The Koch brothers, owners of the U.S.’s largest privately held company and major supporters of the Tea Party movement, are the single largest U.S. leaseholders in Alberta’s oilsands, controlling an area nearly the size of Delaware.
But they don’t appear to be using the land, a fact that — depending on where you stand — means either the Kochs have nothing to gain from oilsands expansion, or are waiting with bated breath for the Keystone XL pipeline to start flowing.
Charles and David Koch have been major contributors to — some would say architects of — the U.S. Tea Party movement, whose Republican adherents in Congress are among the most vocal supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline. Tea Party Republicans have repeatedly attempted to link budget agreements to approval of the pipeline.
According to research carried out by the left-leaning International Forum on Globalization and confirmed by the Washington Post, Koch Oil Sands Operating (KOSO) controls 1.1 million acres in the oilsands, the single largest patch of land held by a U.S. firm. KOSO is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, which is the U.S.’s largest privately held company, with annual revenues of around $115 billion.
But the Washington Post, citing “industry sources familiar with oil sands leases,” says the Kochs’ acreage could be nearly double that, at around 2 million acres.
That’s considerably more than any other U.S. oilsands operator; Conoco holds roughly 900,000 acres and ExxonMobil has some 700,000. And it’s more than many major Canadian operators, such as CNRL (115,000 acres) and Syncrude (250,000 acres), though Cenovus holds 1.5 million acres.
But, as the IFG report notes, the Koch brothers are not major producers in the oilsands.
Holding the land “appears to be a long-term investment that could produce tens of thousands of barrels of the region's thick brand of crude oil in the next three years and perhaps hundreds of thousands of barrels a few years after that,” the Washington Post reports.
However if the Kochs are planning on riding the Keystone to fortune, they’re not making the necessary moves. So far, KOSO has not reserved any space on the pipeline, the Post notes.
An earlier report from the IFG estimated that the oilsands could generate as much as $100 billion in profit for the Koch brothers, whose combined net worth is estimated at some $80 billion.
The Kochs’ political influence in the U.S. is well documented; they are, among other things, founding members of the political lobby group Americans for Prosperity, which lobbied aggressively against Obamacare and opposes most proposed climate initiatives and regulations.
But their influence extends north of the border as well. The Fraser Institute, a right-libertarian think tank that enjoys tax-free status as a charity, has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars of Koch money.