Guest Post by Cindy Baxter. Originally posted to Climate Investigations Center.
In the wake of Inside Climate News and the LA Times’ investigations into ExxonMobil’s climate science, the company has been terribly busy telling the world that it stands by its scientific work.
In a classic example of Public Relations 101, ExxonMobil’s head of PR, Ken Cohen, has been huffing and puffing and standing up for climate science, pushing everybody’s focus onto the studies Exxon funded.
But this isn’t the point. Yes, it’s now clear that #ExxonKnew. As Neela Bannerjee of Inside Climate News said this week about her investigation:
“I came away with enormous regard for many of the Exxon scientists who researched climate change and for the managers and executives who gave them the resources and latitude to freely investigate a problem their own company was contributing to.”
But it’s what #ExxonDid next is what we think the NY Attorney General should focus on in his investigation. If Exxon had climate scientists on the case, and it knew all that it did, then how could it have done what it did next?
Ken Cohen is, according to The Holmes Report, “a lifetime Exxon employee,” having been with the company since 1977. He’s Vice President for Public and Government Affairs, a role he stepped into in 1999 after having been Legal Counsel. He was promoted into this role by Lee Raymond, company CEO and Chairman, who had long held skeptical views on climate change.
Let us be clear: contrary to media reports, ExxonMobil did not stop funding denial in 2008 – it might like you to think it did, but it’s still funding denial today.
According to Steve Coll in his book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power,”
“Ken Cohen and his public affairs shop, in tandem with the K Street office in Washington, oversaw contributions to free-market advocates who published, spoke out, and file lawsuits to challenge policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or assess the long-term impact of global warming.”
To the public eye, Exxon’s “Public Information and Policy Research” section of its Worldwide Giving report, published every year on its website, looked like the company was just giving cash to right wing think tanks as many corporations did.
In 2003, ExxonMobil earmarked over $1 million dollars worth of grants for climate change and, in 2004, listed over $1.6 million in climate specific grants among the $3.4 million given to groups who were engaged on the climate science and policy debate.
By “engaged” in the debate, we mean running full on climate denial campaigns. These were the ExxonMobil-funded army of climate deniers.
For example, in 2003, “Frontiers of Freedom” received two ExxonMobil grants, $95,000 for “Global Climate Change Outreach” and $50,000 for “Global Climate Change Activities”.
In 2004, there is a “Climate Change” grant for $10,000 to Steve Milloy’s “Advancement of Sound Science Coalition” – the “junk science” organisation set up by Philip Morris’s PR companies APCO and Burston Marstellar to challenge the science of second hand smoke. Milloy then moved to challenging global warming, ozone depletion, etc.
Others who were funded for climate change work that year were the George Marshall Institute, Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), all organisations who are, to this day, running denial campaigns.
CFACT, Heartland and some of the CEI staff are planning to head to Paris this year, where they’ll be working with leading Republican - “global warming is a the biggest hoax perpetrated on the American People” - denier, Senator James Inhofe.
However, the following year, in 2005, things got strange. The public version of Cohen’s ExxonMobil Foundation’s grants contained no descriptons – intead vague, anodyne explainations (e.g “General Support”), whereas the forms the Foundation submitted to the IRS contained more detail about the grants. The public version is published in Exxonmobil’s Worldwide Giving Report, released each spring around the annual shareholders meeting, and officially filed with the IRS as a “990” form.
The 2005 990 lists a total of $996,500 in grants described as specifically for climate change-related work. The 2005 Worldwide Giving Report has none.
George Marshall Institute
The Competitive Enterprise Institute got $90,000 that year, listed as “General Operating support” in the public report, but specified as “environmental programs” in the 990. The following year, the CEI produced a video – “Carbon Dioxide is our Friend” that caused such an outcry, ExxonMobil had to drop funding altogether.
The ExxonMobil Foundation 990 lists two grants for climate, $80,000 for “Energy Sustainability Project (Climate Change)” and $21,500 for “Climate Change Environmental Outreach”
The 2005 Worldwide Giving report lists the $80,000 grant as “Energy Sustainability Project” without the climate paranthetical and another grant for $71,500 for “General Operating Support” which appears to be a sum of the $21,500 grant for climate outreach and two grants totalling $50,000, listed in the 990 as “General Operating Support” and “Project Support.”
There is so much more. But we must ask this question of Ken Cohen:
if you knew all the science, if you are such a stand for good science, why did the foundation you chair spend so much money on climate denial?
We have so many more questions:
- Who, specifically, at the ExxonMobil Foundation solicited and approved these grants?
- Who annually reviewed the deliverables on the grants?
- Who was the point of contact for the grantees?
- Were the proposals coming in from NGOs like Heartland or Frontiers of Freedom or did you select or conduct outreach to those groups to set up these deals?
Coming next: Lee Raymond and Rex Tillerson, Climate Hustle
Newly released documents provide further indication that Florida officials were directed not to talk about climate change.
In an email exchange from April of 2014 obtained by a records request, a communications official working for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in Florida instructed a scientist to “make no claims as to cause” of Florida’s sea level rise. The scientist responded “I know the drill,” suggesting that a prohibition on mentioning climate change was well established in the department.
The exchange came in response to a request for an interview from National Geographic. In a report to her superiors, the “administrator of external affairs” for the DEP, who was in charge of approving the interview request, expressed confidence that the scientist would “stay on message,” but offered to be “more hands on with this because of the sensitivity,” should her supervisors insist. Scientists have repeatedly warned rising sea levels pose a serious threat to Florida'a coast. A Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact paper that water in the Miami area could rise by 2 feet by the year 2060, due to climate change.
This latest evidence of a ban on mentioning climate change is congruent with earlier reports that Governor Rick Scott forbade Florida agencies from discussing the matter. As was first uncovered by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, DEP officials were told not to use the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” or “sustainability” once Rick Scott was elected governor in 2011. Rick Scott, a republican, has been a long time denier of climate change science. As the New Republic reported:
a reporter asked Scott whether man-made climate change "is significantly affecting the weather, the climate." Scott tried to change the subject and replied, "Well, I'm not a scientist." When asked by the Tampa Bay Times in 2010 whether he believed in climate change, Scott simply replied, "No."
Governor Rick Scott is well connected to the oil and gas billionaire Koch brothers’ world of climate change denial. Scott has attended secretive strategy meetings held by the Kochs, and has benefitted politically from Koch initiatives and funding. The Koch brothers have given over $79 million to groups that deny climate change science and oppose regulations on greenhouse gas pollution.
Inside Climate News has revealed that a key leader of oil and gas industry front groups that oppose new fracking regulations may have been playing both sides of the issue. In an investigation into the funding of the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) work on oil and gas regulation, Inside Climate News discovered that a key EDF funder had hired FTI Consulting's David Blackmon to promote fracking regulations. Unbeknownst to his employer, Blackmon is a longtime oil industry consultant who is paid to oppose regulation of the fracking industry.
The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
The funder in question is the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, established by the late George Mitchell, known as the "father of fracking." George Mitchell owned and operated Mitchell Energy, the first company to combine horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett shale, which sparked the "shale revolution." Mitchell created the foundation with part of the $3.5 billion sale of Mitchell Energy to Devon Energy. The Mitchell Foundation describes itself as "a grantmaking foundation that seeks innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems." While its goals seem noble, the fortunes of the foundation and the people who run it continue to be inexorably linked to the success of the oil and gas industry. The foundation itself has more than $38 million in stock in Devon Energy. Three of George Mitchell's beneficiaries own over $21 million of Devon Energy apiece. Altogether the Mitchell Foundation and the Mitchell heirs own over one fifth of Devon Energy. One such heir is Todd Mitchell, who sat on the foundation's board for years and worked for Devon Energy for a decade. He currently runs oil and gas production companies and an investment business built on the assumption that gas will provide the baseload for electricity generation around the globe. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation has funded a series of greenwashing efforts that have portrayed the shale and fracking industry as safe, clean, and reliable. These efforts include an online-based "virtual reality" well pad that makes no mention of water or air quality concerns. In fact, the "virtual well pad" does not mention any of the environmental or social impacts that communities near shale drilling experience. However, the Mitchell Foundation has also dedicated millions of dollars to groups that are trying to "green" the shale industry, like the Environmental Defense Fund. Since 2012 the foundation has given over $1 million to EDF. The funding was for studies of methane emissions from the fracking industry. These studies, which have been criticized as incomplete, are built on a base assumption that the drilling can be done "right." They have also led to some of the first federal regulations on the shale industry, including the methane regulations announced by the Obama administration in early 2015. The foundation also gives to a range of environmental groups, some of which are strongly opposed to fracking and oil and gas development, like the Tides Foundation and the Sierra Club.
David Blackmon and FTI Consulting's Conflicts of Interest
While the Mitchell family's finances are tied to the success of the gas industry in general, the foundation's funding of efforts to limit pollution from fracking appears genuine. That is what makes the Mitchell Foundation's hiring of David Blackmon and FTI Consulting so peculiar. In 2012 the Mitchell Foundation selected Blackmon of FTI Consulting to run the foundation's gas strategy. FTI Consulting is a PR firm that has worked with the shale and fracking industry to limit shale regulations by attacking journalists and community groups. FTI Consulting runs Energy in Depth, an oil and gas industry front group that maintains a hard line of attack against those who would regulate or criticize its corporate funders. The Mitchell Foundation paid FTI Consulting $120,000 to "start a dialogue between fossil fuel concerns and environmentalists around natural gas." Blackmon himself has long been a power player in the world of pro-fracking PR. Blackmon started his career as an oil industry flack, doing communications work and lobbying for Shell, Tesoro, and various other oil and gas companies. More recently, he has had top positions with nearly every major pro-fracking front group, including the Consumer Energy Alliance, Energy in Depth, and the industry's biggest lobbying arm, America's Natural Gas Alliance. That Blackmon was in charge of the Mitchell Foundation's gas strategy is troubling. His career has been dedicated to obstructing and delaying regulation on the oil and gas industry, especially in regard to fracking. While working for Mitchell, he led industry-funded groups that opposed the very methane regulations he was hired by Mitchell to promote. It is also troubling because of Blackmon's personal denial of the science of climate change, and his aggressive denial of the environmental and health impacts of fracking, which he called an "attention-grabbing boogeyman for all manner of nutcases, chicken littles and radicalized environmental organizations." Tweets from Blackmon's Twitter account reinforce the fact that he denies some of the basic pieces of climate-change science:
Fracking has been shown to pose a serious threat to the climate, given that methane, natural gas' primary component, traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2 does. Blackmon and FTI Consulting's anti-regulatory and pro-fracking work constitute a potentially major undisclosed conflict of interest. Marilou Hastings, the communications manager for the Mitchell Foundation, admitted to Inside Climate that before settling on FTI, she approached and was turned down by "more than a dozen consulting firms" due to conflicts of interest. When she approached FTI Consulting and Blackmon, they not only accepted the job but failed to reveal their anti-regulatory work to Hastings. Inside Climate News writes that Hastings "didn't know of FTI Consulting's ties to anti-regulatory efforts." Furthermore, at the same time that Blackmon was being paid by the Mitchell Foundation, Energy in Depth, which is run by FTI Consulting and boasts Blackmon as a "field director," attacked the very studies Blackmon was paid to promote. All the while, Blackmon was using his position as a contributor to Forbes to promote the Mitchell Foundation's work without disclosing his financial incentives. This potentially violated Forbes' conflicts of interest clause. This raises the question: Did David Blackmon use his position with the Mitchell Foundation, in which he was tasked with promoting regulation, to feed information to his colleagues at FTI Consulting, which is paid to oppose regulation?
A Greenpeace investigation has uncovered close ties between a Colorado political couple and at least six oil and gas industry front groups that have been fighting state regulations designed to protect the health of its citizens and the environment.
The husband and wife team are ex-state senator and onetime Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Josh Penry and his wife, founder of republican PR and fundraising firm Starboard Group, Kristin Strohm. Colorado has emerged as a key battleground in the national debate over shale drilling and fracking. The state’s oil and gas industry has over 50,000 hydraulically fractured wells, and plans to drill many thousands more every year into the foreseeable future. These wells have caused severe water and air pollution problems, and have sparked a grassroots movement against drilling and fracking across the state. Concern over pollution from fracking culminated in a series of local laws to ban or regulate fracking, efforts that sent shockwaves through the shale industry. To combat the growing threat of local control over drilling practices, the shale industry began funding political strategies to undermine local action against drilling. Enter Penry and Strohm, who who helped develop the shale industry’s sophisticated astroturf campaign strategy that was created in concert with legal strategies to override popularly-supported local drilling restrictions. (Astroturf is a term used to describe fake “grassroots” groups that are conceived and paid for by corporations or public relations firms to advance a business or political interest.)
Josh Penry has strong connections to both Colorado politics and the oil and gas industry. He became the youngest person ever elected to the state Senate in 2006. While a state senator, he sponsored and passed legislation designed to benefit the drilling industry by boosting the use of gas-fired electric power plants. His biggest achievement was HB 1365, a bill designed to help Xcel Energy build gas-fired power plants. The bill was called the ”Clean Air Clean Jobs Bill,” and sold as a boon for the environment because it eased the transition from coal fired power to gas fired power. However, Penry made the intentions behind the legislation clear by promising a 15% increase in gas drilling in the state if the bill was passed. Josh Penry is apparently unconcerned about the enormous contribution that gas extraction and combustion makes to climate change, explaining during a debate that it doesn’t "keep [him] up at night." However, studies of highly fracked areas in Colorado raise alarms for the climate. One recent study of the Front Range drilling area in Colorado found a methane leakage rate of 19.3 tons per hour. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, at least 86 times as powerful as CO2 at disrupting the climate. After surprising his staff and supporters by backing out of the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2009 and serving out his time as State Senator, Penry became Vice President of EIS Solutions, a public relations and political strategy consulting firm that specializes in “grassroots coalition building.” The group has been a key cog in the fracking industry’s pushback against community resistance and the state of Colorado’s gas regulations. EIS advertises their ability to create a “path to advocacy.” In practical terms, this means EIS will create non-profit and fake grassroots groups to give the illusion of widespread public support for oil and gas drilling. EIS has been criticized for repeatedly stepping outside of respectable practices, including one case in 2013 when they were caught faking signatures on an anti-regulation petition. EIS has long standing contracts with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the leading industry lobbying group in the state. A Greenpeace investigation has uncovered the following non-profit front groups tied to EIS solutions: Colorado Liberty Alliance - shares a phone number with EIS phone, and advocates against local control. Environmentally Conscious Consumers for Oil Shale - shares an address with EIS solutions and promotes drilling. Grow Our Western Economy - has an EIS Solutions phone number and the chairman is former EIS Solutions employee, now president of the Koch Brothers front group Americans for Prosperity, Justin Zvonek. The group attacks people who promote local control over drilling. The groups listed above represents only those created by EIS employees that have registered as non-profits. EIS also creates groups that have not registered as tax-exempt non-profits, thereby avoiding reporting requirements.
Vital for Colorado
One such group is Vital for Colorado, a well-funded and highly active pro-fracking front group. While the Vital for Colorado website makes no direct mention of Penry, he serves as spokesman and strategist for the group, and coordinates messaging with other anti-regulation groups through Vital for Colorado. In September, Penry attended a meeting in Denver where he spoke to an audience of State Policy Network groups from around the country about the industry’s strategy to fight oil and gas drilling restrictions in Colorado. Josh Penry’s ties to Vital for Colorado run deep. Both EIS employee Dan Haley and Penry’s wife Kristin Strohm sit on the Advisory board of Vital for Colorado. Vital for Colorado’s website is registered to Charity Meinhart, a web developer that works for both EIS Solutions and Starboard Group according to her LinkdIn account.
Kristin Strohm is the managing partner at her own pubic relations firm, Starboard Group. Strohm, who is an advisor for Vital for Colorado, has also set up other front groups that work in concert with Vital for Colorado to oppose drilling regulations. The Western Colorado Jobs Alliance and The Common Sense Policy Roundtable Forum were created by Starboard Group to oppose local control over shale drilling and fracking. Both groups also publicly support Vital for Colorado, creating a seemingly independent network of reinforcing voices that oppose fracking regulations, while being centrally coordinated by Strohm and Penry. Strohm worked for Penry in his run for State Senate in 2006. Penry and Strohm married in 2012, shortly after his divorce from his wife, whom he had married in 1999.
Ties to the Koch Brothers
The Penry and Strohm team both have connections to the national effort to reduce regulation on the oil industry through the creation of front groups, bottom-lined by oil and gas billionaires Charles and David Koch. Kristin Strohm has successfully solicited major funding from the Kochs. While Strohm was the finance director for Mike Coffman’s congressional campaign, Coffman benefited from ads run by Americans for Prosperity supporting his campaign. Through Strohm, he also received the maximum possible donation allowed by law from David Koch. Starboard Group’s website boasts of working for the Koch Brothers' flagship front group, Americans for Prosperity. Strohm has also hired former Koch Interns to the Starboard Group. A former director of the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, a front group created by Strohm, attended the secretive 2010 Koch strategy meeting in Aspen. Penry’s EIS Solutions also has close ties to the Koch network. The director for Colorado’s Americans For Prosperity chapter is a former EIS Solutions employee, Dustin Zvonek. Like the other front groups in Penry’s orbit, Zvonek and AFP have been consistently working against local control of drilling regulations.
This means that Congressman Stewart now has dominion over the EPA, climate change research, and "all activities related to climate." According to the House Science Committees website (of which Stewart's subcommitee is a part), the chair of the Environment subcommittee oversees:
"all matters relating to environmental research; Environmental Protection Agency research and development; environmental standards; climate change research and development; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including all activities related to weather, weather services, climate, the atmosphere, marine fisheries, and oceanic research;…"
Unfortunately for the EPA, NOAA, and anyone worried about climate change, Chris Stewart is a climate science denier. Mr. Stewart believes there is "insufficient science" to determine if climate change is caused by humans. He believes this in spite of the fact that the EPA, NOAA, and all experts in the field (which he now oversees), disagrees with him.
For the record, Chris Stewart has no advanced degrees in science. However, before running for congress he was owner and CEO of Shipley Group, a company that trains government workers on environmental issues. Shipley Group actually runs a training on climate change science, and according to the Shipley Group website "Upon completion of the workshop, participants will be able to understand basic climate change science." Clearly Mr. Stewart has never taken his company's training.
Ties to Fossil Fuels
Though Stewart seems to ignore climate change science (while his company profits by teaching it), he does not ignore the fossil fuel industry. In fact he is quite sympathetic to the plight of oil and gas companies. His campaign website claims:
"I am the CEO of a company that works extensively with independent energy producers. I understand how difficult it is to get a drilling permit on federal lands. It is painfully slow, incoherently arbitrary, and always expensive."
Stewart's "extensive" knowledge of the fossil fuel industry is not a surprise. His brother, Tim Stewart is a lobbyist for American Capitol Group, a washington DC lobbying firm. American capitol Group lobbies for fossil Fuel interests, like the Western Energy Alliance, a group mainly comprised of fracking and oil companies. Tim Stewart also lobbied for EnergyNorthAmerica, a company he cofounded to lobby for the Fossil Fuel Industry. One EnergyNorthAmerica slide presentation reads:
"The fact that fossil energy and mining are viewed by political "elites" with disfavor, a view driven by acolytes of radical environmentalism, has resulted in damaging laws and regulation and general neglect"
Unsurprisingly, the fossil fuel industry does not ignore Chris Stewart either. One of Stewart's books (which were published and praised by Glenn Beck), is recommended reading at Koch Industries. Stewart received the maximum possible campaign contribution from ExxonMobil and Koch Industries during his last campaign. He also received considerable support from several Koch and Exxon funded SuperPACs. All told, he received more funding from dirty energy companies and their superPACs than any other single source.
See Chris Stewart's PolluterWatch profile for more information.
If you've ever turned on the TV and seen a charismatic, boyish, conservative looking man yelling at scientists in an animated fashion, there's a good chance it was Marc Morano.
Marc's new movie, Climate Hustle, is slated for release during global climate change negotiations next month. As in past years, Marc Morano will be among a contingent of a dying breed of science deniers attending the COP with the simple intention of interference.
Smile and Lie
Having met Marc before, I know what it's like to look into the eyes of someone who is paid to misrepresent truth with confidence, and attack my natural hesitation to call out his dishonestly.
Last June, at The Heartland Institute's tenth climate denial conference--a desert of true climate science expertise--I recorded my conversation with Marc. At minute 2:45 in the recording of our talk, he pulls a classic move. Listen to him pull a a double-layered lie, baiting me to confirm that 2014 was the hottest year on record, then attacking me for saying yes.
In fact, scientists say that 2014 was the hottest year on record, according to a study by NASA and NOAA, as reported worldwide by BBC, TIME, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Weather Channel. But Marc knows what the Tobacco industry discovered in the early 20th Century: the facts don't matter.
Even though I was right, Marc laid into me, seeing an opportunity to reference a controversy that he himself helped fabricate. His intention was to make me question myself, and thus appear uncertain and discredited to anyone reviewing our conversation. The actual content of our conversation matters much less than the aesthetic. As a current showman and former salesman, Marc gets that.
To find Marc's weaknesses, an examination of his rapid-fire claims is needed. You hear him say NASA retracted the statement (not true), and claim that AP had to pull down a story. In reality, The AP clarification statement was not a retraction, and it did not reverse the conclusion of the NASA/NOAA study. Nor did it disprove decades of scientific evidence that human-caused climate change is happening, a conclusion Marc hopes to help the audience jump to.
If you even bothered to read this far, you see the infuriating advantage that Morano has. A lie, or a half-lie, takes only a few seconds to say. It can take a long time to untangle. By then, Marc has already moved on to his next line - trying to debunk each inaccurate claim as it happens would be a mistake. It would do nothing to clarify the facts to an observer unfamiliar with the science of climate change.
That's where long-term documentation comes into play, and that's where Marc Morano's disinformation train loses steam.
Morano's Group Tied to Investigation of ExxonMobil's Climate Science Denial
After decades of financing political groups to attack the science of climate change and the scientists conducting the research, ExxonMobil is embroiled in scandal.
This follows revelations from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times that Exxon not only recognized climate change as fact, and its root in fossil fuel use, but spent millions on scientific studies of our global climate system. After Exxon buried the evidence and waged an advertising and public relations campaign to deny the science, the company coordinated and financed several groups to confuse the public.
One of these groups is Marc Morano's employer, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT, which pays him a $150,000 annual salary. CFACT and Exxon, along with Chevron, coal utility Southern Company and a number of other front groups forged a plan in 1998 at the American Petroleum Institute, a plan they continue to follow in 2015.
The "Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan" involved placing scientists who appeared independent at these front groups, financed by coal, oil, car and other industrial corporations to make public relations sound like science to reporters and the public they report to.
Morano was at a critical intersection of the strategy: he worked in the office of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who remains an outright denier of global warming. Morano's poisonous words are still parroted by Senator Inhofe at every opportunity, who loves to pretend that global warming is disproved every time it snows outside.
Morano and Inhofe have capitalized on America's scientific ignorance. While public relations consultants like Morano continue to lie to the public, policymakers like Inhofe are cleared to continue putting polluters before people in Congress, siding with oil and coal companies paying for their elections instead of the people they are elected to represent.
Will the Climate Hustler Go Down with ExxonMobil?
The future for Marc Morano and the rest of the cast of climate deniers is uncertain. The New York Attorney General issued a subpoena to the oil giant, initiating a process that could eventually implicate people like Marc. Congress and presidential candidates alike already have their eyes on ExxonMobil, which could lead to more unearthed evidence that Exxen knew it was deceiving the public in a false manner.
If we bump into Marc in Paris this December, for the next round of global climate negotiations, we'll be sure to ask how he feels about the unfolding lawsuits.
A wolf pack of in-state utilities and out-of-state petrochemical billionaires has attacked Ohio's clean energy law, threatening to kill clean jobs and wreak further damage on the environment.
This attack is led by Ohio state Senator Bill Seitz (R), who five years earlier voted for the law, but after accepting dirty energy money compared the law to Stalinism. The latest step to stall and dismantle clean energy incentives is the so-called "Energy Mandates Study Committee," or "EMSC." The EMSC was established after previous failed attempts by Sen. Seitz and other Ohio Senators to repeal or weaken the clean energy law.
The EMSC's recent decision to indefinitely stall laws promoting clean, efficient energy and the jobs they produce, is a power grab by coal utilities paying dropping campaign contributions in exchange to the gutting pollution-free clean energy jobs in Ohio.
A review of Ohio campaign finance data reveals some of the money behind these politicians' attack on successful clean energy incentives:
Quid Pro Coal: Dirty Energy funding to Ohio politicians on the "Energy Mandates Study Committee"
Oil & Gas
|Rep. Ron Anstutz||X||$83,100||$35,200||$90,686||$208,986|
|Sen. Bill Seitz||X||$79,125||$25,350||$20,425||$124,900|
|Sen. Cliff Hite||X||$50,085||$2,990||$64,855||$117,950|
|Rep. Kristina Roegner||X||$62,950||$2,150||$28,400||$93,500|
|Sen. Troy Balderson||X||$43,400||$2,450||$30,200||$76,050|
|Sen. Bob Peterson||$31,650||$3,600||$14,850||$50,100|
|Rep. Christina Hagan||X||$24,280||$2,050||$21,900||$48,230|
|Rep. Louis W. Blessing, III||X||$37,578||$1,200||$3,350||$42,128|
|Rep. Jack Cera||$11,000||$1,350||$9,200||$21,550|
|Rep. Mike Stinziano||$16,150||$0||$2,700||$18,850|
|Sen. Sandra Williams||$14,700||$500||$250||$15,450|
|Sen. Capri Cafaro||$12,200||$1,000||$0||$13,200|
ALEC, Clean Energy, and Rigged Markets
The EMSC is stacked with politicians linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate bill-mill whose state legislator members help dirty energy lobbyists forge laws rolling back clean energy incentives. Some of ALEC's top "private sector members" include Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody, and Duke Energy.
At recent ALEC meetings, many of these companies sent their lobbyists to rub elbows with state politicians and create template laws in meetings closed to the public. ALEC facilitated the creation of several model bills intended to trip up the booming clean energy industry.
Legislators violate ALEC's core mission of promoting "free markets," giving their fossil fuel sponsors a pass and attacking incentives for their clean competitors at the expense of human health, clean air, clean water and a stable climate. ALEC's cookie-cutter attacks on clean energy have taken various shapes in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas and a dozen other states.
Quid Pro Coal - What Lobbying Looks Like
The utilities gave the bulk of $466,218 to 12 politicians on Sen. Seitz's committee, documented above. This includes companies directly coordinating with Sen. Seitz, according to his emails.
Ohio utility companies -- FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, Duke Energy, NiSource, AES subsidiary Dayton Power & Light, and the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives (OREC) -- were directly solicited for input on Seitz's clean energy freeze bill, SB 58, a placeholder bill that preceded Sen. Seitz's study committee. See this timeline, courtesy of Energy & Policy Institute.
Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives is part of a massive consortium of smaller-scale electric co-ops called the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). NRECA is the top contribution to national politicians among all dirty energy interests, even outspending Koch Industries PAC. NRECA's Ohio affiliate gave Sen. Seitz $4,250 in 2012. The next year, OREC lobbyists helped write Sen. Seitz's bill, SB 58, telling a Seitz staffer, "As we discussed,nbsp;attached is suggested language for inclusion in SB 58 with slight modifications."
No such opportunities were provided to clean energy advocates in communication with Sen. Seitz, including several small businesses, the Sierra Club and affiliates of unions like the Steelworkers and AFL-CIO.
Seitz repeatedly dismissed an Ohio State University study, commissioned by Ohio Advanced Energy Economy (OAEE), a group of Ohio businesses advocating for clean energy in Ohio. OAEE President Ted Ford warned Senator Seitz in a letter:
"[W]e can report that the results [of SB 58] are worse for ratepayers than we initially thought. The Ohio State University Study (version 2.0) finds that the bill is a massive giveaway to Ohio utilities, and would cost consumers almost $4 billion between now and 2025. The study also finds the standards have already saved Ohioans 1.4% on their electric bills."
A handwritten note on the letter, apparently written by Senator Seitz, says "more complete fabrications from people with zero credibility." The letter and handwritten commentary were circulated by a Seitz staffer to lobbyists at Duke Energy, American Electric Power, First Energy and others.
Seitz shot back a letter to OAEE and the Ohio Sierra Club, loaded with questions attacking the credibility and relevance of their data, also sourced from the Ohio State University Study.
It turns out, Sen. Seitz prefers his data from out-of-state universities, financed by none other than Kansas billionaire Charles Koch.
Koch University, Inc. - Utah State University
Ohio's coal-burning utilities aren't the only interests helping Seitz behind the scenes. The ALEC senator's study committee relied on data using dishonest measurements from professors at Utah State University (USU) in a department that has taken over $1.6 million from Charles Koch since 2005. USU is among the Charles Koch Foundation's top-funded universities.
It begs the question: Why would Ohio politicians look to Utah professors, financed by a Kansas billionaire, for the data on Ohio's clean energy and efficiency efforts?
The Koch-funded Institute for Political Economy at USU has produced a series of reports that give politicians the bad data needed to attack clean energy. The Koch professors are USU, like the Suffolk professors before them, appear to be intentionally misleading. Foundations affiliated with Koch Industries have backed these Utah professors in identical attacks on renewable energy standards, in Kansas and North Carolina.
Disproved data aside, USU professor Randy Simmons hid his financial conflicts of interest in a national op-ed for Newsweek.
These aren't the only Koch-funded professors stepping up to the plate to bat against wind. Before Utah, it was the Koch-funded Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University. And recently, Kansas University Professor Art Hall was caught taking payments from Koch to study the Kansas renewable energy standard, not long before he told the Kansas legislature to erode the incentives. Hall's previous job: Koch Industries' chief economist.
Koch Industries' executives are pushing "fake it till you make it" into the unknown.
Why the Freeze Makes Zero Sense
It's not the affiliations that matter so much as the false data and backwards hype involved.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. wind energy trade association, has revealed basic flaws in all three of these Koch-funded professors' reports out of Utah State University. AWEA's Michael Goggin:
Instead of only going back to EIA’s 2013 renewable cost estimates like they did in their Kansas report, in their Ohio report they go back to 2008 cost data to develop their estimate of how the cost of wind energy compares against alternatives.
No explanation is provided for why they did not use EIA’s more recent 2015 and 2014 data, which show that wind energy imposes no net cost relative to conventional sources of energy even after removing the impact of federal incentives. Of course, the authors could have also used recent data from real-world market prices and found that wind energy provides significant net benefits for consumers, as we did above. Instead, using obsolete data allows them to miss how the cost of wind energy has fallen by more than half over the last five years, as documented by both government and private investor data.
Jobs, lower energy bills, less wasted energy...frozen by Senator Seitz
Samantha Williams at Natural Resources Defense Council surveys the data that Senator Seitz refuses to accept:
As of 2013, Ohio was home to over 400 advanced energy companies that employed over 25,000 Ohioans and was leading the country in the number of facilities manufacturing components for wind technology and second in the number of solar equipment providers. A report by the Pew Charitable trusts shows Ohio attracted $1.3 billion in private clean energy investment from 2009 to 2013. Similarly, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) reported that, just prior to the passage of the SB 310 clean energy freeze, Ohio's clean tech economy had grown to support 89,000 jobs.
Unfortunately, much of that hard-earned momentum was a casualty of the freeze as well as HB 483, which basically tripled setbacks for wind turbines and made future commercial-scale development unviable.The renewable sector is particularly lagging, in the E2 report showing a scant 1.5 percent job growth in Ohio far lower than the national wind and solar rate.
Pancake Politics: They Liked this Law in 2008
Sen. Seitz voted along with a large majority of Ohio lawmakers in 2008 to pass the clean energy law. Five years later, Seitz was comparing the clean energy law to "Joseph Stalin's five-year Plan."
Ohio is in the midst of a fossil-fueled flip-flop.
This week, Inside Climate News has published some new revelations about one of the world’s biggest oil companies: that scientists working for Exxon knew about climate change as early as 1977.
Exxon’s own scientists conducted an extensive research program on climate change and "The Greenhouse Effect", running complex CO2 monitoring experiments and publishing peer-reviewed papers, because the company was deeply interested in this emerging threat to its core business, oil, and ultimately the company's survival. There is now no doubt that Exxon has known about the science and the risks of global warming for decades.
The news will perhaps be of great interest to those lawyers who successfully prosecuted the tobacco industry, which hid its knowledge of the science around tobacco’s addiction, and the impact of second hand smoke.
Exxon Advertising Fully Contradicted Exxon Scientists
Because, despite having this breadth of knowledge within its walls, and for many years after these climate science programs were run at Exxon, the company has spent years and millings of dollars funding climate deniers and think tanks who attack the scientific consensus, spreading doubt and uncertainty. Greenpeace has collected data on Exxon's campaign of climate denial for decades. Our ExxonSecrets project and database now shows that has spent nearly $31 million since 1998 funding think tanks and campaigns against the climate science consensus and climate policy progress.
For decades, Mobil ran a weekly “advertorial” or "op-ad" on the opinion pages of the New York Times and other papers, ads that continued after Mobil merged with Exxon in 1999. The story of how Mobil managed to secure advertising space on the editorial page of the New York Times and why they did so is another story.
We at PolluterWatch have collected an archive of these ads from the 1970's to 2004. In light of the recent revelations about the company’s early understanding of the issue, they’re worth re-examining. The ads on global warming in particular set out the history of the companies’ campaign against both climate action and the science.
THE MOBIL ADS
In the lead up to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, Mobil, a prominent member of the Global Climate Coalition, was leading the charge on the “it’s not global” message calling for developing countries to be included in emissions reduction targets.
Mobil focused on all the arguments against action on climate change that we still hear today. It claimed that developing country emissions were not addressed (the “blame China” argument). It said the climate models can’t be trusted. It called for more research. And it questioned the veracity of climate science. This argument later became the mantra of Republicans and industry opponents of international climate action, turning into a “blame China” campaign that stalled international action for years.
THE EXXONMOBIL ADS
On December 2 1999, the first of the newly-merged ExxonMobil company ads appeared in the New York Times, announcing the merger.
And just one week later, on December 9, 1999, the merged ExxonMobil picked up the decades-long New York Times ad campaign with an ad titled: “Tomorrow’s energy needs”, emphasizing of course the plentiful global supply of fossil fuels, ExxonMobil’s preferred energy source. ExxonMobil is still running this argument today, using outdated, business as usual IEA scenarios to emphasize its point, and ignoring any of the IEA's “new policy” scenarios. Interestingly, the new revelations by Inside Climate News show that in the 1970s, Exxon was thinking well beyond oil for a spell, doing advanced research in solar power for example.
The Chairman and CEO of the merged giant ExxonMobil was Lee Raymond, who had worked for Exxon since the 1960s. Raymond in fact chaired the American Petroleum Institute’s climate change committee, and twice chaired the API itself. Raymond was a hardened climate science denier, and his views were strongly reflected in a new turn in the company’s ads. Whereas Mobil had called for more research, and put the blame on developing countries, ExxonMobil embraced those arguments, but turned to outright denial.
On March 16, 2000, ExxonMobil’s ads continued the onslaught against the Kyoto Protocol and climate science with “Do no harm” that argued a similar line to the “coal will solve poverty” pitch we hear from Peabody Energy today:
“…for most nations the Kyoto Protocol would require extensive diversion of human and financial resources away from more immediate and pressing needs in health care, education, infrastructure, and, yes, the environment—all critical to the well-being of future generations.”
ExxonMobil went on to advocate a “strong focus on scientific understanding” around climate change and proposed policies “that have the potential to make significant longer-term reductions in emissions, if they are needed.”
The ad finished with this: “Although it is hard to predict what the weather is going to be this weekend, we know with certainty that climate change policies, unless properly formulated, will restrict life itself.”
A week later, on March 23, 2000, ExxonMobil’s ad, “Unsettled science” focused on a 1996 study on temperature and climate in the Sargasso sea. At the company AGM in May that year Lee Raymond gave a presentation arguing the study showed how past temperatures appeared warmer than today, long before people began burning fossil fuels.
"So the issue isn't only: is the earth warming, but why is it warming," Raymond told the meeting.
In a letter in response to ExxonMobil’s use of his work, the author of the study, Dr Lloyd Keigwin, wrote:
"I believe ExxonMobil has been misleading in its use of the Sargasso Sea data. There's really no way these results bear on the question of human induced climate warming…I think the sad thing is the a company with the resources of ExxonMobil is exploiting the data for political purposes."
ExxonMobil then moved to a touch of greenwashing, a prominent feature of many of its Op Ads. In “The Promise of Technology” the company emphasized its push to explore new technology, especially it project on hydrogen/petroleum cars, research that kept a focus on cars at least in part powered by Exxon’s climate-changing product, which hasn’t produced any results, and which has since been surpassed by the development of electric cars. Yet it still managed to keep a question mark over the science of climate change with this line: “Climate change may pose legitimate long term risks.”
October 28, 2000 – ExxonMobil launched an attack on the precautionary principle with “Unbalanced caution”.
In November 2000, Republican George W Bush won the US elections. Three days before his inauguration, in January 2001 Exxon's “An Energy Policy for the New Administration,” urged caution on energy issues, arguing:
“Regarding climate change policy, the unrealistic and economically damaging Kyoto process needs to be rethought....Alternative energy sources such as solar or wind will not become significant until well after 2020.”
(Note: in 2014, renewable sources of energy accounted for about 10% of total U.S. energy consumption and 13% of electricity generation.1 Globally, in 2013 renewables accounted for almost 22% of global electricity generation, a 5% increase from 2012, according to the IEA).
On 28 March, 2001, EPA head Christine Tod Whitman announced the US would not implement the Kyoto Protocol. Just over a week later, on April 10, 2001 ExxonMobil’s ad lauded the decision: Moving Past Kyoto… slammed the Protocol, saying it was “too much too soon,” “tried to force technological change”, “failed to include developing countries” and was “fatally politicized.”
The ad’s companion the following week “…to a sounder climate policy” called for more research on climate change, an argument became the central plank of the Bush administration’s climate change policy.
In June 2001, President Bush gave his famous Rose Garden speech on climate change, saying, in very similar words to Exxon’s, that Kyoto was “fatally flawed in fundamental ways” and then set out the same argument as Exxon – and Mobil – had been running since the mid-90’s: that big developing countries such as China and India were not part of Kyoto therefore it wouldn’t work. This remains the mantra of recalcitrant developed country nations today.
In August 2001, Exxon’s ad “Sifting and winnowing”, while not directly mentioning climate change, argued that technological advances in energy were not progressing fast, and that the government should not give subsidies to new technologies – they had to stand on their own two feet.
“..it’s important that business and government leaders not pretend that we know enough to force our energy future to conform to some predetermined vision. Nor should some sources be subsidized, thereby masking their true costs and true consumer preferences.”
(Today, the fossil fuel industry receives around $37.5 billion a year in subsidies from the US Government).
In October 2002, Exxon was still questioning the science. It's op-ad “Managing Greenhouse Gas Emissions” starts with that very question:
“It is our view that better scientific understanding of climate change, human influence on it, and the associated risks and possible consequences are needed.”
While the ad went on to emphasize what the company was doing about energy efficiency, and reluctantly accepted the problems with climate change:
“Doing nothing is neither prudent nor responsible, but the same may be said of rash action.”
January 2004: “Directions for Climate Research” Here, ExxonMobil outlines areas where it deemed more research was necessary, such as “natural climate variability, ocean currents and heat transfer, the hydrological cycle, and the ability of climate models to predict changes on a regional and local scale.”
January 2004: The “Weather and climate” ad correctly stated that weather and climate are different, but again, the ad emphasizes the range of uncertainties about climate change. The list is a litany of climate denier arguments at the time (many of which are still used today), including the influence of the sun (led by the Smithsonian Institute’s "Willie" Wei Hock Soon, whose work was being funded by ExxonMobil at the time).
“In the face of natural variability and complexity, the consequences of change in any single factor, for example greenhouse gas emissions, cannot readily be isolated, and prediction becomes difficult... Scientific uncertainties continue to limit our ability to make objective, quantitative determinations regarding the human role in recent climate change, or the degree and consequence of future change.”
We don’t have any more of these ads after 2004. But they continue today.
In 2005, Lee Raymond retired as CEO and Chairman of ExxonMobil. During his time in this role, the company had funded climate denying think tanks to the tune of $18,593,923, with the highest year of giving that year, in 2005, at $3.47 million. Science writer Chris Mooney outlined some of that funding in Mother Jones.
The following year, with new CEO Rex Tillerson at the helm, ExxonMobil began dropping its funding of some of these groups, saying in its May 2008 annual report that it was would no longer fund groups “whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner."
Indeed it did drop some of that funding, and it fell back to around $800,000 in 2013, but rose again to $1.8m in 2014, after a $1m grant to the Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
ExxonMobil’s paying of climate denial campaigns may have waned since Raymond’s term, but Tillerson is still campaigning against the solutions. At the company’s AGM in May 2015, he repeated his view that renewables are not economic, saying "we choose not to lose money on purpose."
But he also repeated the same mantras seen over the decades: that the models weren’t very good, and that it would be difficult for the world to meet aggressive emission reduction targets. Technology, he said, can help deal with rising sea levels or changing weather patterns "that may or may not be induced by climate change."
Opposing Action on Climate Change
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As the nation warily watches every Republican presidential candidate kiss the ring of billionaire donor Charles Koch for a shot at his network's $300,000,000 pool of presidential cash, Charles Koch did something unusual. Last week's USA Today interview with Charles Koch noted his shifting opinion on what he calls climate change "hysteria:"
For the record, Koch says this of climate change: "You can plausibly say that CO2 has contributed" to the planet's warming, but he sees "no evidence" to support "this theory that it's going to be catastrophic."
Wait...Charles Koch just accepted that the planet is warming? Hold your applause. Clearly, Mr. Koch still denies that there's a problem - which means he's missing the entire point of discussing climate change. But any movement from Charles on the 5 Stages of Climate Denial--from #1 down to #3--is a big deal. This is the same guy who has poured $80 million into organizations that have misrepresented climate change science to the public and advocated against any viable solutions to the problem.
Koch's Right-Hand-Man: "Charles is ahead of me on this."
Last June, leaked recordings surfaced from Koch's regular meeting of millionaires and billionaires who are coordinating $889 million in spending around the 2016 election. Charles's Koch top strategist Richard Fink indicated that we may see a shift in Koch's rhetoric on climate change. Fink, aka "Charles Koch's Brain," told attending prospective donors what they wanted to hear: donate to us, and we'll fight the crazy commie hippies and their pesky science. From the Undercurrent:
“The environmental movement. Occupy Wall Street. These kids are searching for meaning. They're protesting the 1 percent. They are the 1 percent, but they're protesting the 1 percent. The environmental movement and climate change. It's not about climate change. I studied climate change for six years. I can't figure it out, quite frankly. Charles is ahead of me on this. I'm not a climatologist, but I'm not completely stupid. I can tell you I meet with people, particularly in California, that are convinced the world is going to burn up in you know, a year or two. They don't know the answer -- they don't even know the question, because it's not about climate change. It's about a cause. It gives their life meaning.”
For context, you should probably know that Fink told the room's billionaires that the minimum wage would lead to fascism, comparing today's low-income Americans to pre-Nazi Germany citizenry. Not exactly a room full of academics. And since one of the people that Mr. Fink 'meets with' was a scientist that he funded to study global temperature data, you have to wonder how much experience Rich Fink has with willful ignorance.
When Charles Koch Accidentally Proved Global Warming
Charles Koch cannot deny is that he's seen the global temperature record data. In 2011, through the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF), CKF president Richard Fink funded a high-profile study on global surface temperature data. This dataset, which was an unnecessarily redundant reproduction of several other similar studies, was constructed by a scientist who at the time was a climate change denier.
BEST data compared with previous reconstructions of global surface temperature data.
Dr. Richard Muller's Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) made headlines when he announced his acceptance of what climate scientists had already been saying for over 15 years--yes, people are responsible for unnatural climate variability that scientists have documented--and surprised the country by becoming an advocate for solutions to global warming.
This put Mr. Koch in an awkward spot. Koch's $150,000 grant to Dr. Muller made him the project's top single donor, and Muller was a celebrated skeptic before his dramatic change-of-heart.
Add to that Mr. Koch's background in science--a chemical engineering degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For such an educated, celebrated albeit controversial high-society businessman, the refusal to acknowledge science that is understood by middle schoolers guaranteed to undermine the sensible reputation that Koch Industries has spent a lot of money to put out there.
But Charles gets no credit here. Dumping almost $80 million into organizations that have attacked the scientists who study climate change and interfered with virtually every proposed policy and regulation to solve global warming isn't being a science-savy CEO. It's being a denier, and especially in the context of a self-serving petrochemical billionaire, that's pretty offensive to the rest of us.
We define climate change denial as "anyone who is obstructing, delaying or trying to derail policy steps that are in line with the scientific consensus that says we need to take rapid steps to decarbonize the economy." Mr. Koch remains a staunch denier in that regard.
Why focus on Charles Koch and David Koch? Many large foundations associated with corporate fortunes are active in financing climate denial groups - Anschutz, Bradley, Coors, DeVos, Dunn, Howard, Pope, Scaife, Searle, and Seid, to name a few. Unlike Koch, most of those fortunes did not come from owning a corporation like Koch Industries, historically rooted in fossil fuel operations. And none come as close as the Kochs in terms of decades-long focus on actively building a political influence network and coordinating other wealthy executives, corporations and families to dump amounts money into politics that not even the Koch brothers could afford.
Check out Greenpeace.org for more research on the Koch brothers crusade against climate science.