Koch Brothers Invest in Climate Change Denial

Stephen Smith | June 6, 2011 | Climate Change

Over the past year, industrialists Charles and David Koch have garnered considerable media attention for their extensive funding of conservative infrastructure. In August of 2010, The New Yorker magazine published an in-depth profile of the brothers, “Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.” The article drew considerable attention to their support of conservative causes, which previously had not been widely recognized.

Charles and David Koch
Charles and David Koch

As co-owners of Koch Industries, the Koch brothers, as they have become known, are worth north of $40 billion and their conservative activism goes back decades; David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1980 and Charles co-founded the Cato Institute in the late ‘70s. Koch Industries was founded in 1940, by their father, also a conservative activist, and now has annual revenues near $100 billion.

The company first came to prominence by innovating methods used to refine crude oil and remains heavily involved in the manufacturing and refining of oil, chemicals and other energy sources. As major players in the energy sector, the Koch brothers, in consistent fashion with their promotion of “free-market policies,” have also donated at least $50 million to anti-environmental groups. In another report that drew further scrutiny, Think Progress detailed the Koch brothers twice-yearly gatherings of wealthy industrialists to coordinate election strategies. Numerous individuals who hold prominent roles in the extractive energy industry have attended the meetings as detailed in reporting done by Think Progress.

Attendees have included:

•    Alan Boeckmann, CEO Fluor Corporation

•    C. Robert Buford, President of Zenith Drilling Corporation

•    Joseph W. Craft III, CEO of Alliance Resource Partners L.P.

•    Alex Cranberg, Chairman of Aspect Holdings, LLC

•    Kevin S. Crutchfield, CEO of Alpha Coal Sales Co., LLC.

•    Jim Patterson, Gulf Stream Petroleum

•    Melvyn Estrin, Director of WGL Holdings INC

•    Jim Ferrell, Ferrellgas Partners, L.P.

•    Dave, Bob and Steve Fettig, Tank Craft and Duracraft Fuel

•    Randy Foutch, CEO, Laredo Petroleum, Inc.

•    Jerry Fullinwider, Vice Chairman, Hillwood International Energy, L.P.

•    Richard Gilliam, President of Cumberland Resources Corporation

•    Frederic C. Hamilton, BHP Petroleum and Hamilton Oil Company

•    David Murfin, President, Murfin Drilling Corp

•    Larry Nichols, Executive Chairman, Devon Energy Corp

•    Corbin Robertson, President, Quintana Minerals Corp

•    Lew Ward, Ward Petroleum Corporation

Both the Center for American Progress (CAP), a D.C. based think tank, and Greenpeace have recently issued reports detailing the Koch Brothers’ involvement with the climate change denier movement. “The Koch Brothers: What You Need To Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right” was released by CAP in April of this year. The report says Koch Industries is, “now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming.” The report also details the money spent by the company to push confusion and sow disinformation about climate change, “From 2005 to 2008, Exxon Mobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries-controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the climate denial machine.”

Greenpeace’s report tilted, “Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial” also takes aim at the Koch Brothers behind the scenes activities on behalf of climate deniers. One project detailed in the report was the battle behind Proposition 23 in California; the proposition would have curtailed the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wholly owned subsidiaries of Koch Industries donated $1 million to groups supporting the ballot measure. Fortunately the proposition did not pass, and California continues its effort to reduce emissions by 2020 back to 1990 levels.

Another effort funded by the Koch brothers was an assault on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Ten states in the mid-Atlantic and northeast are attempting to reduce greenhouse gases with the initiative. Americans for Prosperity, a group founded and funded by the Koch Brothers, has said the program will significantly raise utility bills. Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) and other utilities are on the record stating that RGGI has had minimal impact on bills.

The Koch brothers do not work alone; myriad other individuals also fund the climate change denial movement. One example is businessman Art Pope who lives in North Carolina. A report last year by Facing South detailed how Pope and his family have given more than $24 million to climate denial groups.

These efforts by the Koch brothers and other conservative activists show that the climate change denier movement is not interested in having a fact-based debate. By funding organizations that deny climate change, despite massive evidence that climate change is occurring, the intention is to misinform the public; as the impacts build, this is the only way citizens will embrace continued reliance on oil, gas and coal to power our economy. The Koch brothers’ insidious donations of hundreds of millions of dollars pollutes meaningful public debate on energy policy and actions to address climate change, it dupes Tea Party activists into doing the brothers’ dirty business and helps Koch Industries get richer while the planet burns.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has 30 years of experience effecting change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as its executive…
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