Follow the (oil) money

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One of the great perks of working for the Sunlight Foundation is finding out about great new tools for increasing transparency in the political process. These tools range from OpenSecrets, which allows you to find out how money is impacting the electoral process, to Open Congress, where you can find info on the latest bills.

Sometimes, however, somebody develops a tool that lets you bring it all together. One example is Follow the Oil Money. Here, you can track not only how much money the oil and gas industry is giving individual members, but you can also check a member’s record on votes on energy legislation. Or, as my boss wrote:

Follow the Oil Money isn’t just a cool new tool. It presents some striking evidence to the potential connection between dollars and votes.

So let’s take it for a test drive, with, say, Rep. Steve Pearce? Here are the contributions he’s received from oil and gas interests since 2000:

Follow the Oil Money: Steve Pearce Relationship View

Turns out, according to Follow the Oil Money (which relies on data from Federal Election Commission records), Rep. Pearce received $421,840 in oil and gas money campaign contributions between 2000 and 2008.

“Well,” you ask, “don’t we already know that Pearce is a huge recipient of oil and gas money?” Of course! But Follow the Oil Money, as I said, ties it all together:

Pearce Oil and Gas voting record

If you click through, you can see Rep. Pearce ranked No. 5 on the list of House members (based on the percentage of oil and gas contributions they receive). He also holds the distinction of being the only member on the list in the top 50 to vote in lock-step with oil and gas interests 100 percent of the time.

You can find information on the rest of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation at the site, and more information on individual donations and the votes used to develop the record as well.

Surprise Domenici vote on stimulus? Not so fast…

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While reading this The Hill article on the Senate’s efforts to pass a broader economic stimulus package, I was surprised to see Sen. Pete Domenici listed as one of the Republicans voting for cloture. Then, I remembered that energy efficiency tax credits were part of the package (more here at TAPPED) . Domenici, if you recall, led the charge against the same tax breaks last year, because they would have been offset by taking away similar credits from the oil and gas industry.

Surely there’s no connection.

Domenici won’t support what New Mexico already enacted?

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To add to what LP said about the energy bill, it’s worth noting that the proposed Renewable Energy Standard falls short of what New Mexico has already adopted:

In March 2007, New Mexico passed SB 418, which directs investor-owned utilities to generate 20% of total retail sales to New Mexico customers from renewable energy resources by 2020, with interim standards of 10% by 2011 and 15% by 2015. The bill also establishes a standard for rural electric cooperatives of 10% by 2020.

The energy bill being floated in Congress right now calls for just 11% from renewables, with an additional 4% reduction coming from “energy-efficiency” gains. It doesn’t even require co-ops to invest in renewable sources. Still, Sen. Pete Domenici can’t support it:

This is the most vulnerable part of the bill. Senator Pete Domenici, an influential Republican voice on energy issues, is vowing to fight it, even though he has voted for similar provisions before and his own state of New Mexico has embarked on an aggressive renewable electricity program.

I guess if it’s good enough for his own state, it’s too good for the country?

Telling it like it is

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I’m catching up on some of my feed reading (sorry John, open government is trumping science these days) and started checking the backlog of posts at Waterblogged. That led me to this article on China’s Three Gorges Damn. The plain language is striking:

The Three Gorges Dam, then, lies at the uncomfortable center of China’s energy conundrum: The nation’s roaring economy is addicted to dirty, coal-fired power plants that pollute the air and belch greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

I don’t know when the shift occurred, or why I didn’t notice, but it sure was nice to read a newspaper article that plainly said coal-based power production is a cause of global warming.

Actual gas price war in Detroit

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Via Jalopnik (via Consumerist):

The Marathon station on Fort near Springwells dropped its price to $2.93. That angered Jawad Bazzi, whose regular gas was priced at $2.96.

Bazzi walked across the street with a couple of employees to confront the Marathon owner and his posse.

The groups argued, then began throwing punches. One of Bazzi’s employees hit a Marathon employee with a baseball bat, injuring him.

That’s when the Marathon owner grabbed a handgun and fired three or four times. Bazzi, 45, of Dearborn Heights was shot in the head.

There’s an update to the story here.