McKibben: Activists should be ‘willfully naive’ in oil subsidy, climate battle

Multiple speakers touting the bill used the event to decry the amount of money sloshing around lobbying and politics, criticizing the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC that allows unlimited corporate spending in elections.

McKibben has been a key organizer of high-profile protests against the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Asked about the “naive” remark afterward, he said that addressing money in politics is central to advancing green movement goals.

“I think sometimes people are so used to the idea that money controls Washington, that though they hate it, they sort of think, ‘Oh, that’s just how it is, how it has to be,’ and if that is how it has to be, then I don’t think there is any way we can deal with these problems,” he said.

The oil-and-gas and coal-mining industries spent a combined $167 million on lobbying in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and are also active in political giving.

The new bill, which sponsors say would end $113 billion in federal support for fossil fuels over a decade, stands almost no chance of passage.

Ellison said advocates need to expand their coalition.

“I am so excited about being here today to see the coalition that is emerging, but the coalition is ... not big enough. We have got to mass many, many people and reach out all across this nation so that we can say something very, very simple, and that is rich companies, rich corporations should not get subsidies on top of the big stream of profits that they already have,” he said.

The bill has the support of 350.org, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Oil Change International and Earthjustice, according to Sanders’s office.

The bill would repeal a large array of incentives, such as provisions in the tax code that allow oil companies to quickly deduct certain drilling costs and claim a lucrative tax break for domestic manufacturing.

It also targets federal funding for fossil fuel R&D, strips royalty waivers for deepwater oil-and-gas production, and many other expenditures and incentives.

“Our legislation is the most comprehensive ever introduced on this subject. It ends all of the tax breaks, all of the special financing arrangements and all of the federal research and development funding,” Sanders said.

McKibben said that current policy provides the fossil fuel sectors a "performance bonus" for environmental damage.