The oil and gas industry spent about $124.4 million lobbying the federal government in 2022, according to an OpenSecrets analysis of lobbying disclosures.
The industry’s 2022 lobbying spending is a nominal increase from 2021 but down slightly when adjusted for inflation. Industry-wide spending on lobbying dipped during the COVID-19 pandemic but increased gradually as fossil fuel companies sought to influence federal action on climate change.
Lobbying disclosures indicate the industry targeted a range of issues that will impact oil and gas companies as the global economy weans itself off fossil fuels, including rules governing methane emissions, oil and gas development on federal land and waters, and subsidies for carbon capture technology.
Koch Industries, the country’s second-largest privately held company, alone spent about $11.3 million, more than any other oil and gas company. Half a dozen other fossil fuel corporations — including Occidental Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp — spent another $44.3 million on lobbying.
In addition to being among the industry’s top lobbying spenders, Occidental Petroleum, Chevron and Exxon Mobil were also among the top emitters of methane and other greenhouse gasses in the U.S. in 2022,according to a Ceres and Clean Air Task Force report.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine transformed the global fossil fuel supply chain, driving oil and gas prices to unprecedented levels, the industry’s top lobbying spenders reported record annual profits. Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Shell saw a combined $1 trillion in sales in 2022, 15% of which were profits. In June last year, Democratic President Joe Biden singled out Exxon, which reported a record $55 billion in profits, for making “more money than God.”
Industry groups also topped the list of 2022 lobbying spenders. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents nearly 600 oil and gas companies, spent about $4.4 million on federal lobbying. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers spent about $3.8 million.
The combined lobbying, political contribution and advertising efforts of trade groups opposed to climate change legislations outspent climate advocacy groups by 27 to 1 between 2008 and 2018, a recent Pennyslvania Capital-Star analysis found. These groups have historically contributed to GOP candidates and political committees, with the trend continuing during the 2022 cycle.
Chevron told OpenSecrets, “Our goal is to help shape effective, responsible and non-partisan U.S. energy policy” in what they said is an effort to deliver “affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy.”
The American Petroleum Institute said they regularly engage with “a broad range of stakeholders on the critical role U.S. natural gas and oil can play in providing affordable, reliable energy to meet growing global demand while advancing a lower carbon future.”
Other top industry lobbyist corporations and groups did not respond to a request for a comment.
The Inflation Reduction Act advances oil and gas leases
Last year’s most-lobbied congressional bill by the oil and gas industry, and all other industries, was the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the nation’s largest climate spending package ever. The landmark bill, which Biden signed into law on Aug. 16, 2022, directs billions of dollars — including tax incentives — into clean energy technology in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission. The Department of Energy posits that the provisions of this bill, combined with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, could reduce emissions by approximately a gigaton.
But several provisions in the law also address some of the fossil fuel industry’s top priorities. The Inflation Reduction Act requires the federal government to auction offshore leases to oil and gas companies before issuing permits to offshore wind and solar projects. The trade-off was incorporated into law as part of Senate Democratic leadership’s deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a swing vote in the Senate. Manchin received over $950,000 from the oil and gas industry over the past five years according to OpenSecrets records and has ties to a family coal business.
After Biden took office, the administration suspended issuing leases to companies seeking to drill for oil or gas on federal land or off the U.S. coast, revoking prior executive orders from former President Donald Trump that eased drilling processes and limited offshore energy regulation. During the first 19 months of his presidency, Biden set a new 70-year-low for federal oil and gas leasing. The oil and gas industry lobbied against the policy, and over a dozen states with deep ties to the oil and gas industry took legal action.
The Inflation Reduction Act increased fees for fossil fuel extraction on federally-administered land and water, but also ensured that four halted offshore lease sales would proceed. The first, held in December 2022, drew one bid by Hilcorp Alaska LLC for nearly 1 million acres in Cook Inlet, Alaska. The remaining three leases in the Gulf of Mexico will be auctioned this year. One of thoseh reinstates a 2021 lease previously invalidated for violating environmental law. The American Petroleum Institute agreed with the decision.
Carbon capture technologies incentivized
The Inflation Reduction Act also increased the tax credit for capturing carbon dioxide. Several of the largest oil and gas companies in the U.S., including ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum, have made investments in large-scale carbon removal projects, which aim to mitigate the climate effects of burning fossil fuels by capturing emissions from power plants and industrial facilities or pulling CO2 directly from the atmosphere. Occidental Petroleum is building the world’s largest carbon removal plant, which plans to capture up to 500,000 tons of CO2 each year, in an effort to match their oil and gas revenue with their carbon capture revenue. The plant’s commercial operations are planned to begin by the end of 2024.
Advocates say the technology will play a vital role in reducing or offsetting emissions from industries that are difficult to decarbonize like steel, cement and other key sectors including natural gas-based power generation.
Scientists from the United Nations’ intergovernmental body on climate change found that the novel technology might be necessary to counter-balance emissions, but the plants’ increased energy use to vacuum CO2 could negate its usefulness.
Critics maintain that the industry’s solution is expensive, ineffective and difficult to scale. They also note that most existing projects use captured CO2 to stimulate oil production in depleted fields through a process known as “enhanced oil recovery,” which studies have found can result in more CO2 emissions. All but two of the 13 carbon removal projects currently operational in the U.S. produce oil, according to a November report from the think tank Global CCS Institute. The Global CCS Institute’s “mission is to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage,” and their members include Shell, Exxon and Occidental.
Lobbyists advocate for large scale oil projects
Oil and gas companies also lobbied for regulatory approval of specific large-scale projects, which can take years to move forward.
ConocoPhillips spent almost $8.7 lobbying the federal government in 2022, up from $4.4 million in 2021 and more than it spent on lobbying in any other year since 2011. Among the issues mentioned in lobbying disclosures was Willow, the company’s massive project to extract oil from the federally-administered National Petroleum Reserve in the Alaskan Arctic. Environmental groups have urged the Biden administration to block that development permanently, arguing that the project will commit the U.S. to 30 years of fossil fuel extraction and undermine the president’s climate agenda. The Biden administration is poised to make a final decision on Willow in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, other proposals have been allowed to proceed. In November 2022, the Maritime Administration approved a plan by Enterprise Products Partners, which spent almost $1.2 million on federal lobbying in 2022, to build the nation’s largest deepwater oil export terminal off the coast of Texas. Included in a recent lobbying disclosure was Enterprise’s goal to build the facility and export crude oil from there.
Developers claim the project — designed to accommodate a new generation of super tankers — will reduce emissions from crude shipping. Critics counter that it poses a risk to marine wildlife and, like Willow, will prolong American dependence on fossil fuels. Earlier this month, environmental groups sued the federal government to block development.
Republican-led committee measures attempt to ease oil and gas restrictions
Last week, the House passed a bill that would require the federal government to increase fossil fuel development on public lands and waters every time it taps the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Biden administration has already promised to veto the legislation, Roll Call reported.
The measure was introduced by House Energy and Commerce chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), whose campaign and leadership PAC received about $391,000 in political donations from the oil and gas industry during the 2022 midterm election.
“No contribution Cathy receives influences how she votes or her actions in Congress,” Kyle VonEnde, Rodger’s spokesperson, told OpenSecrets in a written statement.
Under Rodgers’ leadership, the committee has reviewed at least 17 bills in the past month aiming to reverse the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, such as the Methane Emissions Reduction Program which introduces fees on methane emitted by oil and gas companies, boost fossil fuel drilling and mining and lower taxes on the fossil fuel industry.