Early last year, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced an amendment stating, “it is the sense of Congress that – (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” Fifty senators voted in favor of the amendment, while forty-nine senators voted against mainstream climate science. The amendment required 60 votes in order to pass.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urged her colleagues to vote against the climate change amendment, saying, “I urge colleagues to oppose the Schatz amendment. There is a distinct difference between this amendment and what was previously considered in the sense of the Congress, which would refer to human activity that significantly contributes to climate change, and the issue of degrees. And I would suggest to colleagues that the inclusion of that word is sufficient to merit a ‘no’ vote at this time.”
The just-published book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” written by New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer, serves as in-depth piece to explain why the federal government is paralyzed to admit and act on the certain problems facing the country, especially curbing emissions that contribute to global warming.
Through university courses, conferences, and reports facilitated by academic staff, the utility industry and its trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, have boosted lobbying efforts targeting state government officials and decision makers.
According to our new report, university-based institutes and faculty provide an avenue for utility special interests to educate regulators and advocate for favorable policies and regulatory regimes under the guise of an academic veil. Institutes and staff funded by industry and based at Louisiana State University, New Mexico State University, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin produced reports, opinion pieces, and educational events that ultimately support the utility industry's positions in regulatory and political discussions on the future of the electric industry.
With clean energy sources becoming more competitive each day, fossil fuel interests continue to spread misinformation in an effort to slow the deployment of sustainable energy solutions, and are now using universities to echo their anti-clean energy message. Universities need to prevent faculty and programs from being influenced by special interests, especially while they are receiving funding from corporations and trade associations. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing credibility and appearing like pay-to-play advocacy groups instead of independent academic institutions.
Paul Chesser, an anti-clean energy advocate who works for multiple fossil fuel-funded front groups, recently criticized technology companies for their investments in renewable energy. Chesser claims that the companies are still dependent on fossil fuels. But, companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon have invested millions of dollars to build new clean energy installations that will help transition the grid to provide more renewable energy. The reality is clear: these big technology companies recognize that clean energy sources are affordable, reliable, and make great business investments, in addition to producing environmental and public health benefits.
In his criticism, Chesser cites Amazon’s recent commitment to purchase wind energy from an installation under construction by Iberdrola Renewables in North Carolina. According to TechCrunch, Amazon estimated the facility would generate 670,000 megawatt hours annually, part of an expansion that will produce about 1.3 million megawatt hours annually for the company (enough power for about 122,000 homes). However, instead of recognizing the effort by tech companies to produce enough power to meet the demand of their data facilities, Chesser cites the fossil fuel-funded Institute for Energy Research to lambast these companies for “misleading claims.”
The biography of Paul Chesser, the author, includes a long list of fossil fuel-backed front groups in which he’s currently involved, which may explain his blatant anti-renewable energy stance. He is a “special correspondent” for the Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute is a fossil fuel-funded front group with over $800,000 in contributions from fossil fuel interests that has routinely attacked clean energy policies and the science behind climate change. Chester is also the director of “Climate Strategies Watch,” which is organized by the John Locke Foundation (JLF). JLF is the primary State Policy Network member in North Carolina, and has received funding from the Kochs. Chesser is a “senior fellow” for the Commonwealth Foundation, a member of the State Policy Network in Pennsylvania that has received funding from the Kochs and dark money groups affiliated with the Koch political network. He previously ran the American Tradition Institute, now called E&E Legal Institute, that has harassed climate scientists and whose Senior Legal Fellow, Chris Horner, was recently exposed for receiving payments from Alpha Natural Resources, a now bankrupt coal company. And lastly, Chesser contributes to the fossil fuel-funded news websites, American Spectator and JLF's Carolina Journal.
At a recent Cato Institute event titled, “Preparing for Paris: What to Expect from the U.N.’s 2015 Climate Change Conference,” climate skeptic Roy Spencer raised eyebrows when he said that environmentalists should be investigated under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) because of the energy policies they push.
Thomas Wysmuller, owner of Colderside.com, questioned the panelists about the recent revelation that ExxonMobil incorporated climate research into its operations while publicly casting doubt on that very same science. After Judith Curry and Ryan Maue provided answers, Spencer made his statement:
Wysmuller: Quick question. There has been recent activity in Congress calling for RICO investigations. I know Roger Pielke Jr. has decided he is going to try and sidestep this. Has it affected your vision of your jobs? And if you could explain how and maybe not at all.
Spencer: I’d like to see calls for RICO investigations for people on the other side of this. People who have been pushing for energy policies that we know will kill people and they know that and yet they have hidden that information from the public and from politicians for the purposes of advancing an agenda. So, you know, I think they better be careful of what they try to accomplish because I think we could go the other direction in spades.
Spencer did not elaborate further on his allegations or novel legal theory.
The Los Angeles Times, Columbia University’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project, and InsideClimate News all recently published investigations showing Exxon spent millions of dollars on climate change research in the 1970s and 1980s. The oil corporation then funded organizations that disputed the mainstream science on climate change or emphasized “uncertainty” in the context of opposing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Americans For Prosperity Leads Fossil Fuel Front Group Push for Crude Oil Exports, Anti-Renewables Lobbying
The fossil fuel-funded Americans for Prosperity wrote a coalition letter yesterday to Congress signed by 21 organizations calling for the elimination of the oil export ban and advocating against tax credits for solar or wind energy production.
As we have highlighted in past research, elected officials and the public should make note that while these groups claim to be “free market” think tanks and non-profits, in reality, they are operating as front groups for the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests with a financial interest in eliminating the crude oil export ban and stoping the growth of renewable energy like wind and solar.
The Energy and Policy Institute examined the list of signatories and found the following:
- 19 of the 21 organizations signing the letter have either received funding from fossil fuel interests like the Koch brothers or ExxonMobil or have ties to the Koch political network.
- 18 of the 21 organizations have known financial ties to fossil fuel interests.
- 15 of the 21 organizations are directly tied to or serve essential roles in the Koch political network.
|Organization||State||Fossil Fuel Funding?||Koch Network?||Description|
|60 Plus Association||DC||Yes||Yes||Funding from Center to Protect Patient Rights, a Koch funding passthrough; also funded by Freedom Partners, the Koch Brothers' secret bank; also received funding from Koch-network's TC4 Trust|
|American Commitment||DC||Yes||Yes||Koch-funded group, almost entirely funded by Koch passthroughs Freedom Partners, Center to Protect Patient Rights|
|American Energy Alliance||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by ExxonMobil, Koch Brothers and Freedom Partners; President is former Koch lobbyist|
|Americans for Prosperity||DC||Yes||Yes||Founded and funded by Koch Brothers|
|Americans for Tax Reform||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by American Petroleum Institute and Koch Brothers; member of State Policy Network|
|Competitive Enterprise Institute||DC||Yes||Yes||Funding from ExxonMobil and Koch Brothers; Member of State Policy Network|
|Energy Makes America Great, Inc.||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by New Mexico Oil and Gas Association; part of Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy|
|Freedom Works||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by DonorsTrust; Break up of Citizens for Sound Economy (funded by the Koch Brothers) created FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity (funded by the Koch Brothers)|
|Less Government||DC||Front group managed by consultant Seyton Motley; no website exists at lessgovernment.org, the organization's listed web URL|
|R Street Institute||DC||Yes||Connected to Koch political network, was part of Heartland Institute|
|Taxpayers Protection Alliance||DC||Yes||
Connections to Koch-funded Americans for Job Security and Alliance for America's Future
|Tea Party Nation||DC||Yes||For profit company founded by Judson Phillips, organized first Tea Party convention|
|Frontiers of Freedom||VA||Yes||Yes||Funding from Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil; funded by tobacco industry|
|American Encore||AZ||Yes||Yes||Koch-funded pass-through involved in attacks on solar in Arizona; funneled money from utility Arizona Public Service to front groups.|
|National Taxpayers Union||DC||Yes||Yes||Koch and Tobacco funding; part of the State Policy Network|
|National Black Chamber of Commerce||DC||Yes||Yes||Fossil fuel funding, Koch funding|
|Institute for Liberty||Yes||Connected to Koch political network|
|Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce||VA||Yes||Yes||Koch-funded, served as "de facto bank" in the Koch political network|
|Center for Individual Freedom||VA||Tobacco industry funding|
|Americans for Competitive Enterprise||DC||Yes||Yes||Founded by three staff members of Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received fossil fuel funding|
|American Council for Capital Formation||DC||Yes||Koch-funded|