without polluting our air and water to the degree we do today. That’s why companies like Microsoft, Expedia, and REI have endorsed it. They understand we have a responsibility to care for our common home.
Big Oil? Their entire business model is based on extracting the remains of decomposed organisms, refining them, and burning them to create energy. Big Oil executives know that humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels is causing catastrophic climate damage and polluting our air and water, but they don’t care. They’re too invested in their ways to change. It seems they’d rather become fossils themselves than disrupt (pardon the cliche) their own fossil fuels dependent business model.
With the federal government under the control of Big Oil’s henchmen, it’s up to the states to lead. Washington can take a big step forward for clean air and clean water this autumn by passing this groundbreaking initiative.
We have a moral responsibility to act.
As the old Native American proverb says, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. We cannot leave a legacy of inaction and failure for future generations. Please join us in voting YES on I‑1631.