Greenpeace: Giant Private US Oil Company at Center of Climate Denial Funding

Entitled “Koch Industries: Secretly funding the climate denial machine”, the report details how Kansas-based Koch Industries, a multinational company with little public profile, is playing a quiet but dominant role in the US policy debate on climate change. It shows how Koch has become the financial kingpin in efforts to undermine confidence in climate science and to oppose clean energy in the US and internationally. Between 2005 and 2008, Koch foundations contributed $24.8 million to climate denial organizations – nearly 3 times as much as ExxonMobil in the same period.

“It is time Koch Industries came clean and dropped its dirty, behind-the-scenes campaign against action on climate change,” said Kert Davies, Research Director at Greenpeace US.

The report also details Koch Industries’ growing effort in recent years to influence US climate and energy policy through spending on lobbying and campaign contributions from Koch’s Political Action Committee to candidates for federal office. Since the 2006 election cycle, Koch Industries PAC contributed more to federal candidates than any other company in the oil & gas industry. Koch Industries ranks third in lobby expenditures from the oil sector since 2006, just behind ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Two brothers, Charles and David Koch, own and control Koch Industries as well as its political spending.

“By spending millions of dollars on lobbying and political contributions, Charles and David Koch are polluting not only our environment, but also the US political process. Efforts to pass US clean energy and climate policy are being hampered by polluter lobbyists and climate science denial campaigns, and Koch Industries is at the core of this obstruction.” said Davies.

The report details several Koch-funded climate denial efforts:

* The Koch foundations provided substantial funding to at least 20 organizations central to the global “echo chamber” which have repeatedly rebroadcast, referenced, and appeared as media spokespeople in the story, dubbed “Climategate,” of supposed wrongdoing by climate scientists gleaned from e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia, in November 2009.

* Charles Koch’s foundation along with ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, funded an astrophysicist to write a 2007 article about polar bears, masquerading as a peer-reviewed scientific paper attempting to refute the science around the threat to polar bears from climate change.

* The Kochs funded a Danish think tank that produced a dubious study about the Danish wind industry. The Koch-funded ‘echo chamber’ in the US used this study to challenge President Obama’s support of wind energy. Earlier this month, the Danish Environment Minister rejected the study.

* The Kochs funded groups that supported and promoted a widely debunked study in Spain that claimed that the renewable energy industry had lost the country jobs. Among the groups was “Americans for Prosperity” – a front group founded and chaired by David Koch. It is currently campaigning against clean energy and climate policy in the US.

Although few Americans have heard of Koch Industries, it is a major oil corporation with operations in nearly 60 countries. Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in the US, a conglomerate of more than 20 companies with 70,000 employees and $100 billion in annual sales. Most of Koch’s operations are invisible to the public, with the exception of a handful of retail brands such as Brawny® paper towels and Dixie® cups as well as synthetic textiles like Lycra® and Cordura®.

Part of Koch Industries’ influence is channeled through three foundations, also controlled by the co-owners of the company, David and Charles Koch. From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent around US$9 million while Koch Industries-controlled foundations spent nearly US$25 million on undermining confidence in climate science by funding the climate denial movement. Groups which received funding include the Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, Mercatus Center, the Cato Institute, Washington Legal Foundation and the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE).

"This funding is propping up an echo chamber of doubt, deliberately creating the appearance of controversy and uncertainty about the international consensus on climate change science in order to slow down policymakers," said Davies.