NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Big Oil giants are raking in massive profits while spending massively to defeat I‑1631

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: Black PestBP [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.

It's just... good business.

“Noth­ing per­son­al, Jack. 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.

The future of the world econ­o­my also rests on efforts to fight the cli­mate cri­sis.

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.

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One Comment

  1. On that count alone, I would steer clear of any prod­uct endorsed by Rob McKen­na.

    # by Mike Barer :: November 4th, 2018 at 9:34 AM