Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Senate, Pipelines and Oil Money

Oil has been in the headlines for the past month or more, mainly because of the rapid downward readjustment in price.  As well, in case we've forgotten, in mid-November the transportation of oil caught the media's attention as Senate Democrats  blocked Bill S.2280 that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  The measure, Senate Roll Call 280, fell one vote short of overcoming a filibuster with a vote of 59 in favour and 41 opposing with 60 votes needed to see the bill proceed.  This followed a vote in the House which saw the bill approved by a relatively wide margin.  As it looks now, voting on Keystone XL is taking on the appearance of a proxy war between the President and the Republican party with the pro-side consisting mainly of Republicans and the anti-side consisting mainly of Democrats.

From Open Congress, here is a summary of who voted for and against the measure:

All Republicans (45) voted for Bill S.2280 along with 14 Democrats and 39 Democrats and 2 Independents voted against the bill.

What has been little covered by the mainstream media is the real reason why the vote in the Senate was split as it was.  According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, there is a good reason and that reason is money.

On average, over the course of their careers, the 59 Senators who voted for the pipeline have received significantly more money from the oil and gas industry than those who voted against the construction of Keystone XL.  Here is a graphic showing the total amounts received by both the pro- and anti-pipeline Senators:

In total, the 59 Senators who voted for the pipeline received over 33 million in campaign donations from the oil and gas sector, averaging out to $572,000 each.  By comparison, the 41 that voted against  the bill received a total of $4.2 million from the oil and gas sector, averaging out to only $103,900 each.  This means that the pro-pipeline Senators received 5.5 times as much in campaign donations from the oil and gas sector as those Senators that voted against Keystone XL.

In case you were curious, here is a complete listing of total career donations from the oil and gas sector for each Senator:

Here is the same data, sorted in order from largest to smallest career oil and gas sector donations for each Senator, keeping in mind that longer-serving Senators would have had a far longer period of time to accumulate donations:

It is interesting to note that the top 30 recipients of oil and gas money all voted "yea" to Keystone XL and that on average, each Senator has received $940,595.75 in oil sector donations.

As we all know, money is obviously a significant motivator in Washington.  The Keystone XL decision was no exception.


  1. Good work my friend! Keep posting and I will continue reading.

  2. What your missing is the why are the Democrats voting against Keystone XL? Warren Buffet and the railroad industries money is why. Rail is how much of the oil is currently being transported. You really think the environment matters? This is just a struggle between two ultra rich factions. As if the common man mattered.

    1. To Anonymous - regarding your comment about why the Dems voted against Keystone. While your premise has theoretical merit, I would like to see the same kind of data regarding contributions from Buffet to the no voters, in order to see if the correlation is anywhere near the same as the oil money to pro pipeline voters correlation.

    2. I dont have a blog but if you google Warren Buffet and railroad you can see he owns alot of the rails. He is also a huge Democrat donor. you can goolge that for plently of info. The biggest thing is common sense by that i mean follow the money, who will make money on a deal and who will lose money on a deal these are the questions to ask when anything is going on in local or national politics.I guess once you start to pay attention most things kind of fall in to place and make sense if you follow the money.

  3. tar sands are coming going to the US Gulf coast via the Alberta Clipper, Enbridge Line 4 and Flanigan South...with the cost of extracting bitumen running between $85 and $105, production will be shutting down soon and Keystone will be moot...if it's approved now, Transcanada will delay or cancel the project..

    1. I tend to agree that falling oil prices have made the project dead on arrival. How lower oil prices effect a particular nation will vary and will effect both their currency and how competitive are going forward. The recent decision by OPEC members to keep their production ceiling unchanged has sent crude prices into a tailspin. Dropping oil prices add a surprising new dimension to the world financial system by directly injecting massive instability.

      While often heralded as a godsend to the economy and the end consumer we must remember lower prices hurt both producers and those in the business of oil exploration, drilling, and sales. The shale boom has been one of the bright spots in the economy in recent years and acted as a tailwind that accounted for much of America's growth. Expect this to come to an abrupt halt and with it thousands of jobs. The article below explores the economic damage lower oil prices can foster.