In a HuffPost investigation, Peter Stone explores how billionaires Charles and David Koch, prominent donors to conservative causes, are now looking to put their money behind an advocacy group that would promote petroleum-based transportation fuel and fight government subsidies for electric cars, according to sources.
While electric vehicles make up just 1 percent of the U.S. market, some analysts see them rising to as much as 5 percent by 2025. For Koch and other large refiners, the impact of a growing electric vehicle market could be significant down the road. Koch Industries’ refining, pipeline and exploration operations contribute a healthy chunk of its $115 billion in annual revenues.
According to Stone’s investigation, James Mahoney, a confidante of the brothers and member of their company’s board, has teamed up with lobbyist Charlie Drevna, who until last year helmed the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, for preliminary talks with several energy giants about funding the new pro-petroleum fuels group that hopes to spend $10 million a year.
The oil and gas industry may have thought it had killed the electric car, but sales — boosted by generous government subsidies — rose dramatically between 2010 and 2014, and energy giants are worried the thing may have come back to life.
Time to kill it again.
A new group that’s being cobbled together with fossil fuel backing hopes to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan. A Koch Industries board member and a veteran Washington energy lobbyist are working quietly to fund and launch the new advocacy outfit.
Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately held corporation, is an energy and industrial conglomerate with $115 billion in annual revenues that is controlled by the multibillionaire brothers — and prolific conservative donors — Charles and David Koch. James Mahoney, a confidante of the brothers and member of their company’s board, has teamed up with lobbyist Charlie Drevna, who until last year helmed the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, for preliminary talks with several energy giants about funding the new pro-petroleum fuels group.
Late last year, Mahoney and Drevna flew into San Antonio to explain the need for a new group to executives at two Texas refining giants, Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp. Then, in late January, Mahoney moderated a seminar on “Changing the Energy Narrative” at the brothers’ twice-a-year retreat for mega-donors in California. The panel drew a mix of CEOs from big energy companies and other wealthy attendees who, in conjunction with the Koch brothers, bankroll numerous conservative advocacy groups. And last month, Mahoney and Drevna had further conversations with Koch executives about the new project, sources say.
Neither Mahoney nor Drevna returned multiple calls seeking comment about the new group. A Koch spokesman also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
It’s not clear when the still-unnamed group will be launched, but energy industry sources predict it’s likely to be up and running by this spring or summer, and that Koch Industries — or a Koch foundation or allied nonprofit — will be the lead financier.
“The fact that Jim Mahoney is leading the effort appears to indicate that this is being driven by the business side of Koch,” rather than the political operation that helps oversee the brothers’ conservative advocacy empire, said one refining industry source familiar with the early plans for the new group.