Oil and Coal Companies’ Tight Grip on American Democracy


Fossil fuels are burnt for energy around the world, the resulting greenhouse gases cause global warming.

Dominic Smith, PaperClip Staff/Writer

America still has a long way to go, but as worried teens reach voting age, there may be change. Politicians who have remained in office for many years and who are in the pockets of energy and oil companies should be voted out. They must be replaced by people who are not motivated by money and have a positive vision for the future.

The political influence of large corporations, specifically the ones negatively affecting the climate, is obvious in America. Facts about the dangers of burning fossil fuels have existed since people first started burning fossil fuels, but wealthy corporations have misled the public to make money. 

Joe Manchin is a democratic senator from West Virginia. He has risen through the political ranks over time and is now the most important senator in determining America’s climate action. His vote is often the deciding vote in affirming or denying legislation around energy and climate change. 

Most Democrats will vote in favor of increased regulation for oil companies to slow climate change. However, Senator Manchin, who owns a coal company, almost always votes to protect big oil companies from government regulation.

The New York Times recently released a story about Manchin’s behind-the-scenes connections to large energy companies. It showed the direct connection between the laws he votes for and the money he makes. His actions almost always benefit his own company and others affiliated with it.

Manchin’s political actions always benefit him financially. Actions like his border on corruption. It is the duty of the voter to vote self-serving politicians like Manchin out of office. His actions are not only hurting democracy, but destroying the planet too.

“To date we have seen powerful industries with a lot of financial backing really being effective at being able to influence climate policy just as a result of being able to have highly paid lobbyists on the ground all the time,” said Jennifer Felt from the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), an organization that focuses on shutting down major polluters and creating renewable alternatives.

Corporations’ political dominance is largely due to their lobbyists. Lobbyists are advocates who get paid to support certain causes. Felt also pointed out that nonprofits, charities, and companies trying to save the world simply don’t have enough money to have lobbyists everywhere all the time. It is very unlikely that any climate action organization could overcome the financial hurdle of lobbying. This is why the best work that can be done for climate action is education.

Voters must be educated so that they can make informed decisions about climate change for the better. As Jennifer Felt said, “I think another barrier (to advancing climate policy) is the (lack of) effective transfer of accurate scientific information.” 

A recent survey of young people about climate change conducted by the University of Bath in England found that 75% of young people in 10 different countries believe that “the future is frightening.” Countries that see the worst effects of climate change like the Philippines had up to 92% of young people frightened about the future. Sadly, America had the highest percentage of people not worried at all out of the whole survey. 

If young people want to live in a world where the future is not something to be afraid of, they must vote. Voting is the most important thing a young person can do to clear the political gridlock which has prevented climate action for years. Overcoming the wealthy corporations which control politicians in the shadows will be a monumental step in creating a better future.