PolluterWatch Blog

Nucor’s Hypocrisy: Funding The Heartland Institute's Attacks on Climate Change Science

Nucor's logo

Nucor, the largest producer of steel in the U.S., takes great pains to present a “green” image.  Nucor's website is full of oak trees and pastoral scenes next to the tag line “Nucor: It’s Our Nature.”

However, since 2010, Nucor has given at least $500,000 to the Heartland Institute, a right wing corporate front group that attacks climate change science and scientists.  According to Heartland’s own fundraising documents, Nucor’s contributions were earmarked specifically for attacking climate science and environmental regulations.  Heartland has recently made headlines for a billboard campaign featuring a picture of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, next to the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

The billboard campaign is the latest in Heartland’s continuing battle against the scientific evidence of climate change. Heartland has also sponsored and organized six conferences on climate denial in the past 5 years, and they recently held a seventh that took place May 21-23 in Chicago. The “International Conferences on Climate Change,” as Heartland calls them, provide a platform and meeting space for the small cadre of professional climate science deniers that have derailed meaningful solutions to the threats of global warming in the U.S.

This year’s conference featured the usual self-contradictory climate denier arguments, which includes everything from outright denial that the earth temperature is going up, to admitting the globe is warming but denying that humans and CO2 are involved, to admitting the earth is warming, humans and CO2 are involved, but the warming will be beneficial.  However, this year’s meeting also delved in to other fanatical conspiracy theories, like the belief that President Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is not real.

Because of their outrageous attacks on climate science, 15 corporations have dropped the Heartland InstituteSend Nucor's CEO Dan Dimicco an email telling him to stop funding the Heartland Institute and climate denial.

The truth is, if Heartland’s deceptive and dishonest talk about climate science was aimed at the few aging contrarians that attended the latest meeting, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  However, Heartland doesn’t get paid by Nucor and other big carbon emitting corporations to mislead a fringe tribe of retired old white men (picture of conference at right).  Heartland gets paid to derail solutions to climate change.  This has meant creating anti-science curriculum for grade schools, paying spokespeople to deny climate science, and attacking the scientists that do real work on climate change.  

Given that the $500,000 Nucor has given Heartland in the last 3 years was specifically for attacking climate science and environmental regulations, Nucor must be held accountable for Heartland's climate science denial.

Send Nucor CEO Dan Dimicco an email telling him to stop funding attacks on climate science and the Heartland Institute.

For updates on the Heartland Institute, see PolluterWatch's ongoing investigation.

More corporate funders drop the anti-science Heartland Institute, Including Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Verizon, and CUNA

UPDATE: Statement from Forecast the Facts added below (click here to see)

Pharmaceutical giants Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, along with Verizon, Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, and Credit Union National Association, have announced that they will not fund the climate change denying Heartland Institute in 2012.  According to the Heartland Institute’s own fundraising document, it hoped to receive $130,000 from these potential funders this year.  Today’s announcement brings the total number of corporate sponsors to drop Heartland to 15, representing $955,000 of Heartland’s projected $7.7 million budget this year.

This announcement comes in response to a petition signed by over 150,000 people calling for Heartland’s corporate funders to drop support of the organization, which recently ran a billboard campaign in Chicago comparing those that advocate for solutions to climate change to “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”  The petition was organized by Forecast the Facts, Greenpeace, SumofUs, Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and 350.org.

The Heartland Institute just finished their 7th “International Conference on Climate Change” which ran from May21-23 in Chicago.  The conferences, which provides a platform and meeting space for professional climate science deniers, are dedicated to attacking the climate scientists and the scientific consensus on climate change.  This years conference also questioned the authenticity of President Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. Because of the funding gaps brought on by the mass defection of corporate sponsors Heartland Institute president Joe Bast.  Joe Bast said at the conference:

"I hope to see you at a future conference, but at this point we have no plans to do another ICCC.”

Major corporations and trade groups like Nucor, Pfizer, Reynolds American Inc., and Phrma continue to fund the Heartland Institute.

Statement from Forecast the Facts on healthcare companies distancing themselves from the Heartland Institute:

"Forecast the Facts applauds the decision of pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer to sever their relationship with the Heartland Institute and its denial of scientific fact. Unfortunately, corporations like Pfizer and United Healthcare have yet to follow suit, ignoring the concerns of more than 160,000 concerned citizens, customers, and shareholders. Health-care companies have a special responsibility to act, as climate pollution is the key public health threat of the 21st century." -- Brad Johnson, Campaign Manager, Forecast the Facts

 

Recent press on the Heartland Institute:

Some of the major corproations still funding Heartland's climate denial:

     

 

 

 

 

 

Lobbyists for the "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council" attack clean air rules on behalf of Arch Coal

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing today in Washington DC on the first-ever rules to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. It's a popular rule, and EPA has already heard a lot about it: over a million comments supporting the rule were delivered to EPA last week.

But this is DC, so not everyone is thrilled. Scott Segal, a lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani, will be testifying on behalf of coal interests at the EPA hearing. When lobbying against clean air rules like the carbon pollution standard or mercury air toxics standard, Segal likes to use the title of director of the "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council" (ERCC); I suppose it sounds better than coal lobbyist. But what exactly is the ERCC? When he wrote a letter requesting a meeting about the carbon pollution rule with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Segal claimed that "ERCC is a group of power-generating companies." But OMB meeting records reveal that the only lobbyist that joined ERCC for that meeting was Arch Coal's Vice President of Government Affairs, Tom Altmeyer.

Arch Coal, of course, is not a power-generating company, but rather the second largest coal mining company in the US, and one increasingly focused on exporting US coal to foreign markets. Burning coal is a major source of carbon pollution, so it's no surprise that Arch is lobbying against rules that will help move us away from their dangerous product. But what about utility companies like Duke Energy, a known member company of ERCC? Does it secretly support ERCC's misleading attacks on clean air rules that will protect their ratepayers from mercury and carbon pollution, while encouraging investment in cleaner sources of electricity?

This is not the first time, after all, that ERCC's lobbying appears out of step with its member companies' public positions. Last year Greenpeace sent Duke CEO Jim Rogers a letter asking if Duke was a member of ERCC, and whether the company supported the ERCC's efforts to delay and weaken the mercury rule. In response, a spokesman for the company told the Charlotte Business Journal that Duke is a member of ERCC, “But, as with many organizations we are affiliated with, we don’t agree with them on every issue.”

Segal has avoided revealing the full list of ERCC member companies. When challenged in a debate by John Walke of NRDC to disclose ERCC's full list of member companies, Segal declined after naming just four companies: Southern Company, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, and EFH (Energy Future Holdings, which owns Luminant) - but made no mention of Arch Coal. Indeed, Segal and other lobbyists at Bracewell & Giuliani like Jeff Holmstead have used ERCC for more than a decade to obscure which coal mining companies and utilities are behind their efforts to weaken and delay clean air rules.

A New York Times article about the creation of ERCC in 2001 describes it as "a consortium of power companies that is so new that its spokesman could not name the 8 to 10 companies he said have joined so far." Right.. well, now that it has been over a decade, we'll see if Segal is able to recall - and willing to reveal - which companies are behind his efforts to weaken and delay clean air protections that will save thousands of American lives. In the meantime, public officials and reporters would be wise to question whose interests Scott Segal and Jeff Holmstead represent.

The Heartland Institute’s 7th Climate denial-palooza, fewer attendees, more fringe conspiracy theories

The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute, a corporate funded anti-environmental front group, just wrapped up their 7th climate denial meeting, aka denial-palooza. This year saw a much smaller turnout of climate science denialists than previous years, but more fringe conspiracy theories than ever. The drop in attendance comes after the Heartland Institute’s failed billboard campaign comparing advocates of climate science to terrorists, murderers, and madmen.

 

The billboard, combined with Heartland’s illogical stance on climate science, has forced 11 corporate sponsors to drop financial support of the organization.  Heartland had hoped to receive over $825,000 in funding from these corporations in 2012 and their departure has left Heartland's CEO Joe Bast desperate for funding. During his closing remarks, Bast said:

I'm not a good fundraiser and as a result I don't raise enough money to cover [the climate conference]...if you can afford to make a contribution please do, if you know someone, if you have a rich uncle... please ask him to contribute.

This year’s conference featured the usual self-contradictory climate denier arguments, which includes everything from outright denial that the earth temperature is going up, to admitting the globe is warming but denying that humans and CO2 are involved, to admitting the earth is warming, humans and CO2 are involved, but the warming will be beneficial.  However, this year’s meeting also delved in to other fanatical conspiracy theories, like the belief that President Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is not real

The truth is, if Heartland’s deceptive and dishonest talk about climate science was aimed at the few old contrarians that attended the latest meeting, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  However, Heartland doesn’t get paid by Nucor and other big carbon emitting corporations to mislead a fringe tribe of retired old white men. Heartland gets paid to derail solutions to climate change.  This has meant creating anti-science curriculum for grade schools, paying spokespeople to deny climate science, and attacking the scientists that do real work on climate change.  

And who pays for Heartland disinformation? Leaked internal fundraising and budget documents have revealed that major corporations like Nucor and Pfizer, as well as the coal industry, are substantial contributors to Heartland’s annual budget.  As for the denial conference itself, it has recently been revealed that the organizations that co-sponsored this year’s event have taken $67 million from ExxonMobil, Koch and Scaife foundations.

Currently a coalition of groups including Greenpeace, Forecast the Facts, Sierra Club, SumofUs, and 350.org are gathering petitions from people concerned about the corporate funding of climate denial, and demanding that Heartland’s remaining corporate funders stop their support of the Heartland Institute.  Sign the petition and tell these corporations to stop funding attacks on climate change science.

 

For more information, check out these recent articles on the Heartland Institute:

Heartland reflects on its beating,” Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Heartland Institute facing uncertain future as staff depart and cash dries up”, Suzanne Goldenberg, the Guardian

For Heartland board, failed climate attack was a surprise” Evan Lehmann, Climatewire

Heartland faces a mutiny amid furor over billboard campaign” Evan Lehmann, Climatewire

"Heartland Institute conference attendees try for a subtler skepticism, but group's leader sometimes strays off message" Evan Lehmann, Climatewire

Heartland Denial-a-Palooza Sponsors Have Received $67 Million From ExxonMobil, Koch and Scaife Foundations

Written by Brendan DeMelle, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.

The Heartland Institute's Seventh "International Conference on Climate Change" - the somewhat-annual gathering of climate deniers that we call Denial-a-Palooza - is underway in Chicago. Heartland's contrarian gathering this year is clouded by the group's incredibly offensive billboard campaign that flamed out within hours but is causing lasting damage to the group's fading financial support from corporations, defections by staff and board directors and other headaches

Below is DeSmog's analysis of the "co-sponsors" of this year's ICCC7 conference showing that these organizations have received more than $67 million over the past three decades from ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and the right-wing Scaife family foundations. This is just a subset of the funding flowing to these groups from just three sources, and is certainly not all earmarked to cast doubt about climate change science and policy. But it provides a window into Heartland's current and historical support from fellow travelers who endorse the group's anti-science agenda. 


Here's the breakdown of funding to Heartland Institute from these sources:

ExxonMobil (1998-2010):              $7,312,500
Koch Foundations (1986-2010):     $14,391,975
Scaife Foundations (1985-2010):   $45,337,640

Grand Total:                               $67,042,115 


Here's the complete list along with the funding totals for each of the organizations.

 

African Center for Advocacy and Human Development
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Alternate Solutions Institute
Received a $100,000 grant in 2008 from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

American Tradition Institute
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.
 
Americans for Prosperity Foundation
Received $5,176,500 from Koch Foundations (David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe) since 2005.

Americans for Tax Reform
Received $375,000 from Scaife Foundations (Sarah Scaife and Carthage) since 1996.


Received $60,000 from Koch Foundations (Claude R. Lambe Charitible Foundation and Charles G. Koch Foundation) since 2003.
 
Atlas Economic Research Foundation
Received $1,082,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $3,465,000 from Scaife Foundations (Sarah Scaife and Carthage) since 1985.
Received $182,300 from Koch Foundations (Claude R. Lambe Charitible Foundation and Charles G. Koch Foundation) since 1987.
 
Australian Libertarian Society
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Austrian Economics Center
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Ayn Rand Institute
Received $50,000 from Koch Foundations since 2005.
 

Beacon Hill Institute
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Berlin Manhattan Institute
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Capital Research Center
Received $265,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $5,155,000 from Scaife Foundations (Sarah Scaife, Scaife Family and Carthage) since 1985.
Received $665,000 from Koch Foundations (Claude R. Lambe Charitible Foundation and Charles G. Koch Foundation) since 1987.

Carbon Sense Coalition
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Center for Industrial Progress
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.
 
Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CO2 Science)
Received $100,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $100,000 from Sarah Scaife Foundation since 1999.
Received $85,000 from Koch Foundations since 1997.

Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.
 
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)
Received $582,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $1,840,000 from Scaife Foundations (Carthage and Sarah Scaife) since 1991.
 
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Received $2,005,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $666,420 from Koch Foundations (David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe) since 1986.
Received $3,275,000 from Scaife Foundations (Sarah Scaife, Scaife Family and Carthage) since 1985.

Doctors for Disaster Preparedness
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.
 
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Free to Choose Network
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Frontiers of Freedom
Received $1,272,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $175,000 from Koch Foundations since 2004.

Received $135,000 from Scaife Foundations since 1998.
 
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

George C. Marshall Institute
Received $840,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $30,000 from Koch Foundations in 2004.
Received $3,977,500 from Scaife Foundations since 1985.

The Heritage Foundation
Received $680,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $4,476,571 from Koch Foundations since 1997.
Received $24,496,640 from Scaife Foundations since 1985.

IceAgeNow.com
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Illinois Coal Association

No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Independent Institute
Received $85,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $160,000 from Koch Foundations since 1995.

International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project (ICECAP)
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Institute for Liberty
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Institute for Private Enterprise 
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Instituto Liberdade
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

International Climate Science Coalition
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

JunkScience.com
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

 
Leadership Institute
Received $101,500 from Koch Foundations since 1995.

Liberty Institute (India)
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

John Locke Foundation
Received $122,472 from Koch Foundations since 1997.

Power For USA
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Reason Foundation
Received $381,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $2,436,212 from Koch Foundations since 1986.

Received $2,518,500 from Scaife Foundations since 1985.

Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
Received $20,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
Received $5,000 from Koch Foundations since 2003.

New Zealand Climate Science Coalition

No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

60 Plus Association
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.


Funding totals:

ExxonMobil (1998-2010):                $7,312,500
Koch Foundations (1986-2010):      $14,391,975
Scaife Foundations (1985-2010):   $45,337,640
Grand Total:                               $67,042,115 


Related Posts:

Graham Readfearn's look at the Australian groups backing Heartland's climate denial

Last year's tally of Exxon-Koch-Scaife money flows to ICCC6 sponsor organizations

Valentine's Day Heartland documents: Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

More corporate funders drop Heartland Institute, yet some major names remain

Heartland billboard featuring Ted Kaczynski

Adding to a growing list of defections, Eli Lilly, BB&T Bank, and PepsiCo have announced they will not fund the Heartland Institute in 2012.  They join State Farm, USAA, and others who have stopped financial support of the Chicago front group after Heartland released a billboard featuring a picture of Ted Kaczynski next to the text “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?”

Sign our petition asking the rest of Heartland's corporate sponsors to stop funding climate science denial.

Just for background, Heartland’s fringe positions on science and loose grasp of reality is no secret in corporate circles. Heartland’s climate stance is so extreme that ExxonMobil, the great patron of climate science denial, dropped them years ago - saying they could no longer support groups that “serve as a distraction” to the climate issue.

Heartland peddles its own pseudo-science that contradicts the vast majority of scientists in the world, and observable reality.  As James Hansen recently wrote in the New York Times, climate change can be conclusively linked to recent extreme weather conditions like the major heat wave that killed hundreds across Europe and the excruciating drought the western U.S. is still suffering from. (At right: A cow stuck in the mud in Texas, photograph by Jay Janner, 2011)

However, in part because the effects of global climate change have become perceptible to most Americans, fewer and fewer people are buying Heartland’s BS about climate science. 

 

Which leads to the Big Questions: - where does Heartland get the money to buy crazy billboards?

 

Where do they get the money to pay for climate denying school curriculum?

 

With Exxon gone, which anti-science corporations still support Heartland’s loony climate denial meetings?

 

For starters: Pfizer.

Pfizer, the giant drug company, is a leading sponsor of the Heartland Institute. But wait you say, doesn’t Pfizer have a strong statement about the serious threats posed by climate change and the necessity of cutting greenhouse emissions?  Yes, yes they do. But, Pfizer also has a history of saying the right thing to the public while doing the exact opposite behind closed doors.  Take healthcare reform for example; Pfizer publicly supported president Obama’s Healthcare reform while quietly giving the Heartland Institute hundreds of thousands of dollars to savage the president and the healthcare law.

Side note: Pfizer is no stranger to being called out for their affiliations to unsavory corporate front groups. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that helped for-profit prison companies write and pass immigration bills that put more people in jail - and helped gun groups write and pass the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, (which protected the killer of teenage Trayvon Martin) counts Pfizer as a corporate sponsor.  At a protest calling for Pfizer to drop ALEC, eight people were arrested outside of Pfizer’s gates. In a telling show of corporate hubris, Pfizer never even responded to the demonstrators requests.

 

Nucor, the steel manufacturer, is also a Heartland funder.

According to leaked internal documents from the Heartland Institute, Nucor directly funds Heartland’s climate work.  Like Pfizer, Nucor talks openly about solutions to climate change, and their website proudly proclaims “Concerns about climate change not taken lightly by Nucor.”

 

Other corporate bad actors still funding Heartland include Comcast, Reynolds American inc, and Golden Rule Insurance.  Tell these companies that their support of climate denial must be stopped, by signing this petition.

 

PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see a list of companies that dropped Heartland and ongoing investigations.

Heartland Institute Compares Climate Advocates to Mass Murderers

The Heartland Institute, a “think tank” in Chicago that serves as an epicenter for the denial of climate change, unveiled a series of billboards that equate climate change advocacy with mass murder and terrorism. The billboards featured pictures of Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro, next to the text “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?” For a full background on the Heartland Institute's PolluterWatch profile. 

 

The billboards were so outrageous Heartland was forced take them down soon after they premiered.

 

A further explanation of the billboard campaign on Heartland’s website clarified the message:

“the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

And their plan for more billboards:

“Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).

The billboard campaign is the latest in Heartland’s continuing battle against the scientific evidence of climate change. Heartland has sponsored and organized six conferences on climate denial in the past 5 years, and they recently announced a seventh to take place May 21-23 in Chicago. The “International Climate Conferences” provide a platform and meeting space for the small cadre of professional climate science deniers that have derailed meaningful solutions to the threats of global warming in the U.S.

These same climate deniers have distanced themselves from Heartland over the deranged nature of the recent billboard campaign.  The Washington Post reported:

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), scheduled to headline the Heartland Institute’s annual conclave of climate-change skeptics this month, said through a spokeswoman that he “will not participate in the upcoming climate-change conference if the Heartland Institute decides to continue this ad campaign.”

Though these billboards reach new levels of absurdity and desperation, the Heartland Institute’s president Joe Bast is no stranger to using indefensible tactics to attack climate science.

Heartland recently made headlines for their scheme to create a school curriculum on climate change for grades K-12. The curriculum will be designed to delegitimize established climate science by teaching students that human beings’ role in climate change is “a major scientific controversy.” According to leaked internal documents, Heartland paid a well known climate denier, David Wojick, to create the curriculum, which Heartland then planned to send to teachers across the country.

The leaked documents also revealed plans to pay university professors and federal scientists to deny the reality of global climate change.  For more on the internal Heartland documents and their implications, see the ongoing Polluterwatch investigation.

 

Who funds Heartland?

 

The Heartland Institute has a long history of taking extreme stances on policy that benefit the institute’s corporate funders. They received hefty funding from tobacco corporations while fighting regulations on cigarettes, and have taken funds from Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and other polluters while fighting solutions to environmental problems like climate change.

Media attention on Heartland’s extreme climate stance, like Heartland’s plan to mislead teachers and children, has caused major corporations like GM to stop supporting the organization in recent months.  However, major corporations like State Farm, Nucor and Microsoft still fund Heartland’s activities.  A full list of donors is available on Polluterwatch and includes strange bedfellows such as the reinsurance industry (represented by RennaisanceRe, Allied World, and USAA) and secretive right-wing foundations like the Donors Capital Fund.

Kinder Morgan: Pollution, Lawbreaking, and Cover-ups

 

Kinder Morgan's Myrtle Grove coal export facility in Louisiana

A new report from the Sightline Institute about energy conglomerate Kinder Morgan reveals the company's track record of pollution, lawbreaking, and cover-ups.  http://greenpeaceblogs.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/...); background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: transparent; background-position: 100% 0%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; " title="More..." />As Eric de Place writes, the company's troubling history is especially concerning for residents of the Pacific Northwest, as Kinder Morgan is among the companies seeking to develop massive new projects to export US coal to Asia through Oregon and Washington:

In January, Kinder Morgan—a giant energy conglomerate—announced plans to use an Oregon port on the Columbia River to export 30 million tons of coal annually to China and other Asian markets. Many in the Northwest worry about the health risks, pollution, and economic risks that are entailed by the plans. Already tribes and environmental organizations are raising serious concerns about handling large volumes of coal on the Columbia.

One part of the report focuses on Kinder Morgan's Myrtle Grove facility in Louisiana, and the coal dust from that coal export terminal polluting the Mississippi river - even visible from satellite photosI saw this facility up close when Greenpeace's ship passed by on our way up river to New Orleans in 2010, and wrote about it and the other fossil fuel infrastructure that scars the Mississippi Delta. It was disturbing and striking to witness so much coal - at the time the facility could store over 1 million tons. The Myrtle Grove export terminal will be even bigger soon - the company last year announced a deal with Massey Energy, the notorious coal mining company and a major destroyer of Appalachian Mountains, to expand the facility and ship six million tons of coal each year. (Alpha purchased Massey Energy last year).

Barges are loaded with coal at Kinder Morgan's Myrtle Grove export facility
There are many more details about Kinder Morgan's pollution and other misdeeds in the Sightline Institute report that I'll cover in future posts. More photos of the company's polluting coal export facility in Louisiana are available here.

Why are the Koch brothers cannibalizing the Cato Institute?

The Cato Institute may soon be under new management - Koch Industries.

A cursory look at the very public clash between the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and the Koch brothers, infamous oil billionaires and funders of right wing causes - leaves many people confused.  The Cato Institute, originally called the Charles G Koch Institute when it was founded by Charles G Koch in the 70s – is in danger of a hostile takeover…by Charles G Koch?  Why would Charles Koch try to take over his own think tank?

The short answer – power, of course.  As it turns out, the Koch’s influence at Cato has waned over the last few decades due to a falling out between Ed Crane, the current president of Cato, and Charles Koch, who hand-picked Crane for the job shortly after founding the think tank.  Starting in the early nineties, the Kochs all but abandoned Cato, exerting little control over the group’s activities and steadily reducing Cato’s Koch funding (down to $0 in 2011).  Charles even left the board of directors (though he was replaced by David Koch).

Instead of running Cato, the Kochs poured their time and oil profits into front groups like Americans for Prosperity, their flagship astroturf organization.  The Kochs' network of front groups gave them influence over (and close ties to) the republican establishment at large.

During this time, Cato became seen as a relatively independent think tank, willing to criticize both democrat and republican administrations.  Real news organizations went to Cato for comment on topical issues, and legislators used Cato’s reports to inform policy. 

cato institute koch industries kato

Cato was seen as something more than a tool for corporate billionaires to accomplish their political agenda of deregulation.  (For the record, Cato was still a tool of corporate billionaires: see their defense of tobacco while being funded by cigarette companies, or their adamant climate denial while being funded by Exxon)

Fast forward to today – the Koch brothers’ political agenda has been publicly outed (see airship), their front groups like Americans for Prosperity have little credibility with the mainstream press and the Kochs’ hope of unseating president Obama is looking slimmer by the day.  Suddenly, Cato’s veneer of respectability is politically valuable to the Kochs. 

Bob Levy, current chairman of the Cato Institute, recently wrote that the Kochs admitted needing Cato as a “source of intellectual ammunition for Americans for Prosperity – through position papers, a media presence, and speakers on hot-button issues.”

So, when one of the shareholders of Cato died leaving his shares to his widow (Cato has a strange system of governance involving controlling shares), the Kochs saw an opportunity to pounce.  The brothers filed a lawsuit they hope will force the widow into selling her shares, giving the Koch’s majority control over Cato’s board of directors.  This would give the Kochs the power over Cato they needed to fold it into their suite of other front groups, making Cato another Koch-controlled cog in the republican political machine.

However, after years of relative freedom Cato’s leadership was not keen on bowing their heads to Koch control and becoming a pawn of the republican party.  In a letter to employees, Cato president Ed Crane wrote:

“Catoites, You are all probably aware by now of the unfortunate development with Charles and David Koch. They are in the process of trying to take over the Cato Institute and, in my opinion, reduce it to a partisan adjunct to Americans for Prosperity, the activist GOP group they control.”

Thus began the public brawl between the Koch Brothers and the Cato Institute.

The moral? The Koch’s are so ruthless in their pursuit of power that even Cato, a bastion of ‘every man for themselves,’ ‘only the strong survive,’ ‘no free school lunch,’ free-market capitalism, is crying foul.  But don't feel sorry for Cato, perhaps they just need to re-read a little Ayn Rand

Senator Inhofe admits his views on climate science based on money

But first, a dose of climate reality:

In a recent study, scientists found that climate change will decrease the number of seasonal flowers, leading to an overall decrease in the number of butterflies, who rely on flowers for a sustainable source of energy - no destruction required.  Another recent study found that climate change will increase the number of Lyme disease infected ticks, parasites that drill into their prey and extract their blood, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake. 

It’s almost poetic that continued reliance on puncturing the earth and sucking out the oil will lead to more parasites puncturing and sucking us in return…

 

Speaking of bothersome pests - Senator James Inhofe, staunch global warming denier and human prune, went on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss his new book, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future."

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

During the interview, the good Senator from Oklahoma repeated his belief that a global conspiracy of environmentalists and scientists (and global temperature readings) are colluding to create the illusion of a changing climate, just to justify taxes. 

See the left portion of this graphic for a summation of Inhofe’s climate views:

 

Though Inhofe has said ludicrous things about climate science many times before, he rarely mentions why he initially became such a zealous climate denier. 

As he revealed in the interview, Inhofe became skeptical of climate science once he found out solving the looming climate crisis might cost money.  In the interview he said “I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

So, if Inhofe lets money dictate his policies, what does it mean that the top three contributors to his campaign are dirty energy companies (Koch industries being #1), or that he has taken well over $1 million from the fossil fuel industry since 1999?

Come on Inhofe, dont be such a tick.
 

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