climate change

New Methane Rules Underestimate the Climate Threat from Oil and Gas

  • Posted on: 19 August 2015
  • By: JesseColeman

As promised earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency has released methane pollution standards for the oil and gas industry. While regulation of methane is a necessity, these rules are much too weak to accomplish the administration’s goals of meaningful greenhouse gas reduction. Here is why:

Methane Must Be Regulated, But New Rules Underestimate Its Power

Methane is 86 to 105 times as powerful as carbon dioxide at disrupting the climate over a 20-year period. The EPA and many news organizations misreport the real power of methane by using old science since updated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Obama’s new rules calculate that methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeline. However, this ignores the fact that methane is most potent when it is first released. Scientists say that methane could push the climate over a “tipping point” in the next 18-25 years, causing runaway global warming, and making a 100-year timeline obsolete. In order to take the threat from methane seriously, we must join the IPCC and assess methane’s threat on a time scale that makes sense in the context of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Craig Sautner lights a plastic jug of water from his well on fire. Methane from nearby hydraulic fracturing natural gas drilling has contaminated his water supply.

Craig Sautner lights a plastic jug of water from his well on fire. Methane from nearby hydraulic fracturing natural gas drilling has contaminated his water supply.

Oil and Gas Industry—Especially Fracking—Is the Largest Industrial Methane Polluter

It is undisputed that the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial emitter of methane. A recent study of the major gas producing shales found that the Barnett Shale around Dallas was leaking the equivalent of 16 coal plants worth of greenhouse gases every year. Similar studies from Colorado found that highly fracked areas leaked more than 19 tons of methane an hour.

But we don’t actually know how much the oil and gas industry is emitting. The Obama administration’s new rules are aimed at reducing methane between 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels. Unfortunately, no one really knows how much methane the oil and gas industry pumped into the atmosphere in 2005. The EPA figures that the administration’s rules rely on are based on numbers self reported by the industry. These numbers are almost certainly a fraction of actual total methane emissions. Recent studies that use planes to determine methane emissions from oil and gas operations have found much higher rates of pollution than the industry or the EPA will currently admit. For example, a study released this August found that natural gas gathering facilities, which collect methane from fracked wells, lose about 100 billion cubic feet of gas every year—eight times more than the EPA estimates. A Stanford report concluded that there is already about 50 percent more methane in the atmosphere than previously estimated by the EPA. The New York Times recently reported that the creator of the technology commonly used to measure methane emissions by the oil and gas industry thinks his invention is not accurate the way the industry and some research groups use it, and is missing a huge portion of the pollution actually released by the industry.

These Rules Won’t Cut Enough Methane

These regulations are based on old science that misrepresents the impact of methane on the climate. The aim of the new rules is to reduce methane emissions 40 to 45 percent of an imaginary number—an underestimation of 2005 emissions. On top of that, they are only aimed at new sources, ignoring the nearly one million fracked wells and associated infrastructure that already exist in the United States. Real and meaningful reductions in methane must be made to reach the president’s global warming goals, and they have to be better than these.

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Exxon knew about climate change threat since 1981: Exxon scientists tells all

  • Posted on: 8 July 2015
  • By: JesseColeman

Turns out ExxonMobil, one of the world’s worst climate polluters, has known about the dangers of climate change since 1981. Yet the oil giant continues to be a major funder of climate change denial today. The new evidence comes from reports and emails written by Lenny Bernstein, ExxonMobil’s top climate scientist, who worked for Exxon for 30 years. The documents, which speak directly about the dangers of global warming from CO2 emissions were released by The Union of Concerned Scientists, in a report called “The Climate Deception Dossier." Exxon has spent well over $30 million attacking climate change science since Bernstein’s first warning. As Suzanne Goldenberg wrote in the Guardian:

Exxon, unlike other companies and the public at large in the early 1980s, was already aware of climate change – and the prospect of regulations to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, according to Bernstein’s account. National Academy of Science describing a consensus on climate change from the 1970s.

While we have known that Exxon was responsible for opposing climate change solutions and funding climate denial, now we know they knew the truth 27 years ago. Much like big tobacco did with the link between cigarettes and cancer, Exxon leadership has denied the harm the company has done long after the scientific evidence was clear. Incredibly, Exxon continues to play down their roll in climate change denial. In an interview with the Guardian, Exxon Spokesperson Richard Keil:

“rejected the idea that Exxon had funded groups promoting climate denial. “I am here to talk to you about the present,” he said. “We have been factoring the likelihood of some kind of carbon tax into our business planning since 2007. We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.”

Earlier this year, Greenpeace revealed that Exxon, along with other fossil fuel corporations like Southern Company, funded a notorious climate change denier named Willie Soon. In fact Exxon continued to fund Soon’s roundly debunked research well after the company promised Congress they would stop funding confusion on climate change in 2007. Exxon spent over $1 million on climate denial groups in 2014 alone.  

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Senator Inhofe gloats over Google funding, raises money off protests

  • Posted on: 17 July 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

James Inhofe, the Senator from Oklahoma, is one of the most outspoken and bombastic deniers of climate change and attackers of science, bar none. He tried to criminally investigate 17 climate scientists whose emails were hacked and leaked. He "wrote" a "book" called The Greatest Hoax, about climate change. He compares the EPA to the Gestapo. He also receives a huge percentage of his campaign money from the fossil fuel sector. Most of the rest comes from arms manufacturers. James Inhofe is exactly the kind of politician that has stopped any meaningful action of climate change in the United States.

And Google just threw him a fundraiser at their Washington DC Lobbying Headquarters.

Google has made lots of promises along their rise to global dominance of the internet. One of them is their motto "don't be evil." Another is to do their part to head off climate change. To that end, Google has invested in data centers powered by renewable energy and publicly promoted solutions to global warming.  Google's Executive Chairman has made strong statements against climate change science deniers, saying “You can hold back knowledge. You cannot prevent it from spreading. You can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you'll be seen as a liar.”

That's why more than 12,000 people signed a petition asking Google not to fund Senator Inhofe. And when Google decided to hold the fundraiser anyway, people gathered outside of Google's DC office. Activists even made it in to Google's office, to ask Google employees their thoughts on funding such an outspoken enemy of the environment.

Inhofe's response?

To fund raise off "upsetting the environmentalists" and Google's support. See Senator Inhofe's gloating email:

This is why we can't let corporations like Google and the enormous wealth that they bring with them to continue to support politicians like Inhofe. Sign this petition and help stop Inhofe's climate change lies.

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The Keystone XL Coverup: The State Department's Attempt to Hide Oil Industry Connections

  • Posted on: 21 March 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

Mother Jones Magazine has uncovered a new twist in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. As it turns out the authors who drafted the environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline worked for TransCanada, Koch Industries, Shell Oil, and other oil corporations that stand to benefit from building the Keystone XL. Not only did the State Department know about these conflicts of interest, they redacted this information from public filings in attempt to conceal the truth.

For background, the Keystone XL is a proposed oil pipeline that would ship sour crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast of Texas. The oil would then be refined and shipped abroad.

In order to build the pipeline, Transcanada, the company who proposed Keystone XL, must get the OK from the State Department. The State Department bases its decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline on an environmental review, conducted by a third party group overseen by the State Department and paid for by Transcanada.

This review, called the "draft supplemental environmental impact statement" was released earlier this month.  It has been widely criticized as downplaying the impact that building Keystone XL will have on the climate, and all but paving the way for approval for the project.

The review was conducted by a company called Environmental Resources Management (ERM). When ERM released its review of Keystone, it also released a 55 page filing claiming that there was no conflicts of interest in writing the report. However, the State Department redacted information from this filing, including the biographies of key experts involved in writing the report.

According to Mother Jones, those redactions were meant to keep ties between the report authors and Transanada a secret from the public. Here is what the State Department was covering up:

  • ERM's second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands.
  • Another ERM employee who contributed to State's Keystone report—and whose prior work history was also redacted—previously worked for Shell Oil;
  • A third worked as a consultant for Koch Gateway Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Shell and Koch* have a significant financial interest in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. ERM itself has worked for Chevron, which has invested in Canadian tar sands extraction, according to its website.

However, this is not the first time that the State Department has been criticized for conflicts of interests involving TransCanada and Keystone XL.

From Mother Jones:

In October 2011, Obama's reelection campaign hired Broderick Johnson, who had previously lobbied in favor of Keystone, as a senior adviser. Emails obtained by Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposes the Keystone pipeline, revealed a cozy relationship between TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott and Marja Verloop, an official at the US Embassy in Canada whose portfolio covers the Keystone project. Before he lobbied for TransCanada, Elliott worked as deputy campaign manager on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. Clinton served as secretary of state until recently.

 

The question is, how can the State Department get away with routinely ignoring or burying connections between the oil industry and regulators responsible for Keystone XL?

 

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Climate Science Denier Chris Stewart now Head of Congressional Committee on Climate Science

  • Posted on: 20 March 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

Chris Stewart, climate change science denier

 

Chris Stewart, a republican from Utah, was recently appointed Chair of the House subcommittee on Environment.

 

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.

 

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Koch Brothers Front Groups Line Up in Defense of ExxonMobil Climate Change Denial

  • Posted on: 21 June 2016
  • By: Connor Gibson

The Kochs have spent over $88 million in *traceable* funding to groups attacking climate change science, policy and regulation. Of that total, $21 million went to groups that recently bought a full page New York Times advertisement defending ExxonMobil from government investigations into its systematic misrepresentation of climate science.

If you're an executive at a big oil company watching as ExxonMobil is finally exposed for studying climate change, covering up the science and spreading misinformation, you're probably worried now that state attorneys general are knocking on Exxon's door.

Charles and David Koch must be worried, anyway. Their foundations gave more than $21 million to the people and groups that signed a recent, full page New York Times advertisement that defends ExxonMobil's longstanding efforts to ruin the public's understanding of climate change science.

Here are the numbers:

Koch money to climate deniers signing 2016 CEI ad in NY Times

For comparison, Exxon itself spent half as much on the same people and groups, $10.1 million; money that the front groups spent on tactics like ... a $100,000-or-so full page ad buy in the New York Times! (More info at Climate Investigations Center from my former colleague, Kert Davies.)

The ringleader group behind the letter, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), is of particular interest. Exxon dumped CEI for its unsupportable climate stance back in 2006, a crushing blow for the aggressive beltway front group that continued to humiliate CEI staff for years.

But it appears that CEI is loyal to the cause of climate denial, despite being abandoned by Exxon a decade ago. Other financiers, like the Koch family and several coal and oil companies may explain why the denial campaign was sustained.

Traceable funds only represent a portion of the Koch family’s contributions to CEI. At CEI’s annual fundraising events, Koch Industries’ lobbying subsidiary has been listed as a sponsor. Full-disclosure tax filings published by PR Watch revealed that Koch Industries directly paid Americans for Prosperity, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and other organizations.

PR Watch discovered another revelation in the full-disclosure tax documents that were leaked. Apparently, David Koch likes to cut CEI $100,000 checks straight from his own coffers. David Koch’s money was not sent through his nonprofit foundation, which would have had to report the grants to CEI.

This incomplete patchwork of previously-undisclosed funds from Koch Industries and David Koch adds $3,124,834 to the accounting on groups that co-signed the CEI ad. This raises the question: who else is just cutting a direct check to the climate deniers?

And then there’s the "Dark Money ATM" sister groups, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. The DonorsTrust franchise is run by CEI’s former president, Lawson Bader, who helps donors -- including Koch -- anonymize tens of millions of dollars that go to dozens of front groups each year. DonorsTrust & Capital Fund have funneled millions of dark money dollars to CEI.

But that's still not the end of the financial trail. Other mechanisms used by Charles Koch and his army of donor friends include Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a dark money umbrella group that has hidden hundreds of millions of dollars in politically-charged cash, shuffled between various trusts, nonprofits, and limited liability corporations.

For the deep history, check out Kert Davies' post for the Climate Investigations Center, which spurred my own interest in the sponsors of the recent New York Times ad. Kert details the crucial history of some of the letter’s signatories, the role they have served in the climate denial machine over the years and the exact documents that inform his understanding.

I have reproduced Kert’s ExxonSecrets map (below) of the players involved, as it helps show how a small group of people funded by a few oil and coal companies can cast a shadow that is deceptively deep. The tobacco industry crafted this deceptive model, and fossil fuel companies have innovated it since. It helps that the same people doing tobacco science denial moved on to climate science denial.

One of those tobacco denial alumni, lawyer Steve Milloy, himself an aggressive defender of ExxonMobil, knows that a small group of people can have an outsized impact with enough funding -- even in the face of 97-99 percent of the world’s climate scientists. Milloy once said, “There’s really only about 25 of us doing this. A core group of skeptics. It’s a ragtag bunch, very Continental Army.”

This indicates that folks like Milloy aren’t just deceiving the public, but themselves. If I was taking Charles Koch’s money to attack science, I too would probably have to constantly remind myself of my American heroics.

Mr. Koch is as awkward as ever in his half-hearted attempts to understand climate change science (you'd think a MIT alumnus would get it), he has been wary of climate laws and regulations for a long time.

That's probably why he has rained cash on the organizations that stage the fight, groups that have given room for a top U.S. CEO, with a background in chemical engineering, to demonstrate such scientific ignorance. Since 1997, the Kochs have spent more than $88 million in *traceable* dollars into the network of groups that attack climate science, the scientists doing the research, the potential policy solutions and the champions of those policies.

ExxonSecrets Map of the Players:

ExxonSecrets map of climate deniers signing CEI ad in NY Times 2016

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ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson has a Climate Science Problem (VIDEO)

  • Posted on: 4 December 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson

The third and final meeting of the year for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) just wrapped up in Scottsdale, Arizona, last week.

On the day of ALEC's board meeting, Greenpeace attempted to ask ALEC's board of directors and executives about climate change science. ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson was not keen on speaking to us.

ALEC has a long history of denying climate change. It continues to take payments from fossil fuel companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and Peabody Energy. It was part of the American Petroleum Institute's leaked plan to manipulate the public's trust in climate scientists, spelled out in an eerie memo from 1998.

The group even hosts privately-funded events where ALEC legislators are taught how to deny climate change science by public relations consultants who have ties to fossil fuel companies.

As for Lisa Nelson, she is on the board of a Libertarian think tank that promotes solutions to climate change. The Niskanen Center was named after the late co-founder of Charles Koch's Cato Institute, whose recent death led to an attempted coup of the organization by the Koch brothers. Some of Niskanen's staff are former Cato executives, who now support a carbon tax, perhaps the most viable policy solution to global warming. This has caused a rift between the Libertarian purists and the Koch network's hacks-for-hire, like Pat Michaels, the disgraced climatologist at Cato.

Since Ms. Nelson  has taken the helm of ALEC, she has lost over a dozen corporate members. Some of those companies--Google, SAP, and Shell--even condemned ALEC specifically for peddling doubt over climate change in their statements explaining why they have abandoned the lobbying group.

[UPDATE: Since publishing, ALEC was abandoned by American Electric Power (AEP), a major U.S. coal-burning utility that has even lent staff to help govern ALEC's anti-environment task force. AEP states that ALEC's interference with the US Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan is the reason they are leaving. AEP remains a member of the utility trade group, the Edison Electric Institute, itself a member of ALEC.]

Ms. Nelson has inherited a big problem. After decades of helping companies lie to legislators about climate change, the companies themselves and many of their front groups will no longer deny that humans are responsible for unnatural climate variability. But ALEC legislators have not received the memo, and if you ask them about climate change, they sound woefully uninformed. Almost as if they were paid to.

More to come on that.

 

Get Rich or Lie Tryin': Climate Hustler Marc Morano

  • Posted on: 14 November 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson

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.

Investigators at DeSmog have more on Marc Morano and his upcoming movie, Climate Hustle.

 

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Dirty Corporations Pay Big to Host ALEC Legislators in San Diego

  • Posted on: 24 July 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson
-- By Nick Surgey of The Center for Media and Democracy and Connor Gibson of Greenpeace
 
At the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) 2015 annual meeting in San Diego, California, dirty energy companies and their supporters--including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Duke Energy--continue to dominate the funding of activities, according to a list of conference sponsors obtained jointly by the Center for Media and Democracy and Greenpeace.
 
 
At the top of the agenda, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke to ALEC delegates over breakfast on Thursday. Walker is now campaigning on a promise to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if elected President in 2016, a plan which was earlier debated by ALEC at its December 2014 conference and is in line with ALEC’s long-term legislative agenda.
 
At ALEC conferences and meetings, rhetoric against the EPA--and in particular the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution--is frequently extreme.
 
ALEC sessions have repeatedly featured overt denial of climate change science. During recent ALEC conferences, legislators have been called upon to engage in “guerrilla warfare” against the EPA and at another session instructed to bring about a “political tsunami” to block pollution controls.
 
After Google chairman Eric Schmidt accused ALEC of "literally lying" about climate change on NPR in September 2014, a fleet of companies ditched ALEC, from oil giants like BP and Occidental Petroleum to software and tech firms like Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, and SAP--the company which chaired ALEC's corporate board.
 

Opposing Action on Climate Change

 

On the agenda during the San Diego closed-door meeting of the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force are numerous new attempts to undermine efforts to tackle climate change.
 
The proposed ALEC model "Environmental Impact Litigation Act," based on a law passed in North Dakota in 2015, would allow coal, oil, and gas companies to pay into a fund for the state to sue against a number of key federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act. This law, if passed, could be used to allow coal companies to fund state lawsuits against the Clean Power Plan.
 
Of the 54 identified corporate sponsors, twenty-two are energy related firms, their front groups, or firms representing energy interests. Most notable among the sponsors is ExxonMobil, which just last week told the Guardian that it isn't sponsoring climate change denial groups, including ALEC specifically. ExxonMobil is among the top sponsors of ALEC's 2015 annual meeting, and Exxon's Cynthia Bergman remains on ALEC's corporate board.
 
Below are financial underwriters of ALEC’s meeting, taking place at one of the largest resorts on the West Coast, along with the rates from another document obtained by CMD, ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.
 
The corporations and amounts listed here are just part of the funding picture for ALEC
 
These amounts do not include other money corporations pay ALEC in membership fees, or additional fees to participate on ALEC task forces, for which lobbyists receive a seat and a vote alongside legislators in setting the ALEC agenda. It also does not include money spent by corporate lobbyists at special parties for lawmakers or state delegations at some of the most expensive restaurants in San Diego, nor money spent by some of the corporations to fund the trips for state lawmakers to San Diego for what ALEC has dubbed “scholarships.”
 
 

ALEC's 2015 Annual Meeting Sponsors

 
Dirty energy interests & front groups in bold
 
*Asterisks indicate membership on ALEC’s corporate board of directors
 
 

President's Level - $100,000

 
Reynolds American Inc (RAI--tobacco company)
 

Chair's Level - $50,000

 
American Electric Power (AEP)
AT&T*
Balanced Energy for Texas
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)
Cigar Association of America
An Inquiry into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States* (new book by Travis Brown & ALEC board member Stephen Moore, ALEC advisor Art Laffer, and Missouri political financier Rex Sinquefield)
DentaQuest
Luminant (subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings)*
PhRMA*
State Policy Network (SPN)
Citizens for Self-Governance
 

Vice Chair's Level - $20,000

 
Altria (Phillip Morris tobacco parent company)*
American Bail Coalition*
Diageo*
Encore Capital Group (subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings)*
ExxonMobil*
Guarantee Trust Life (GTL)*
Collaborative for Student Success
Texas Automobile Dealers Association (TADA)
Takeda
UPS*
 

Director's Level - $10,000

 
Astellas Pharma
Breitling Energy
CenterPoint Energy
Chevron
Crown Packaging
Duke Energy
Excelsior College
K12*
Oncor (subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings)*
Pfizer
Ryan (tax services company)
Time Warner Cable
 

Trustee's Level - $5,000

 
Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR)
Capelo Law Firm
Devon Energy
FedEx
The Graydon Group LLC
Bright House Media Strategies
Piedmont Natural Gas
Renovate America
Sunovion Pharmaceuticals
Tenaska Capital Management
Texas Alliance of Energy Producers
Texas Cable Association
Texas Medical Association
Texas Association of Builders
Texas Business Roundtable
Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA)
Texans for Lawsuit Reform
The Schlueter Group
Texas Strategy Group
Texas Star Alliance Energy Solutions
 
For the full page of corporate logos sponsoring the ALEC conference see here.
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Charles Koch: CO2 Causes Climate Change...and I Don't Care

  • Posted on: 30 April 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson

Charles Koch, chosing Tobasco over Sriracha at the Koch Industries cafeteria.
Photo: USA Today

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.

The Koch brothers continue to finance campaigns to make Americans doubt the seriousness of global warming, increasingly hiding money through nonprofits like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

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.

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