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Another Handout to the Oil Oligarchs-- Guest Post By Tom Winter

BP's stake in Russia's Rosneft was $14 billion. Shell held $3 billion in Russian assets. Exxon held over $4 billion. They eagerly got in bed with war criminal Vladimir Putin, used him to increase profits, and undermined Ukrainian democracy in the process. Now their corrupt GOP lackeys want us-- the American taxpayer-- to cover Big Oil’s losses as they hold us hostage at the gas pump.

Republicans, always eager to do corrupt industry bidding, are hoping to take back political power on fears of rising gas prices. But their motive is beyond winning elections. The GOP's hollow “energy independence” talk is just another handout to the fossil fuel industry so they can cover the losses incurred from being forced to pull out of their Russian energy investments.

The rockets lobbed at Ukraine and the artillery used to kill civilians cost money. And that money came from the oil companies. These multinational fossil fuel corporations funded Putin until the world stepped up and made them divest from Russia. The same corruption that infects Russia and that defenders of democracy in Ukraine sought to root out from their government now sets its sights back on us. They turn once again to the Republican Party-- who like always-- will do the bidding of oligarchs without asking too many questions.

Not only would the GOP's taxpayer giveaway to corrupt industry further undermine our democracy, it would also do next to nothing to fix gas prices. These are the same people that say tax cuts for the rich will trickle down to the rest of us. Delusional at best-- corrupt at heart.

My GOP opponent for Congress, scandal-ridden Ryan Zinke, said the quiet part out loud when he told big oil’s lobbyist’s “Our government should work for you." He is wrong. Our government should work for Americans-- not multinational corporations. The interests of Shell, of Exxon, of Saudi Aramco are in direct opposition to the interests of the American people.

If we really want to talk about energy independence, Montana has already shown the country the model: investments in renewable energy. Over half of our Montana energy production is renewable, and we export over half of our energy to our neighbors. Montana renewables power the West.

Even with corruption and subsidies for fossil fuels the free market is already showing they would rather invest in more efficient and affordable energy production like wind, solar, and hydro. Out of nearly half a dozen new energy projects in Montana all but one of them are wind and solar. Energy independence means not relying on big oil, their investments in Russia, or their manipulation of our politics.

Yes, for decades Montana has relied on fossil fuel extraction. But no matter what the big companies will tell you, Montana coal production hasn’t been declining due to radical leftists - it's the free market. It’s being replaced by safer, cleaner renewable energy alternatives. The latest governmental energy report says it all, “Montana has substantial renewable energy resources…(and) some of the best utility-scale wind power potential in the nation.”

Montana is already a leader. Innovation is already happening. But we need the federal government’s support. We are the country’s energy reserve. When policy makers bemoan untapped oil wells in Texas, or un-fracked gas deposits in Colorado, they should really be talking about our untapped wind and solar. They are resources of strategic importance for the nation's security and prosperity.

Democrats can and must steal the (unfortunately successful) language of the extractive industry in support of renewable energy. And we can and must call out Republicans who support Putin and his big oil patrons against our national security and independence.

The truth is that America can harness Montana's wind and solar potential without ruining our environment, we can be an international model for 21st century resource extraction: Clean, renewable, and with lasting enrichment of the communities on the ground. We might sometimes sound like Republicans with all this talk of extraction, investment, and industry. But Montanans hold a resource that could lead the nation out of dependence on oil that funds war and ruins our atmosphere, and of fracked gas that poisons our waters and defiles the landscape.

With the right policies, with the next generation of politicians that aren't bought by big oil or corrupted by gas companies, we can bring prosperity to Montana by utilizing the resources of our beautiful home for the greater good of the country. The only thing stopping us is the wholesale purchase of our government by private industry.

America could lead the world in renewable energy if we had the political will to root out rampant corruption in our government, the same corruption we see in oligarchies across the world. The currently stalled Build Back Better (BBB) package has $555 billion in clean energy investments and perhaps our last best chance to save our country and my geenrations’ future. There is only one reason BBB has not passed: the complete corruption of the entire Republican Party and two Democratic Senators.

Our current path is unsustainable, it is immoral, it harms the land and people - and it enriches violent oligarchs across the world. Soon, my generation will tire of corrupt politicians, of a government sold to private industry. Let's hope there's still something left to save.

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