Koch Industries' Extensive Funding of Climate Denial Industry Unmasked

Mon, 2010-03-29 22:20Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Koch Industries' Extensive Funding of Climate Denial Industry Unmasked

Koch Industries has “become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition,” spending over $48.5 million since 1997 to fund the climate denial machine, according to an extensive report today by Greenpeace. 

The Greenpeace report reveals how Koch Industries and the foundations under its control spent far more than even ExxonMobil in recent years to fund industry front groups opposed to clean energy and climate policies.  Koch spent over half the total amount -nearly $25 million - funding climate denier groups from 2005 to 2008, a period in which Exxon only spent $8.9 million.

Greenpeace’s attempt to lift the veil of secrecy inherent to a private company like Koch Industries is no easy task.  Because it remains privately owned, Koch faces few of the disclosure requirements designed to increase transparency among publicly-traded companies.

That intentional secrecy allows Koch Industries, the second-largest privately-held company in the United States, to fly largely below the public’s radar.  Few Americans have likely heard of Koch, even though it operates crude oil refineries and pipelines across North America and owns such well-known consumer brands as Dixie cups, Brawny and Quilted Northern paper products, Stainmaster carpet, CoolMax and Lycra.

The company’s founder, Fred Koch, who once earned $5 million building oil refineries in the Soviet Union during Joseph Stalin’s reign, was a co-founder of the libertarian John Birch Society.   Charles G. and David H. Koch, two of Fred’s four sons, each now own 42% of the company’s stock.  According to 2009 Forbes rankings, the Koch brothers are tied for the 19th richest person in the world, and for ninth richest American, each worth between $14 and $16 billion, more than George Soros or the founders of Google.

The Koch brothers use three foundations to spread Koch Industries’ influence, including support for roughly 40 organizations that doubt or downplay climate change or otherwise oppose policy solutions to build a clean energy future.  Greenpeace also notes that Koch Industries has been the largest oil and gas industry contributor to electoral campaigns since the 2006 election cycle, and its done its fair share of lobbying as well.  During the 2008 elections, Koch Industries contributed over $1.8 million, 88% to Republican candidates. Koch’s political action committee (PAC) also spent more than $2.5 million on contributions to federal candidates for that period, more than any other oil-and-gas sector PAC.

Koch Industries has bankrolled Americans for Prosperity to the tune of over $5 million since 2005.  AFP – known primarily for its role in organizing the tea party movement in the U.S. – brought notorious climate denier Lord Christopher Monckton to the Copenhagen climate summit as its guest speaker.  Despite Lord Monckton’s reprehensible behavior in Copenhagen – where he repeatedly compared college students advocating for a clean energy future to “Hitler Youth” and “Nazis” – Americans for Prosperity continues to host Monckton at its events in the United States, including a recent appearance in Wisconsin

While in Wisconsin on AFP’s dime, Monckton booked a side gig at a GOP fundraiser where he described President Barack Obama as a “monster.”  I wonder if David Koch – the second richest man in New York behind Michael Bloomberg - is even aware that Koch’s funding of AFP is in part providing support for Monckton to run around the world labeling American college students “Hitler Youth” and calling the President of the United States a “monster”?

Koch was also one of the funders of the 2007 polar bear junk science “study” authored by prominent climate deniers (including Sallie Baliunas, David Legates and Tim Ball) that claimed to prove that polar bear populations were not affected by anthropogenic climate disruption in the Arctic.  Dr. Willie Soon, one of the non-peer-reviewed paper’s authors, disclosed in the acknowledgements section that he had received direct corporate funding for the work, stating “W. Soon’s effort for the completion of this paper was partially supported by grants from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, American Petroleum Institute, and Exxon-Mobil Corporation.”

Although the paper was thoroughly debunked by actual experts on Arctic sea ice and polar bears, many of the front groups funded by Koch and Exxon rebroadcast the study widely, creating public confusion.  The matter came to a head when Sarah Palin and her officers in the Alaskan government referenced the Soon/Baliunas polar bear paper before it was even published in Alaska’s formal protest of efforts to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.  Both Soon and Baliunas have served as spokespeople, advisors and/or board members of multiple Koch-funded climate denial groups over the past decade.

The Greenpeace report notes Koch’s role in funding the Institute for Energy Research, which was behind the Danish study that attacked the viability of wind power.  Greenpeace also points out the role that Koch’s web of climate denier groups played in supporting, disseminating and promoting the Spanish study attacking green jobs, including AFP, IER and the Heritage Foundation.

Greenpeace has helped to shed some much-needed light on Koch Industries with this report, providing several case studies, a detailed look at lobbying and campaign expenditures, and other little known facts about the Koch Brothers’ web of front groups. 

If you thought you knew everything about anti-science front groups from hearing about ExxonMobil’s efforts over the years, think again.  This expose of Koch Industries serves up a heaping pile of unsavory evidence that the climate denial industry is alive and well-funded, even with the scaling back of ExxonMobil’s support.

More attention needs to be paid to Koch Industries, and this report will hopefully encourage deeper investigation into the Koch web’s confusion campaign.

Previous Comments

Great job on this investigation!

Seems quite ironic, one of the biggest donors to the Tea Party movement also helped found the Soviet Union’s state-controlled oil industry. Follow the money, indeed.

Scaife is another very powerful private foundation funneling huge sums of money into the climate denial movement, I’ve read.

These closely-held corporations are even less accountable than the huge public ones. I wonder if these billionaires have any social networks where they could be exposed to another point of view - churches, civic groups like Rotary, or even golf & country clubs?

In the 90s, MnPCA detected a “plume” of underground pollution eventually tracked to the Koch refinery near Rochester. An investigation of Koch documents revealed that the company had been aware of the ongoing leak and spill for years, but these masters of the universe calculated that the plume would not reach the river until years after they had sold the refinery to someone else to blame. Our post Reagan administration gutted PCA was not expected to drill test wells looking for crap in our ground water.

These richest men in the world skated with a minor wrist slap after polluting, lying and doing nothing to stop the leaks into our environment. Minnesota gets to enjoy polluted ground water for the rest of eternity, Good deal if you are a republican who doesnt drink water.

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