Car News: Dirty Lobbyists

A weekly look at all that sucks in the car world, plus some good bits


Record shows gas and oil industry lobbyists holds over 300 meetings with top EC officials 

There are lots of reasons to take a weekly look at big business in the form of the motor industry, but here is one reason that fulfills the brief. Oil giants lobby governments hard to alter policy and manifesto commitments. Behind the scenes what they do affects all of us and our children’s future, and they don’t give a damn.

With the world at a climate tipping point, to see the five biggest oil and gas companies – the ‘Big Five’: BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Total – and their industry groups, spending at least £217 million since 2010 lobbying the European Union to reverse or delay climate policies is a shock.

It concentrates the mind on the flaky integrity of Ruth Davidson happy to lobby for a right-wing public relations company while a member of Scotland’s parliament, delighted to take the full fat fee from Tulchan Communications. Ruthie’s association is an icicle in comparison to the iceberg that is lobbying, but we can see where it leads. The Tulchan Group exists below-the-radar specialising in ‘guiding’ the ambitions of international big business around government  laws and rules that we, the electorate, fought hard to see on the statute book – democracy bought by the powerful, sold by weak politicians of no fixed scruple.

Watching Westminster taken over by corporate everything, for example, selling off England’s NHS and not always to the highest bidder, does not bode well for Scotland’s democracy if the Tory party see ten more years, enough to create a labyrinthine system of deceit and privatisation that avoids scrutiny and taxation. Scotland should adopt a priority to build a firewall around its parliament to ward off persistent attack and brown envelopes if it is to protect our democratic system. It already publishes a list of lobbying  meetings, though some are held behind closed doors – the old way.

How much did you say?

Thankfully, in spite of fabrications to the contrary from the likes of Boris and Rees-Mogg the EU is the good guy. The EU publishes lobbyists work and their costs. Declarations from the EU’s transparency register reveal BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total registered spending €123 million (Euros) between 2010 and 2018 on lobbying EU institutions. Their 13 industry groups spent a further €128 million in the same period.

These sums are verified in the Report by Corporate Europe Observatory, Food & Water Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace. When you see the scale of it and then look at the Green’s wee shilpit Patrick Harvie, you are filled with horror. How do we stop corporations ruling our lives and playing roulette with our health?

The lobbying is only the base of the glacier. The report does not examine lobbying spending by each company relating to national parliaments and institutions.

Analysis of the European commission’s public record of meetings shows the oil firms and their industry groups employ 200 lobbyists in Brussels, who have held 327 meetings with top EC officials since 2014 – the equivalent of more than one meeting a week. While the Big Five nibble at our rights their profits continue to rise to £62 billion in 2018.

Pascoe Sabido, researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, said: “Big polluters like Shell, BP and their lobby groups have delayed, weakened and sabotaged EU action on the climate emergency thanks to their hefty lobby spending. A cool quarter of a billion over the last decade buys a lot of access and influence in Brussels.”

The Report comes after the Guardian newspaper’s Polluters series, which revealed 20 oil and gas companies – including the Big Five – can be directly linked to a third of greenhouse gas emissions since 1965. Money and profits come before all else. The companies – which include multinationals and state-owned firms – are continuing to expand their operations and driving the climate emergency, despite having been aware for decades of their industry’s devastating impact on the planet.

The Report says the lobbying has succeeded in watering down EU climate legislation. It says the climate targets were weakened as a result; they included no binding energy savings target and included a “woefully inadequate” renewable energy target.

To the Scottish Government I suggest the following:

  • an end to lobbying meetings with fossil fuel representatives
  • no revolving door between public office and oil and gas industry
  • the end of fossil fuel subsidies – currently a reserved matter
  • no sponsorship or partnerships with industry representatives

ExxonMobil spun its spin: “Like many companies, non-governmental organisations and other entities, we engage with the European institutions. We have a responsibility to our customers, employees, communities and shareholders to engage in a public policy dialogue that impacts our business.”

Those companies always respond with the protestation of lobbying in the approved way,  ethically, constructively and in a nonpartisan manner. Aye, just like Ruth Davidson.


The wedding of giants

Some months back Fiat tried to do a deal with Renault. It felt apart. Fiat is trying again, this time with the owners of Peugeot. Talks between Fiat Chrysler and PSA over a potential tie-up that could create a $50 billion car giant is gathering pace with one source saying a deal could be announced soon. We might see more of these alliances; car makers face huge investments in electrification, emission reduction and autonomous driving technologies. The deal is being put together as automakers face a global downturn in demand at a time when the cost of investments into low-emission technologies are rising to meet stringent anti-pollution rules. Don’t assume merging two giants will result in lowers prices. it will, however, result in job losses.

Better roads

Edinburgh’s progressive toon cooncil is embarked on a mega-million pound programme of improvements to city roads. Great. Some of the city’s busiest corners are blocked by roadworks. Okay, it’s for a welcome purpose. The temporary traffic lights are the problem. Whoever sets then up lives in a different universe. Seven minute light changes at peak commute times cause quarter mile tailbacks, driver frustration, and exploding bladders. Bladders give up their water because long tailbacks take 20 minutes or more for a car to get by the road block. Road gangs, please bring a stopwatch.

Ten-minute charge

Readers know I like to get one piece in about electric cars – the future of transportation. Hope is at hand for the Jonas and the Jeremiahs. New battery technology could give electric cars more than 200 miles of charge in as little as 10 minutes, according to new research. Lithium ion batteries have had a dramatic impact because of their ability to store a large amount of energy in a small, and be recharged again and again. A trio of scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contributions to the development of the batteries have the answer. Akira Yoshino, M. Stanley Whittingham, John B. Goodenough aver they are addressing the issue by making it much quicker and easier to charge the battery, meaning cars will spend less time at charging points and get back on the road faster. “Our technology is simple but elegant … I guess that it will take two to three years of in-vehicle testing and evaluation before it is used in vehicles.” Faster will dispel range anxiety, but too few charging points will negate swift charging.

Happy motoring!



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