A new investigation by the Guardian, highlighting the large campaign contributions given by fossil fuel corporations to lawmakers who then back public subsidies for those same companies, has led presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to describe the arrangement—especially in light of the dangers posed by runaway climate change—with one word: absurd.

In their examination of three specific fossil fuel projects run by Shell, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Petroleum—all of which received public funding—the Guardian reveals that, in each case, “the subsidies were all granted by politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.”

According to the Guardian, the investigation found:

  • A proposed Shell petrochemical refinery in Pennsylvania is in line for $1.6bn (£1bn) in state subsidy, according to a deal struck in 2012 when the company made an annual profit of $26.8bn.
  • ExxonMobil’s upgrades to its Baton Rouge refinery in Louisiana are benefiting from $119m of state subsidy, with the support starting in 2011, when the company made a $41bn profit.
  • A jobs subsidy scheme worth $78m to Marathon Petroleum in Ohio began in 2011, when the company made $2.4bn in profit.

Though oil and gas companies receiving such public largess is nothing new, proponents of climate action say that—at a time when fossil fuel companies should be forced to strand available assets in the ground in order to curb the worst impacts of climate change—the fact that such subsidies continue for some of the most profitable companies on Earth has become particularly problematic.

“At a time when scientists tell us we need to reduce carbon pollution to prevent catastrophic climate change, it is absurd to provide massive taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies’ already enormous profits,” Sen. Sanders, who announced on April 30 he is running for president, told the Guardian.

The scientific evidence continues to be overwhelming and the warnings from experts about the impacts of climate change are only becoming more and more dire. To cite just two examples over the last twenty-four hour period, one major study has found that climate change may drastically impact the annual yields of the world’s wheat harvest while another study revealed how the rate of sea level rise has increased steadily over the last two decades.

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