New maps of tar sands assets in Alberta, Canada released today by the International Forum on Globalization, clarify connections between the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and the Koch Brothers, the two top donors to the Republican Party who have made fast-tracking the pipeline the top priority for Congress.
Visualized data from online sources that track leases in the tar sands territory show that the Koch brothers (who have more money together that any single person on the planet) hold close to two million acres in Alberta, making Koch the largest US leaseholder with almost as many carbon assets at stake than Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco’s combined.
Energy investors consider Keystone XL to be essential infrastructure for profitably exploiting the tar sands, which scientists say must stay mostly in the ground buried as carbon instead of being burned in our atmosphere if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Charles and David Koch’s political influence network outspent all other oil companies and individual donors in 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections, filling Congress with pro-Keystone candidates. Having now outspent both parties combined, Koch’s recent announcement that they will spend another one billion on 2016 elections can unduly influence candidates even more.
Together with today’s failed attempt by Keystone advocates to override President Obama’s veto of the proposed pipeline, the maps make clear that Republicans prioritize their top donors’ boondoggles over life itself. Keystone XL’s failure could leave Koch with a family fortune of “stranded assets” in Alberta, a lost fifty-year bet on Canadian crude for the world’s biggest billionaires that would be a boon for our rapidly warming Earth.
1. POTENTIAL PROFITS: The proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s rejection could cause a “death spiral” in Kochs’ tar sands investment, whereas its approval could double the family fortune.
2. EXACERBATING EMISSIONS: Keystone’s rejection could keep Koch from profiting on their nearly twenty billion metric tons of potential carbon emissions buried under ground in Canada rather than burned as tar sands in our global atmosphere.
3. KOCH ASSETS: Koch has had a fifty-year family bet that they could cash in on Canadian crude oil and is already positioned at the most profitable points along the tar sands supply chain, but without Keystone, tar sands investments could go into a “death spiral.”
4. TAR SANDS LEASES: Koch has close to two million acres in the tar sands territory of Alberta, Canada that could become “stranded assets” without the Keystone XL pipeline. Other US oil companies aren’t nearly as at risk as Koch to Keystone’s failure.
5. KOCH ACREAGE IN ALBERTA: Koch has more acreage in Alberta than the top US oil companies, Chevron, Exxon, and Conoco, combined.
6. KOCH’S NET WORTH IS DRIVEN BY OIL DERIVATIVES: The Kochs have already made billions of dollars from oil derivatives trading based on their insider’s industry knowledge, and have the potential to make even more with tar sands.
7. THE KOCHTOPUS: The Kochs have invested in a complex and extensive political network to push for Keystone. The pipeline’s approval is part of the pay-off Koch expects for its investment.
8. KOCH CASH FOR KEYSTONE XL: The Kochs have given more than $53 million to think tanks and front groups who support the construction of the pipeline. Koch-funded think tanks and political organizations have released nearly 1,000 pro-KXL reports or statements, and Koch wants their investment in these front groups to pay-off.
9. KOCH CASH FOR CONGRESS: The Kochs gave over a million dollars in career campaign contributions to dozens of Senators who have advocated for Keytone XL and now Koch wants Congress to deliver.
10. KOCH VERSUS WORKERS: The Kochs could make over one million times more than the average Keystone XL construction worker over the lifetime of the project. Koch needs Americans to know that the some jobs will be created, even though it will exacerbate income inequality.
For all these reasons and more, IFG urges the President to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“The Senate’s passage of a bill to force approval of the Keystone pipeline shows that Republicans have prioritized the financial interests of their top donors, particularly Charles and David Koch, who have more acreage in Alberta than Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco combined. Call it the ‘plutocrats pay-off,’ since Koch outspent all other oil companies and individuals to deliver a dozen new Senators from 2014 elections. Now is the time for President Obama to not just veto but also reject the pipeline since it clearly is not in our national interest, whereas Keystone XL’s biggest beneficiaries could be the two billionaire brothers who are a danger to democracy and lead the opposition to climate action.”
Koch’s potential CO2 emissions from Canadian tar sands could be more than that of Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco combined based on available data on the carbon content of each company’s acreage in Alberta, as reported in IFG’s Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb: the Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The Washington Post recently confirmed IFG’s claim by quoting a Canadian oil official that Koch has “closer to two million acres” in Canadian tar sands territory, which could contain almost 20B metric tons of CO2. President Obama’s approval of Keystone XL would exacerbate CO2 emissions by intensifying tar sands extraction, whereas the President’s rejection of Keystone XL has the potential to keep tar sands in the ground.
Newly elected Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa argued, as the official Republican respondent to President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech, that Americans’ top priorities are advanced by approving the “Keystone jobs bill.” Keystone XL is a pipeline that would create up to fifty permanent positions while dangerously exacerbating greenhouse gas emissions and possibly doubling the $100 billion fortune of the world’s two wealthiest men, Charles and David Koch.
With more land leased in Canada’s tar sands territory than Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco combined, the billionaire brothers’ huge financial interest makes them uniquely exposed to Keystone’s failure. The Kochs continue to deny their interest in Keystone—as exposed in IFG’s report, Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb—but the brothers’ political spending patterns indicate otherwise.
Ernst’s Emphasis on Keystone Signals Kochs’ Capture of GOP
Topping a long list of 2014 candidates supported by Koch Cash, Ernst embodies the Kochs’ strategy of employing simple stories about average Americans in order to prioritize policies that ultimately only enrich themselves, despite already having more money than Bill Gates. Koch candidates have changed conservatism, taken over the Republican Party, and now control the Congress with a proven willingness to use the power of the purse to shutdown the federal government over Keystone.
For more than a minute in a speech lasting less than ten, Ernst spoke of Keystone as a “bipartisan infrastructure project” (see full video here). Somewhat surprisingly, the President’s only mention of pipelines was that a single pipeline’s passage was not enough for him to take any infrastructure bill seriously, suggesting a a dangerous openness by Obama to approve Keystone.
Keystone expects to employ a few thousand workers for two years at most while being built, while Koch could benefit one million times more than the average worker constructing the pipeline, according to IFG’s report. Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb also explains how the pipeline would exacerbate emissions and accelerate a global climate catastrophe.
“Kochenomics” means more desperate people on a dying planet.
Koch greed feeds on Americans’ desperation due to record income inequality, especially in rural areas. Simultaneously, the brothers’ 32 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the ground in Canada must stay put if the world is to keep below an average global temperature increase of 2C degrees, the tipping-point agreed upon by the UN Climate Convention and the IPCC.
Meanwhile, Ernst’s elaboration on the Koch’s agenda avoided any mention of this inevitable intensification of economic inequality and ecological catastrophe.
Increasingly, it appears as if our only option is to isolate these two selfish idiots.
IFG intends to play its part by killing Keystone, bursting the Kochs’ carbon bubble, and helping to build a broader movement among all Americans to transition from today’s “Kochenomics” to local, living economies everywhere.
Learn more here.
The Sunday Show with Philip Maldari, November 9, 2014 – 9:00am
Washington Editor of The Nation, John Nichols, and IFG’s Victor Menotti assess the outcomes of the 2014 midterm elections that created a “Koch Congress.”