Who Are the Pharaohs, the Caesars, the Abu-Jahls of Today? Part I Big Oil

Part I    BIG OIL

By Basia Yoffe


BP p.l.c. (Formerly known as British Petroleum)

                         Company Information

“BP p.l.c. [public limited company] is an international oil and gas company. The Company operates in more than 80 countries, providing its customers with fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, retail services and petrochemicals products. The Company operates two segments: Exploration and Production, and Refining and Marketing. Exploration and Production’s activities cover three key areas. Upstream activities include oil and natural gas exploration, field development and production. Midstream activities include pipeline, transportation and processing activities related to its upstream activities. Marketing and trading activities include the marketing and trading of natural gas, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), together with power and natural gas liquids (NGLs). Refining and Marketing’s activities include the supply and trading, refining, manufacturing, marketing and transportation of crude oil, petroleum and petrochemicals products and related services.”

Information taken from the New York Times

BP p.l.c.
1 St. James’s Square

London SW1Y 4PD

United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0)20 7496 4000

Fax: +44 (0)20 7496 4630

Net Sales/Revenues for 2010: $308 Billion
Total Assets as of 2010: $272 Billion


                         Power and Influence of BP
“Traditionally focused on finding and selling oil and oil-based products, the [formerly named] British Petroleum (now BP) moved ‘beyond petroleum’ by merging with Amoco in 1998 and acquiring Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) soon afterward. These companies helped boost BP’s natural gas production to 38 percent of [world] output, and made it a refiner of more than 2.8 billion barrels of crude oil a day. BP is busy at the pump, too, operating nearly 16,000 gas stations in the U.S. BP is also a major producer of petrochemicals. The company has been extending into alternative energy technologies, primarily solar, but BP knows what fuels profits. Its lobbying focuses on tax incentives for oil and gas production, opposing mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions and following U.S. trade relations and policy in the Middle East.”

Through membership in a trade association known as the Organization for International Investment, BP has lobbied to gain exemptions from U.S. corporate law reforms. The corporation has withdrawn from a coalition advocating for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but BP continues to seek access to the area.

“In April 2010, a BP-operated oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank, causing significant amounts of oil to pollute the coastal waters near Louisiana. The federal government has investigated the spill and its effects. Following the spill, federal-level politicians almost entirely shunned BP’s political action committee donations, and BP’s PAC [political action committee] all but stopped making donations at the federal level during 2010.”

2010 Lobbying Expenditures: $7,365,000

2009 Lobbying Expenditures: $15,990,000

Information taken from opensecrets.org


Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was a top recipient of campaign donations in the 2010 election cycle. "What I don't
like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel onthe throat of BP,’“ Paul said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."

House member John Culberson (R-TX) is a top campaign donation recipient of BP. He wrote an open letter to President Obama criticizing the administration’s handling of the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

BP spent $93.4 million on advertising over four months as oil from its well gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, according to data provided to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Watch these two YouTube videos; indeed, watch all the videos on BP’s channel:


A mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, there is little sign of life. “It looks like everything’s dead,” University of Georgia professor Samantha Joye said. In an exclusive trip aboard the U.S. Navy’s deep-ocean research submersible Alvin, ABC News was given the chance to observe the impact of the summer 2010’s massive oil spill.

BP used prison labor to clean beaches in Louisiana.  This saved the company money and gave them tax benefits. It also provided BP with a workforce that could easily be managed and that kept silent about work conditions and hazards. This was done at a time when local residents really needed the work, as the oil spill had a devastating effect on their livelihoods.


Exxon Mobil Corporation

                        Company Information

"Exxon Mobil Corporation is the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, involved in virtually every segment of the energy sector. “It is a manufacturer and marketer of commodity petrochemicals, including olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene plastics, and a range of specialty products. It also has interests in electric power–generation facilities. The company has several divisions and hundreds of affiliates with names that include ExxonMobil, Exxon, Esso, or Mobil. Divisions and affiliated companies of ExxonMobil operate or market products in the U.S. and other countries of the world. Their principal business is energy, involving exploration for, and production of, crude oil and natural gas, manufacture of petroleum products and transportation and sale of crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products. At December 31, 2009, approximately 7.5 billion oil-equivalent barrels (GOEB) of the Company’s reserves were classified as proved undeveloped, which represented 33 percent of the 23 GOEB reported in proved reserves.”

Information taken from the New York Times

Exxon Mobil Corporation
5959 Las Colinas Blvd.
Irving, TX 75039
Phone: +1 (972) 444-1000
Fax: +1 (972) 444-1348

Net Sales/Revenues for 2010: $383.2 Billion

Total Assets as of 2010: $231 Billion

In December 2009, Exxon Mobil announced the $31 billion purchase of XTO Energy, a leader in natural gas production in the United States.

It gained a major foothold in Iraq, the holder of the third-biggest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In Africa, it bid $4 billion for a major field off Ghana.

And it approved a multibillion-dollar project in Papua New Guinea to export gas to China and Japan.


              Power and Influence of Exxon Mobil Corporation

“The company long has enjoyed a close relationship with Congress, successfully lobbying to gain commercial access to federal lands as well as the rollback of several Environmental Protection Agency initiatives deemed unfriendly to the oil industry. Perhaps the company’s biggest coup, however, was winning federal support for its very creation. In 1999, lawmakers were initially hesitant to allow Exxon to purchase Mobil because of antitrust concerns, but after heavy lobbying from both sides, not to mention the support of President Bill Clinton, the merger was approved and the nation’s No. 1 supplier of gasoline was created. As oil prices have soared, so have ExxonMobil’s profits and executive salaries.”

2010 Lobbying Expenditures: $12,400,000

2008 Lobbying Expenditures: $29,000,000  

Information taken from opensecrets.org


Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the top recipient of Senate campaign contributions from Exxon Mobil during the 2010 election cycle. In January 2010, Senator Murkowski proposed stripping the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

House member Steve Pearce (R-NM) has voted to give more than $14 billion in tax breaks to the oil industry, opposed renewable electricity, and fought against fuel-efficient cars.

Exxon Mobil funds organizations that deny the existence of global warming and fight government regulation of greenhouse gasses. In 2009, ExxonMobil contributed to organizations obstructing progress on climate change, including $235,000 to the American Enterprise Institute, $275,000 to the Aspen Institute, and $1.3 million to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (See also PolluterWatch.)

Exxon Mobil paid no Federal Income Taxes for 2009. 

At an annual shareholders meeting that took place in Dallas, Texas on May 26, 2010, ExxonMobil shareholders voted down a gay-inclusive nondiscrimination policy. (See also NowPublic.)


Chevron Corporation

                        Company Information

“Chevron Corporation (Chevron) manages its investments in subsidiaries and affiliates, and provides administrative, financial, management and technology support to U.S. and international subsidiaries that engage in fully integrated petroleum operations, chemicals operations, mining operations, power generation, and energy services. Exploration and production (upstream) operations consist of exploring for, developing and producing crude oil and natural gas, and also marketing natural gas. Refining, marketing and transportation (downstream) operations relate to refining crude oil and converting natural gas into finished petroleum products; marketing crude oil and the many products derived from petroleum, and transporting crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products by pipeline, marine vessel, motor equipment and rail car. Chemicals operations include the manufacture and marketing of commodity petrochemicals, plastics for industrial uses, and fuel and lubricant oil additives.”

Information taken from the New York Times

Chevron Corporation
6001 Bollinger Canyon Rd.
San Ramon, CA 94583
Phone: +1 (925) 842-1000
Fax: +1 (415) 894-6817

Net Sales/Revenues for 2010: $189.6 Billion

Total Assets as of 2010: $184.8 Billion


               Power and Influence of Chevron Corporation

“In 2001, Chevron acquired Texaco and became the second-largest oil company in the United States. The company produces nearly 3 million barrels of oil a day and has operations in 120 countries. In addition to oil, ChevronTexaco also owns a chemicals subsidiary and holds a stake in Dynegy, a power company. ChevronTexaco lobbies on all energy issues, including the proposal to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.”

2010 Lobbying Expenditures: $12,890,000

2008 Lobbying Expenditures: $20,815,000

Information taken from opensecrets.org


Senator David Vitter (R-LA) was one of the top recipients of Senate campaign contributions from Chevron for the 2010 election cycle. During Senate consideration of the Fiscal 2009 budget resolution, Senator Vitter offered a motion to instruct conferees to insist that conference report language be adjusted in order to permit governors, with the concurrence of their state legislatures, to petition for allowing increased drilling along their beaches and shorelines.

House member William Flores (R-TX) was a top recipient of Chevron campaign contributions. Flores said, “The Republicans in the House as a whole want to get the EPA shut down on these bunny trails that’s going down that are throwing people out of work—particularly the way it’s abusing Texas. And I think that Texas can count on getting some relief from the EPA within the first few months of this Congress because they really have gone overboard.”

The NGO EarthRights International accused Chevron of being implicated in human-rights violations in Burma, claiming that soldiers guarding Chevron’s natural-gas pipeline in the country have murdered locals and forced others to do backbreaking, unpaid labor in order to keep the gas exports flowing smoothly.

Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) launched a new global advertising campaign titled “We Agree.”  The campaign highlights the common ground Chevron shares with people around the world on key energy issues. It also describes the actions the company takes in producing energy responsibly and in supporting the communities where it operates.

In coordination with the launch of this Chevron ad campaign aimed at boosting public approval of their perceived corporate responsibility, the Yes Men, Rainforest Action Network, and Amazon Watch carried out an elaborate public relations jam in which Chevron appeared to be owning up to its environmental and human rights crimes around the world. See also:





In a deal worth more than $4 billion in stocks and cash, Chevron purchased the Atlas Energy Company of Pennsylvania in order to obtain a stake in the natural gas fields of Pennsylvania and New York. These fields and gas fields elsewhere in the eastern U.S. have only recently become accessible, through a controversial process called hydro-fracking (hydraulic fracturing).

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, and vast deposits of it, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. However, hydro-fracking shoots water, sand, and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the process to be safe, water contamination has been reported at more than a thousand drilling sites. Gas companies, exempt from federal laws protecting water supplies, may conceal the identities of their chemicals as trade secrets, making it difficult to determine the cause of contamination. (See also these ProPublica articles on endangered water supplies and what we don't know about natural gas drilling.)

While the EPA is conducting a deeper study of the drilling, New York State has blocked drilling in New York City’s watershed, and lawmakers are pushing for closer oversight of the industry. The industry—in the form of millions of dollars spent on lobbying, a slew of court cases, and a robust public relations campaign—is pushing back. (See also "the story so far.")


Koch Industries

                        Company Information

“Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company in the United States, a conglomerate of more than 20 companies with $100 billion in annual sales, operations in nearly 60 countries, and 70,000 employees. Koch’s industry areas span petroleum refining, fuel pipelines, coal supply and trading, oil and gas exploration, chemicals and polymers, fertilizer production, ranching, and forestry products.

“Koch operates crude oil gathering systems and pipelines across North America. Its Flint Hills Resources subsidiary owns refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas that process more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily. The company owns a 3 percent stake in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, 4,000 miles of oil and products pipelines in the U.S., and an 80,000 barrels-per day refinery in Rotterdam [the Netherlands].

“In addition, Koch Industries has held multiple leases on the polluting tar sands of Alberta, Canada, since the 1990s, and the Koch Pipeline Company operates the pipelines that carry tar sands crude from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin where Koch’s Flint Hill Resources owns oil refineries.

“The vast majority of Koch Industries assets are controlled by Charles G. and David H. Koch, two of four sons of the company’s founder, Fred Koch, who each own 42 percent of the company’s stock.” According to 2011 Forbes rankings, the Koch brothers are tied for the 18th-richest person in the world, and for 5th-richest American, each worth about $22 billion.

Information taken from Greenpeace

Koch Industries, Inc.
4111 E. 37th St.
North Wichita, KS 67220
Phone: +1 (316) 828-5500
Fax: +1 (316) 828-5739


                         Power and Influence of Koch Industries

The subsidiary businesses of Koch Industries “operate in some of the world’s most profitable markets. Given such a diverse portfolio, it’s no surprise that the company has spent millions of dollars lobbying the federal government this past decade on a range of issues, from defense appropriations to financial regulatory reform. Koch’s biggest industry, however, is petroleum refining—OpenSecrets.org houses the company under the oil and gas industry—and the bulk of their lobbying is related to energy issues. The company’s lobbying totals skyrocketed in the two years since Democrats swept power in 2008, bringing with them a packed reform agenda that included legislation to establish a market based on carbon emissions. Koch is also one of the Republican Party’s most reliable donors. In every election cycle since 2000,” individuals and political action committees associated with the company have designated at least 83 percent of their donations to Republican candidates and committees.

2010 Lobbying Expenditures:  $8,070,000

2008 Lobbying Expenditures:  $20,023,000

Information taken from opensecrets.org


Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a major recipient of campaign contributions from Koch Industries. As oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and threatened Florida Panhandle beaches, Rubio stubbornly defended his support for offshore drilling.

House member Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a major recipient of campaign contributions from Koch Industries. Pompeo proposed an amendment to the Continuing Resolution that would “sharply cut funding for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that collects data on industrial greenhouse gas emissions.” (See also this article from the Hill.)

Toeing a fine line between conspiracy theorist and Koch Industries profit protector, Pompeo took the house floor where “he called the registry part of an EPA plot to destroy U.S. jobs.“ (See also this article from Grist.)

Koch Industries Inc. and its employees and subsidiaries spent $1.2 million in the 2010 election helping to elect Republican governors who are now trying to take away bargaining rights of state workers.

Companies and business groups as well as some lawmakers have sought to strip the EPA of its regulatory authority for some time. But since the 2010 midterm election, that effort has picked up considerable speed and backing from industry behemoths like Koch Industries that hope to influence the debate.

At a time when the Koch brothers were enjoying spectacular financial gains, Koch Industries laid off well over 2,000 people. The Koch downsizing isn’t limited to the United States. In England, Koch laid off workers at its chemical plant in Wilton, England and closed down its INVISTA plant in Offenbach, Germany.


American Petroleum Institute

Based in Washington, DC, the American Petroleum Institute is the primary trade association of the oil and natural gas industry. It is made up of nearly 400 members involved in all aspects of petroleum. Members include: ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical Company, Halliburton, and Shell Oil. These companies provide funding for API, which in turn champions the industry’s interests in the government and through public outreach. The institute also sets equipment standards for the American oil industry. (See also PolluterWatch.)

American Petroleum Institute
1220 L Street, NW

Washington, DC 20005

Phone: +1 (202) 682-8000
Fax: +1 (202) 682-8222


                         Power and Influence of the American Petroleum Institute

Total 2010 Lobbying Expenditures: $6,750,000

Total 2009 Lobbying Expenditures: $7,320,000 

An internal memo obtained by Greenpeace USA in August 2009 details polluting interests’ plans to launch a nationwide astroturf campaign (a fake grassroots campaign) attacking climate legislation at public events scheduled throughout the final weeks of the August recess.

This email memo, which appears to come from the desk of American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard, asks API’s member companies to recruit employees, retirees, vendors, and contractors to attend “Energy Citizen” rallies in key Congressional districts nationwide in the closing weeks of the August recess. The campaign plan places a special focus on 21 states picked by API for having “a significant industry presence” or “assets on the ground.”

Big oil is “spending big on campus—to the tune of $880 million. The liberal think-tank Center for American Progress released a report” [in October 2010] looking at the oil companies’ funding at universities. “In the past decade, oil companies gave millions to support energy research at ten of the top American universities—producing ‘potentially compromised’ research, the group argues.

“Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, and ExxonMobil have all made sizable grants to universities to underwrite energy research. The funds from these private corporations are filling gaps left by declining public investment, but they could also be tainting research, the report’s author says. ‘Our analysis found that Big Oil and other large energy firms are exercising quite a bit of influence and control over these universities’ operations,’ said Jennifer Washburn, a researcher hired to conduct the report. The concern is that the research has been ‘hijacked or excessively controlled by’ these companies.”

“Washburn and fellow researchers found that, in many cases, the companies got a major say in who sat on the boards allocating the money, did little to avoid conflicts of interest, and often were allowed to determine what information was released, and where. In many cases, the contracts the universities signed with the companies ceded quite a bit of control to the funders from the oil industry.”

Information taken from Mother Jones


The following is from API’s Classroom Energy website:

Classroom Energy is presented by the American Petroleum Institute, the primary trade association and research institute of the oil and natural gas industry in the United States to provide teachers and students with engaging and informative resources on energy and related concepts, including the vital role of oil and natural gas in modern life.”

And here is another quote:

“The American Petroleum Institute (API) is proud to support the Boy Scouts of America’s Energy Merit Badge. This website is intended to assist the scout and merit badge counselors with information about the oil and natural gas industry and to supplement the merit badge book.

To the scouts: Be sure to ask your scoutmaster for approval, and be sure to meet with your merit badge counselor, before starting work on the Energy Merit Badge. We recommend you obtain and read the Energy Merit Badge book from the Boy Scouts of America. Much of the information you need to complete this merit badge can be found in the merit badge book. We also recommend you check out Adventures in Energy to learn more about the operations and products of the oil and natural gas industry, and what the industry does to help meet the nation’s energy needs.”