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Secretive Energy Industry Giant Funding State-Based Groups Denying Climate Change

The drumbeat of research papers, talking heads and issue briefs attacking the scientific consensus around climate change has been carefully bankrolled by the oil and gas industry.  This includes Koch Industries, the energy industry giant and second-largest privately held corporation in the country, which is a key funder of a vast network of right-wing groups -- including many focused on state policy -- who have promoted climate change denial, according to a recent report released by Greenpeace.  Foundations controlled by Koch Industries even outspent industry titans like ExxonMobil in giving millions to organizations and front groups that routinely deny climate change and work to obstruct the regulation of carbon emissions.

Charles and David Koch, brothers tied for the rank of 9th richest American, have for decades been major funders of the national right-wing movement.  Koch Industries and its subsidiaries, the vast majority of whose assets are controlled by the Koch brothers, encompasses the operation of oil systems, pipelines and refineries, coal supply and trading, and oil and gas exploration efforts.

According to the Greenpeace report, which analyzed the finances of various Koch-related foundations, the Koch brothers funneled $24.9 million from the years 2005-2008 to research organizations involved in discrediting the findings of climate science.  This includes the funding of many state-level pro-business nonprofit and policy organizations who have promoted climate denial:

  • $360,000 to the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, a San Francisco-based group active in state policy that funded a film attacking Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth"
  • $283,125 to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which has funded reports questioning the severity of climate change and warning of the damage that regulation might cause to Texas' state economy
  • $85,000 to the Independence Institute, a right-wing/libertarian Colorado organization which has hosted events mocking "environmental hysteria and the cult of climate change"
  • $70,000 to the Goldwater Institute, which has fought passage of renewable energy standards in the state of Arizona
  • $60,000 to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the large conservative policy outfit in Michigan which routinely spreads climate change myths
  • $30,000 to the State Policy Network, a corporate-funded organization which has participated in spreading the work of climate change deniers at the state level
  • $10,000 to the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based conservative think tank focused on state and local issues that has published materials promoting climate change denial

And the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has received $75,000 in the last couple of years, part of over $400,000 it received from the Koch network of sources in the last decade.  ALEC's work on behalf of the energy industry has included placing energy industry executives on its natural resources task force, writing model legislation that would obstruct attempts to limit carbon emissions, and approvingly citing the work of climate change deniers in its publications.

Other conservative foundations involved in denying climate change who received significant funding from the Koch foundations include the Heritage Foundation ($1.6 million from 2005-2008), the Cato Institute ($1.0 million), the Manhattan Institute ($800,000), the Washington Legal Foundation ($655,000), the Federalist Society ($542,000), and the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment ($365,000).  In total, the report reveals that over the past 13 years, Koch-associated foundations have contributed an astonishing $48 million in grants to right-wing groups who have worked to discredit the science of climate change.

The worrying implications of this well-funded effort to promote scientific denialism are becoming clearer as recent polls have shown a significant drop in the percentage of Americans who are aware of the threat of global warming.

Koch Industries has responded to the Greenpeace report by claiming that they believe "the political response to climate issues should be based on sound science" and asserting that they've simply "strived to encourage an intellectually honest debate on the scientific basis for claims of harm from greenhouse gases."  But by funding a multi-million dollar national network of groups with a common focus of discrediting the widely accepted scientific consensus on climate change (including many with a specific focus on the fight in the states), it is clear that Koch's real goal is to promote myths and misinformation in order to boost their own profits at the expense of both our nation's global economic competitiveness and our planet's environmental health.

Resources:
Greenpeace - Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine
Greenpeace - American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group
Green Living Ideas - Powerful Energy Lobbying Group ALEC Writing Anti-Climate Legislation in 16 States
Natural Resources Defense Council - Fight Clean Energy Smears: Who's Behind The Smears
Progressive States Network - 1,000+ Legislators Sign Historic Climate Change Letter
Progressive States Network - Eye on the Right: Businesses Split over Climate Change