How Koch Industries Has Supported Climate Change Denial

Here’s the must read article of Monday: The New Yorker delves into the web of political funding that has spewed from Koch Industries — nicknamed the “Kochtopus” by political insiders — over the past half a decade, particularly funding that has gone into disavowing the science behind climate change. Koch Industries, one of the largest private companies in the U.S., operates oil refiners across multiple states, controls thousands of miles of pipelines, and owns Brawny paper towels, dixie cups, and Georgia Pacific Lumber among many other ventures.

The Koch brothers, Charles and David who run the company, have political motivations as well as financial motivations for their support of anti-climate change messaging. Much less oversight of industry and fewer environmental regulations mean more profits for Koch Industries. Here’s some of the more egregious findings of New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer:

  • The University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute has named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States.
  • A Greenpeace report found that the company has been a “kingpin of climate science denial,” and between 2005 to 2008, the Kochs “vastly outdid” ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change.
  • The founder of the Center for Public Integrity, Charles Lewis, told the New Yorker: “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
  • Charles and David Koch have poured more than a hundred million dollars into dozens of seemingly independent organizations. Tax records indicate that in 2008 the three main Koch family foundations gave money to thirty-four political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct. These include the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Mercatus Center, the Citizens for a Sound Economy, & the spinoff group, Citizens for the Environment, and the Americans for Prosperity.
  • A trust called Triad Management spent more than three million dollars on attack ads in twenty-six House races and three Senate races recently, and the New Yorker reports that more than half of the advertising money came from an obscure nonprofit group, the Economic Education Trust. A Senate committee minority report found that “the trust was financed in whole or in part by Charles and David Koch of Wichita, Kansas.” Triad Management’s funds “may have played a decisive role in four of six federal races,” says the New Yorker.
  • David Koch reportedly told New York that he was not convinced that global warming has been caused by human activity, but even if it has been, the heating of the planet he said will be beneficial, resulting in longer growing seasons: “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because far greater land area will be available to produce food.”
  • In the mid-90s, the Justice Department filed two lawsuits against Koch Industries, saying it was responsible for more than three hundred oil spills, which had released an estimated three million gallons of oil into lakes and rivers. Koch Industries settled paying a $30 million civil fine, and agreed to spend $5 million dollars on environmental projects.
  • The Justice Department also levelled a ninety-seven-count indictment against Koch Industries, for covering up the discharge of ninety-one tons of benzene, a carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. The Koch Petroleum Group pled guilty to one criminal charge of covering up environmental violations, including the falsification of documents, and paid a $21 million fine.