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Kochs Profit from Canadian Eco-Nightmare

Koch Industries processes one in four barrels of U.S.-bound Alberta tar sand, while pumping millions of dollars into highly conservative, anti-green causes.

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It's highly probable that at least some of that money came from Koch Industries' major investments in Alberta's oil sands industry.

Flint Hills Resources, a fully owned Koch subsidiary, operates a Minnesota refinery capable of processing 320,000 barrels of crude a day, about four-fifths of which is sourced from Alberta.

To put that in context, SolveClimate News recently estimated that this single refinery handles one quarter of all oil sands crude entering the U.S. That would make Koch Industries one of the top players in the industry. (It's not clear exactly how much revenue that refinery brings in, because the company is privately held and doesn't make those figures publicly available.)

Kochs target global warming laws

Oil sands crude requires more energy to produce and refine than conventional oil, generally resulting in much higher greenhouse gas emissions. Refineries that depend on it are especially vulnerable to the types of clean energy legislation proposed in growing force over the past few years.

Koch Industries appears to be particularly attuned to global warming laws that could hurt its bottom line. The company was one of the first oil firms to lobby directly against a national low carbon fuel standard in 2007, filing records that state: "Oppose restraints on production and use of energy."

Since then, fuel standards have become one of the fiercest battlegrounds in Washington's war over the oil sands. Those laws, if ever enacted, could be equivalent to taking 30 million cars off the road by 2020, according to research cited by Barack Obama during his presidential election campaign.

They would do this in part by discouraging American suppliers from using road fuels derived from Alberta's oil sands and other high-carbon sources -- precisely the type of fuels that Koch-owned Flint Hills Resources produces.

As Koch Industries notes on its Web site: "[This legislation] would be particularly devastating for refiners that use heavy Canadian crude oil because the policy seeks to discourage or even prevent the U.S. from benefiting from this essential, reliable resource."

Republican friends elected

For the time being, it appears the Koch brothers have little to worry about. Every attempt so far to enact a national low carbon fuel standard has been scuttled by intense fossil fuel lobbying, sometimes with the "support" of the Canadian and Alberta governments.

And the last midterm elections produced a Republican stronghold generally hostile to the very idea that climate change is even a problem, much less one that should be addressed.

Koch Industries wields considerable influence in this new political environment, especially on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it contributed $279,500 to 22 of the panel's 31 Republicans, the largest donation of any oil and gas player.

Already, the Republican majority in the House voted to cut all American funding for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of the lead organizations studying global warming.

And the House Energy Committee continues to push legislation that would eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

The rationale for such an attack was laid out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last December, co-authored by Energy Committee head Fred Upton (a Michigan Republican), and Americans for Prosperity leader Tim Phillips.

They called the EPA's plans to reduce America's carbon emissions "an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs -- unless Congress steps in."

Last week, Democrats on the energy panel introduced amendments that would have forced their Republican colleagues to acknowledge that global warming poses major environmental threats.

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