Who knew the tentacles of the Canadian oil lobby could reach all the way down to Washington, D.C.?
And who knew they were so powerful?
I am sure many Americans will find it rather disturbing that a foreign entity, no matter how friendly they may be (full disclosure: I am Canadian), is holding so much sway over the clean energy future of their country.
In a lengthy and well-researched new expose on the Canada oil sands industry's lobbying activities in Washington, D.C., reporter Geoff Dembicki untangles a complicated web that includes former Republican insiders, dirty energy front groups and powerful politicians on both sides of the border that are doing their best to kill U.S. clean energy legislation.
Take former Republican Congressman Tom Corcoran for instance.
Ironically, Corcoran was born in Ottawa, Illinois which shares its name with Ottawa, Ontario, the capitol of Canada. It seems a little Canadian patriotism has rubbed off on Corcoran because he is now working on behalf of that country's oil sands lobby and against clean energy for his own country.
Corcoran heads an organization called the "Center for North American Energy Security [pdf]." His group's membership includes heavyweights of the Canadian oil sand operations like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.
Corcoran successfully lobbied to have a low-carbon fuel standard removed from the clean energy bill that passed through Congress last Fall.
"Ultimately, we got that deleted. And so what passed the House does not contain a low-carbon fuel standard, and what is being considered in the Senate at the moment does not contain that either," bragged Corcoran at the time.
The low-carbon fuel standard is a policy that would put a heavy price on the use of the most intensive carbon emitting fuels, which would include oil produced from Canada's tar sands.
The process for making a barrel of oil from tar sands is very dirty and energy intensive.
Think of taking a bucket of roof tar, dumping it into a sand box and then stirring it around until it forms giant glob of black sandy goo -- that's tar sand. Now put that sandy goo in your sink and dump super-hot water on it until the oil separates from the sand -- that's how tar sand is made into oil.
Now imagine that process being done day in and day out in on an industrial scale so large that it can be seen from space.
All that water and sand left over from the process -- laden with heavy metals and toxins -- is pumped into giant holding areas that form massive lakes of sludge. These lakes are so large that they are considered one of the largest human-built projects in the world.
These "lakes" of sludge are so toxic that one of the oil sands companies, Syncrude, was just charged in the death of 1,600 migrating ducks that landed on the sludge and died.
Lobbyists like Tom Corcoran are helping to make sure that this dirty oil continues to flow South to the United States free-and-clear of any penalties being imposed on these oil companies for using our water, land and air as their free dumping ground.
In fact, Corcoran is so motivated that he hired another former Republican insider, Mike Whatley to help him out. According to the Lobbyist Disclosure database, Corcoran hired Mike Whatley and his DC lobby firm HBW Resources to work over Senators and members of Congress on behalf of "heavy oils, oil sands and oil shale."
Whatley, in turn, has his own pro-oil front group called the Consumer Energy Alliance that just so happens *surprise* to be supported by big players in the Canadian tar sands, like ConocoPhlilips, ExxonMobil, BP (yes, that BP) and Chevron.
Here's Whatley's photo -- he might be a familiar face to DC insiders because prior to defending the interests of foreign dirty oil companies, Whatley was the Chief of Staff to former Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole.
I have always been amazed by the intertwined school of oil lobbyists, political insiders and sympathetic front groups that plow the waters of Washington, DC politics, but who knew that the oily tentacles of the Canadian tar sands had such a grasp on the US capitol.