Oil Tycoons Caught Sneaking Millions to Groups Spreading Climate Change Doubt

Koch Industries is a privately held Kansas-based conglomerate specializing in petroleum related businesses. David Koch, one of the two brothers that control most of the company, likes to boast that they are “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.” In fact, Koch is the second largest privately held company in America.

According to the company’s website, it creates “value by using resources more efficiently; protecting the environment and the safety and health of our workers and others; consistently applying good science…”

Indeed, what Koch applies may in fact be the best science money can buy. A recent report by Greenpeace revealed that between 1998-2007, the company channeled funds on the order of $50 million to a number of groups that work the apparently very fertile furrows of doubt-spreading on the climate change issue. Suddenly, a lot more people have heard of them.

To put this in perspective, this sum was roughly twice the amount spent by ExxonMobil on similar efforts in the same time frame, according to Greenpeace.

The groups funded include:

•    Mercatus Center ($9.2 million) a George Mason University think tank. Charles Koch sits on the board. It tends to be against most forms of government regulation and have come out with statements like “…if a slight warming does occur, historical evidence suggests it is likely to be beneficial…”
•    Americans for Prosperity Foundation ($5.2 million) a DC non-profit “aimed to educate and mobilize citizens on behalf of ‘limited government and free markets.'” In 2008 AFP organized a Hot Air Tour aimed to discredit the idea of global warming. A recent headline on its website states “Eco-hypocrites fly in jets across Atlantic to attack AFP in Copenhagen.” Presumably the AFP representatives got to the conference by sailboat.
•    The Heritage Foundation ($1.62 million) Well-known conservative think tank. A 2009 blog post stated Study Shows Global Warming Will Not Hurt U.S. Economy, when in fact the study in question, which was a review of anti-global warming literature, concluded nothing of the kind.
•   Cato Institute ($1.03 million) Another well-known think-tank with the motto “Individual Liberty, Free Markets and Peace,” recently posted, “Science no longer provides justification for any rush to pass drastic global warming legislation.”

Koch officials wasted no time posting a response to the report on the Environmental Health and Safety page of its web site  in which it states, “The Greenpeace report mischaracterizes these efforts and distorts the environmental record of our companies. Koch companies have long supported science-based inquiry and dialogue about climate change and proposed responses to it. Koch companies have put tremendous effort into discovering and adopting innovative practices that reduce energy use and emissions in the manufacture and distribution of our products.”

That may well be, but nowhere in its response does it deny funding these groups.

As for its environmental record, in 2009, Invista, a Koch Industries’ subsidiary was fined $1.7 million for environmental violations and ordered to spend $500 million to clean up facilities in seven states, in an agreement with the US EPA and Department of Justice.  Darn government regulations.

The company has also paid fines in the tens of millions for illegally removing oil from federal lands, deliberately releasing close to 100 millions tons of carcinogenic benzene, spilling three million gallons of crude in over three hundred separate incidents, and illegally dumping a million gallons of ammonia discharge  into the Mississippi River.

Apparently its focus on “protecting the environment,” must have been occasionally superseded by other considerations, though I can’t imagine what those might have been.

Come to think of it, it had to get the money to support that “science-based inquiry” on global warming from somewhere.

The Greenpeace report also includes a number of case studies that describe how various activities by these groups have influenced the climate debate that is playing out right now and influencing the myriad decisions Americans make every day.

RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, which talks about this very type of thing.

RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His publications include business and technical articles as well as books. His third, co-authored with Roger Saillant, is Vapor Trails, an adventure novel about sustainability. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. He is also active in his community of Rochester, NY. A regular contributor to Mechanical Engineering magazine, RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner to the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.. Follow @RPSiegel on Twitter. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com