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« Brushes at the ready... | Main | Sir John Lawton on AGW »

It's Big Oil, stupid

John Vidal of the Guardian is getting all excited by a Greenpeace report linking sceptics to...Big Oil. The wicked capitalists in question are Koch Industries, "a little-known, privately owned US oil company" (which just happens to be the largest privately owned business in the world). Now that the truth about their corporate largesse has been revealed by the tireless efforts of Mr Vidal and his colleagues at Greenpeace, we can presumably ignore everything said by...

...Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Foundation for research on economics and the environment.

The article is rather indicative of the intellectual vacuum that exists at the Guardian these days. It also smacks of desperation in the face of the rapid decline in public faith in the global warming orthodoxy.  It's no secret that Koch funds Cato - the information is there on their list of sponsors. Where is the news here?

Of course, when an organisation like CRU is funded by Big Oil, it's an entirely different story. When the capitalists fund sceptics, they are paying to advance their carbon-belching interests. When they fund alarmists they are promoting sound science, and any interests they might have in alternative energy sources are irrelevant.

But here's another thing. Read this quote from Radicals for Capitalism, a history of the libertarian movement in the USA:

During the waning years of the 1970s, ....the Cato Institute [and a load of other libertarian organisations]...were all largely Koch financed and/or controlled by people who were.

So if Koch were funding these organisations back in the 1970s, before anyone had heard of global warming, it's surely even more vacuous than it would be otherwise to insinuate that Koch is using Cato as a corporate mouthpiece. Do you think the possibility that the Koch brothers are libertarians and free-marketeers - you know, people who might fund free-market-promoting organisations - even occurred to Mr Vidal?


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Reader Comments (25)

Do you think the possibility that the Koch brothers are libertarians and free-marketeers - you know, people who might fund free-market-promoting organisations - even occurred to Mr Vidal?

Whether they are bankrolling a misleading and inaccurate propaganda campaign to undermine the science because they are libertarians or because of their oil interests doesn't really change what they are doing.

Mar 30, 2010 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer

rather than get all in a lather over the fact that Big Oil funds many of these groups. It would be better to get in a lather over the amount. Big Oil's funding of skeptics is nowhere near the amount of dollars/euros/whatever funneled to the AGW proponents.
Governments fund these groups with tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars while Big Oil funding is typically in less than 10 million and probably closer to 5 million.

Mar 30, 2010 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeterk


The argument is fallacious.

Mar 30, 2010 at 8:58 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Who funds what is a complete red herring. Everybody is funded by someone. It's like the old class thing about trade and profession. Doctors and Lawyers used to avoid dealing with money directly, talk about fees instead of wages, etc etc, but at the end of the day they still run businesses, and take the filthy lucre. Greenpeace, CRU, Grantham, Lawson, Cato etc, all have paymasters, and all have to bow before the funding. To pretend that one set of banknotes is cleaner than another is pure hypocrisy. Funding has no effect on science, What is does effect is spin and publicity. Guess where most funding for that is spent. The real issue is transparency, and there are a lot of very dark corners on the AGW side, which means a lot of unknown vested interests.

Mar 30, 2010 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Anyway, remind me: is it Exxon or BP who was receently reported to be a funder of CRU?

Mar 30, 2010 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Wood

Well those miserable Koch bastards haven't given me a penny piece.

Mar 30, 2010 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

I would be very pleased indeed if the big oil companies and other corporations were to support those critical of AGW alarmism. But they mostly seem to toe the establishment line, and fund the greenies instead, and support them in other ways by trying to position themselves with them. What the Guardian fails to realise is that they are part of the new establishment, as are the likes of FoE, Greenpeace and the WWF. They have taken over the Met Office, the political parties, the media, the schools, the universities, and more. They are now battling not with their beloved forces of oppression of old, but with a handful of free, critical, and independent radical thinkers who have looked into the IPCC etc and have not like what they found. Not the science. Not the politics. Not the deceit. Not the manipulations. And not the abuse dished out to all who dare oppose it.

Mar 30, 2010 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank S

Frank: "the science" sums up your arguments for as long as I can remember on this site. At every turn, you have attempted to build an image of an indivisible monolith called "the science", in stark contrast to the reality, which is a collection of individuals and teams, some with integrity and some demonstrably without, trying to understand the incredibly complex system that is our climate. There are modern temperature records with big gaps in global coverage, extrapolated to cover the missing bits, historic data that has been abused, circulation models that give a wide range of local and global predictions, and a frankly absurd series of attempts to invent a paleoclimatic record from a small and localised sample of tree rings. Like everything else in human life, it is messy and venal, and needs robust challenge from outside the loop if it is to have a chance of telling us anything useful. Your knee-jerk defence of anything and everything that comes out of the climate science establishment does no favours to anyone - them, us or yourself. Take a break.

Mar 30, 2010 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Let me fix Franks statement in the context of the CRU, since Frank conviently omits that the CRU got funding from Shell, BP and Exxon (of course thats the norm for alarmists, got to hide the embarrising parts that don't fit the narrative)

"Whether they are bankrolling a misleading and inaccurate propaganda campaign to undermine the science because they are Alarmists or because of their oil interests doesn't really change what they are doing."

Lets also not forget the $100 million that Exxon gave Stanford where those well know "deniers" Erlich and Schneider are employed.

Then there was the Guardian getting funding from Shell as well.

So by Frank's reckoning anything CRU, Stanford or the Guardian says is automatically wrong since they are nothing but shills for Big Oil looking to make them money.

Mar 31, 2010 at 12:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterboballab

'Everybody is funded by someone'

Not everybody. Not me.

Mar 31, 2010 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Eagar

Enron created carbon trading at Kyoto through Al Gore (article 16). BP campaigned for Kyoto. The biggest lobby group at Copenhagen.was the IETA which represents fossil fuel companies and banks. That's why governments, big business and the corporate media almost universally support AGW.

FOE rejects carbon trading but continue to support AGW. They receive large sums of public money to do so.

Mar 31, 2010 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterE Smith

So if an AGW believer funds activists, it is good and legitimate.
And if people who disagree with AGW fund activists, it is bad.
So only people who agree with AGW are legitimate and deserve a place in the public square.
Glad we got that cleared up.

Mar 31, 2010 at 1:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Maybe I should head for the Koch office and demand my paycheck. (I live about three miles from Koch headquarters)

Mar 31, 2010 at 2:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterGilbert

I really don't see "big oil" or big anything funding scepticism. A quick look at the membership list of the European Carbon Exchange would indicate that their interests lie elsewhere. While I don't see their membership as proof that they are funding anything in particular, with a $100 billion a year market at risk I really can't see them funding scepticism in any form.

Mar 31, 2010 at 7:53 AM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

The numbers quoted in the Guardian in the shocked tone of the article were $25M over 9 years, the numbers actually ascribed to the right wing institutes came to $12M, or $1.3M/annum. Less than Soros gives in a week to the AGW movement.

The assumption is that they take this yearly fortune and spread misinformation about AGW. It's not clear to me what misinformation is being spread. The total money supposedley going to sceptics over the period was 1/6530 of the money put into warmist research over the same period.

Mar 31, 2010 at 8:13 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

This makes interesting reading...

Mar 31, 2010 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJabba the Cat

Greenpeace raises and spends more in 3 months than groups Koch have funded over the last 10 years.

As we know Big Environment can be just as corrupt, as wasteful, as beligerent, as greedy, as wrong as any Big Oil corporation.

Mar 31, 2010 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac


The argument is fallacious.

Which argument exactly? I simply stated that they are funding a misleading propaganda campaign. This conclusion flows from the observation that it is indeed misleading propaganda - not its funding or the reasons for it. Similar propaganda campaigns have existed in the past (e.g. tobacco), and some of the players involved in 'sceptic' propaganda are actually the same people.

The reasons they do it are interesting but not as interesting as the fact that they do it. Similarly whatever else they fund is not relevant. Why do these people need to fund propaganda? What is the appropriate response to such propaganda and why don't 'sceptics' ever take it on? If AGW is false then don't they simply fund scientific research to show that instead? Or if they have done so, where is it? Is the problem that reality has a liberal bias?

Besides, isn't it the vested interests argument rather similar to the one you often use when looking into the background of people on various inquiries and panels? If it can be part of a valid argument that some guy is associated with GLOBE then why is automatically fallacious if somebody at Cato or some other think tank is shown to be associated with other interests?

Mar 31, 2010 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer


OK, I see what you are getting at. You agree with me (and other posters) that the funding is irrelevant, but insist that it is a "misleading propaganda campaign". Rather than have that argument again, let's just agree that who funds what is irrelevant.

Mar 31, 2010 at 9:47 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


OK, I see what you are getting at. You agree with me (and other posters) that the funding is irrelevant, but insist that it is a "misleading propaganda campaign". Rather than have that argument again, let's just agree that who funds what is irrelevant.

The source of funding is irrelevant to establishing that it is anti-science propaganda.

However given that it is propaganda it is of interest who is behind it and their motives. The funding sources are relevant to establishing that. After all if you want to stop it, 'name and shame' is about the only way to do it that is compatible with free speech.

I also notice that 'sceptics' don't seem to see any fallacy in the argument when it comes to organisations like Greenpeace and WHRC (cf 'sceptic' ad hominem used against WHRC scientists despite the fact that they actually do science and get it published through the peer review process, which the 'think tanks' invariably do not).

The question is firstly, is it propaganda, and secondly if it is then who is behind it and why. Those who support science are as entitled to ask these questions about the output from your side of the aisle, as 'sceptics' are about the body of scientific work. After all 'sceptics' do little else but ask such questions.

In fact it is your side of the house that has the far more compelling case to answer. It is high time these 'think tanks' took their turn in the spotlight and this is a hopeful sign that journalists are beginning to realise it.

Mar 31, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer


Please have this conversation at your own site.

Mar 31, 2010 at 10:56 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

This isn't an argument. It's just a series of contradictions.

Mar 31, 2010 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

@ Frank O'Dwyer

The point is that Koch was funding these organisations back in the 1970s, before anyone had heard of global warming.

Mar 31, 2010 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterblingmun

Note to Guardian:

Greenpeace look at published accounts and discover an oil company openly funds free market think tanks. Boring.

Chairman of enquiry does not disclose he has a financial interest in its outcome. Interesting.

Mar 31, 2010 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

just a point of detail - Koch Industries are not "Big Oil".... They have a refining and pipeline sector but their (oil business) size in relation to Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Total etc is insignificant.

Mar 31, 2010 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterHysteria

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