It was a year of highs and lows as far as climate change and energy issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lows got a lot of the attention, which is why the top 10 posts on DeSmog this year are mostly of the outrageous, infuriating or depressing variety.
We’ve already collected the top clean energy revolution stories of the year, so if this post gets too heavy for you, you can always pop over there and have some of your hope for the future restored.
But for those...
The Year In Dirty Energy: The Koch Brothers
The Year In Dirty Energy: The Koch Brothers
Over the last 12 months, DeSmogBlog contributors have helped spread the word about some of the most dastardly deeds of Charles and David Koch. Here are some of the biggest stories we covered this year on the issue of corruption and dirty energy money.
It is impossible to talk about dirty energy money and corruption without mentioning the Koch brothers. Before 2011, two of the wealthiest men in America were able to operate in almost complete secrecy while they spread misinformation about climate change and attempted to dismantle environmental protections:
The money in politics database Open Secrets, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, has a lengthy list of specific legislation that Koch Industries has lobbied for and against. On the “against” list, you’ll find legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a bill that would have put Americans to work building a green energy infrastructure; the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – again, a bill that would have created green energy jobs and infrastructure; and the Clean Air Protection Act – a bill that would limit the amount of acceptable emissions into our atmosphere.
The Koch brothers, through their PACs and other organizations, have funded numerous efforts to defeat legislation aimed at reducing pollution or protecting the environment. After all, their companies don't pay the real cost for the pollution they release.
And then there was their misinformation bus tour:
The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is taking their misinformation machine on the road in an attempt to convince American consumers that President Obama is causing the spike in gasoline prices. AFP is claiming that the president is intentionally keeping gas prices high because he refuses to allow oil companies to drill for oil in protected areas of the United States.
AFP conveniently ignores the fact that gas prices were north of $4 a gallon during the Bush administration, when they peaked at $4.12, as pointed out by protesters who showed up at one of AFP’s early gas tour events in Nebraska. But in the alternate reality that AFP is creating to enable Koch’s further oil profits, it’s somehow all Obama’s fault.
The Koch brothers were also behind the efforts to dismantle the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), by way of their astroturf organizations and ties to prominent politicians:
Governor Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of RGGI, stripping the ten state agreement of one of its key cornerstone partners. Next door in New York, Americans for Prosperity, a group whose ties to the Koch brothers are well established, sued the state for its continued commitment to RGGI.
Americans for Prosperity celebrated Christie’s decision, even taking direct credit for it in a public press release: Americans for Prosperity Declares Victory over RGGI Cap & Trade!
And you can’t forget about now-disgraced GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain sucking up to the Koch brothers this year:
At the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity event today, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain told it like it is. “I am the Koch brothers’ brother from another mother.” He added, “And proud of it.”
The Koch brothers were hoping that Herman Cain would be their mouthpiece in the 2012 election. But even with Cain now out of the race, they still have a backup plan: teaching their employees how to vote for environment-destroying candidates:
The Nation magazine has revealed that Koch Industries sent a letter to most of its 50,000 employees before the U.S. midterm elections in November 2010 advising them on whom to vote for. In “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” Mark Ames and Mike Elk expose the urgent “election packet” [PDF] sent to tens of thousands of Koch employees complete with ample libertarian reading materials instructions and a list of eligible vote-worthy (conservative) candidates.
As if this isn’t disturbing enough, the letter warns employees them of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.
The Center for Public Integrity has an in-depth look at Koch Industries’ “Web of Influence” in Washington, revealing the immense growth in Koch’s spending on lobbyists and influence peddling over the last few years. As the CPI investigation notes, the Kochtopus’s lobbying army has its tentacles wrapped around all kinds of issues, not just its core oil business, but its wide-ranging stakes in everything from Canadian tar sands to ethanol to toxic chemicals to financial regulation (or preserving the lack thereof).
The CPI report lifts the veil on a few individual Koch lobbyists, notably Gregory Zerzan, a name that nobody outside Washington would recognize, yet who has had tremendous impact on the Hill as a Koch toady.
Greenpeace took to the air to raise awareness about the Koch’s deeds:
A Greenpeace airship flew over the secretive Rancho Mirage polluter strategy meeting hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Wealthy elite interests and oil tycoons arriving at the posh resort to plot their anti-democracy agenda were greeted with the aerial message “Koch Brothers: Dirty Money.”
Greenpeace also released information collected from tax records confirming that the Koch Family Foundations continue to fund climate denial organizations. The most recent records available document that the Kochtopus dished out $6.4 million in 2009 to front groups and think tanks that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. That brings the Kochtopus’s confirmed Dirty Money total to $54.9 million since 1997, with the majority, $31.3 million, spent since 2005.
Greenpeace also helped spread the word about the Koch’s dealings with Iran:
Greenpeace USA has called for a full Congressional investigation of Koch Industries and the illegal practices detailed in the Bloomberg Markets Magazine piece, “Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales.”
The Bloomberg coverage reveals multiple allegations of Koch Industries bribing government officials around the world and doing business with Iran. In a Huffington Post blog announcing the call for Congress to investigate Koch, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford writes, “this new [Bloomberg] investigation reveals a blatant disregard for our laws, so today Greenpeace has called for a full Congressional investigation of Koch Industries and the illegal practices detailed in the Bloomberg report.”
Greenpeace has extensively documented the Koch brothers' key role in backing the climate denial machine and other nefarious Koch Industries behavior. Now the Bloomberg revelations raise the heat even further on the $50-billionaire-brothers David and Charles Koch.
There’s no question that the Kochs will put their money to work during next year's presidential election. At least now, with their operations exposed, you can rest assured that their every move will be detailed by the independent media.