Is Exxon backing away from climate change deniers?

Is Exxon backing away from climate change deniers?
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Love on the rocks ?

Exxon Mobil Corp. has cut funding to groups raising questions about climate change from human-generated carbon dioxide, a move taken on the eve of its annual meeting in the face of criticism that the oil giant isn’t as green as some of its rivals.

Spokesman Gantt Walton confirmed Tuesday that in 2008, Exxon Mobil (XOM) scrapped funding for the Capital Research Center, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute and the Institute for Energy Research.

“We discontinued contributions to several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner,” Walton said.

On the surface, this looks somewhat promising, especially considering that Exxon cut funding to the notorious global warming deniers at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) last year.

But a healthy dose of skepticism on our side is important. Let’s dig below that glossy corporate surface and follow the money.

Last year, Greenpeace pointed out that although Exxon stopped its handouts to the CEI, it was still up to no good:

ExxonSecrets has obtained the company’s Exxon Foundation 2005 report to the IRS. Exxon told the IRS that that it funded 14 groups specifically for their climate change work. But somehow the company didn’t mention this in public.

[Emphasis added.]

In addition to those 14 groups, Exxon was also still giving millions to other front groups that faithfully pump out global warming denier propaganda (pdf , pp. 10-15).

Finally, let’s take a look at the groups most recently defunded, namely their key individuals and goals:

  1. The Capital Research Center aggressively monitors progressive advocacy groups (example here). One of their most recent publications regarding climate change is by the rather prolific denier Chris Horner, whose contributions to the National Review‘s “Planet Gore” blog speak for themselves. Horner is also listed by the Heartland Institute as one of their “global warming experts”, and has recently given talks for the conservative (Exxon-funded ) Heritage Foundation.
  2. The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow has an impressive list of high-profile global warming deniers on its Board of Advisors. Many, if not most of them, are also advisors to, or on the staff of, front groups that Exxon continues to fund (e.g. the American Enterprise Institute, the National Center for Policy Analysis, etc.)
  3. The Frontiers of Freedom Institute includes the Center for Science and Public Policy, whose extensive anti-climate science activities include a recent letter to President Bush co-signed by a long list of fellow climate change deniers from other front groups.
  4. The George C. Marshall Institute is noteworthy in that it has hosted many “roundtables” specifically for climate change deniers from other front groups (e.g. “Shattered Consensus”, a discussion including Patrick Michaels, Ross McKitrick, David Legates, and Oliver Frauenfeld).
  5. The Institute for Energy Research ‘s chairman is also a sort of clearinghouse for climate change deniers from other Exxon-funded front groups. As of the time of this post, the IER‘s list of Scholars includes experts from the American Enterprise Institute , the Cato Institute , and the Pacific Research Institute .

The point is this:

Although Exxon is no longer funding a handful of its climate change denier front groups, the key people in these groups are part of the entire Exxon front group network. It doesn’t matter that one of their think tanks is losing funding, because they have their fingers in other oily pies, and can get their message out no matter what.

Exxon is obviously under pressure to catch up with reality; they no longer strictly deny climate change, but their tepid, equivocating language on their website leaves a lot to be desired.

As Cindy Baxter says in her post at Exxon Secrets, “it’s a start “. She, like all of us in the real world would love to see Exxon stop funding all of its front groups, and not create more to take their place.

Perhaps the tiger will be out of the (think) tank for good someday.


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