An oil conglomerate has allegedly spent nearly £16.5 million ($25 million) on campaigns to discredit climate change and clean energy policies, according to a new report.
Tom Leonard, in New York Published: 9:31PM BST 30 Mar 2010
Koch Industries, which is owned and run by two Kansas-based brothers and has substantial oil and chemicals interests, spent the sum between 2005 and 2008 to finance "organisations of the 'climate denial machine'", claims the environmental campaign group Greenpeace.
Despite the relatively small size of the conglomerate, the sum is three times that spent by ExxonMobil, the western world's biggest oil company, in the same period.
A Greenpeace investigation also claimed that between 2006 and 2009, the company and its owners - Charles and David Koch - spent £25.3 million ($37.9 million) on direct lobbying on oil and energy issues.
According to Greenpeace, Koch foundations had provided substantial funding to at least 20 organisations involved in highlighting "Climategate", the controversy surrounding climate scientists that was prompted by emails hacked from the University of East Anglia.
A recent survey found that 73 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, but only 18 per cent believed strongly it was man-made and harmful.
The brothers share 24th place in Forbes magazine's latest list of the world's richest people, controlling America's second-biggest private company from their base in Wichita.
In all, their more than 20 companies employ 70,000 people in 60 countries and earn $100 billion in annual sales.
The business was founded by the brother's father, Fred, who invented a method of refining petrol from heavy oil but the company, which makes Lycra, is now involved in ranching, mining, paper making and fertiliser production.
Greenpeace, which described Koch as the "financial kingpin of climate change denial and clean energy opposition", supplied a list of 35 organisations and 21 politicians - 17 Republicans and four Democrats - who it claimed received money, either directly or indirectly, from Koch or foundations it had set up.
They include the Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank, and Americans for Prosperity, a free-market campaign group.
"Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming", said the report.
Kert Davis, research director of Greenpeace US, said it was time Koch Industries "came clean and dropped its, behind-the-scenes campaign against action on climate change".
"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."
Koch defended its track record on environmental issues, saying in a statement that its companies had "consistently found innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure sound environmental stewardship and further reduce waste and emissions of greenhouse gases associated with their operations and products".
Noting that the company had not yet seen the report, it added: "Based on this experience, we support open, science-based dialogue about climate change and the likely effects of proposed energy policies on the global economy."
Greenpeace Koch Industries did not reject Greenpeace’s claims about its support for climate opposition groups but said its report “distorts the environmental record of our companies".
It added: “We have strived to encourage an intellectually honest debate on the scientific basis for claims of harm from greenhouse gases. We have tried to help bring out the facts of the potential effectiveness and costs of policies proposed to deal with climate, as it’s crucial to understand whether proposed initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases will achieve desired environmental goals and what effects they would likely have on the global economy.”