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Oil companies are backing Trump’s re-election after giving heavily to Clinton in 2016

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
Political money from oil and gas now flows one way.
  • Michael J. Coren
By Michael J. Coren

Climate and emerging industries editor


American industries tend to play both sides by donating to candidates from both major political parties. That’s particularly true when it comes to the presidency, which oversees a vast federal bureaucracy influencing trillions of dollars in spending.

Even the oil and gas industry, which strongly favors Republicans, split its ticket when it came to the White House race in 2016. The industry gave $1.2 million to Donald Trump, whose campaign won over swing states such as Pennsylvania by chanting “drill, baby, drill.” But it also bequeathed $1 million to Democrat Hillary Clinton, who had promised to put “coal companies out of business” (while helping displaced workers find new jobs).

Not this year.

Trump is reaping the rewards of being the most pro-fossil fuel president in modern history. The industry has donated $936,000 to his 2020 reelection campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s roughly triple the haul of his presumptive Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who has collected only $265,000 in industry donations as of August.

The biggest donors to all political candidates among oil and gas companies were a mix of traditional activists such as Koch Industries ($9.8 million), oil majors such as Chevron ($4.7 million), and shale oil firms like Midland Energy ($2 million). The vast majority of the $6.7 million given by top donors has gone to Republicans in Congress this election cycle. Only two Democrats—Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (Texas)—were even among the top 20 recipients.

The reason seems clear. Biden has embraced the climate movement and his party’s enthusiasm for a clean energy transition. Under Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan announced this July, the US will achieve zero net-emissions by 2050, eliminate electric grid emissions by 2035, promote renewable wind and solar energy development, and recommit to the Paris climate accords.

Biden also agreed (along with every major Democratic presidential nominee) to end the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands. That’s significantly more ambitious than Clinton’s proposal in 2016.

For the US oil and gas industry, this will accelerate the end of their traditional business model. It also appears to have ended their backing of Democrats campaigning for the White House.

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