Why Congress Won't Take Action on Climate Change

In his 2013 State of the Union speech, President Obama warned Congress that if they did not act on climate change, he would go around them and enact policies to address the issue on his own. "I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change," said Obama. "But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will."

Today, with Congress inactive on climate change legislation, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to address climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions and bolstering production of renewable energy, among other methods.

Since 2007, certain members of Congress, mostly Democrats but also a few Republicans, have been trying to pass comprehensive climate legislation that would use a market-based system to limit greenhouse gas emissions throughout the U.S. economy. Year after year, the bills have died in the Senate, either refused a markup in committee or filibustered to death on the floor. 

Data: MapLight analysis of campaign contributions to members of the Senate from top carbon-emitting interests and interests that are supportive of market-based climate legislation, from January 1, 2009December 31, 2012. Contributions data source: OpenSecrets.

Contributions to Senators from Interests That Would Not Benefit from Market-Based Climate Legislation

Gas & electric utilities $3,185,646
Electric power utilities $2,807,445
Chemicals $2,162,603
Coal mining $2,143,406
Independent oil & gas producers $2,061,058
Major (multinational) oil & gas producers $1,920,807
Oil & gas $1,540,206
Oilfield service, equipment & exploration $1,383,057
Natural gas transmission & distribution $1,270,501
Petroleum refining & marketing $1,242,672
Trucking companies & services $1,225,107
Airlines $1,196,573
Livestock $1,162,062
Forestry & forest products $1,048,825
Steel $779,041
$25,129,009

Contributions to Senators from Interests That Would Benefit from Market-Based Climate Legislation

Environmental policy $2,877,671
Alternate energy production & services $1,092,770
Nuclear energy $262,660
$4,233,101
  • Interests that would not benefit from market-based climate legislation have given 5.9 times more money to the Senate than interests who would benefit from market-based climate legislation.

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About MapLight: MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money's influence on politics. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.

Image credit: The White House/Flickr