Special Report

Exposing Exxon

Environmentalists try to finger the hypocrisy behind anti-global warming studies, when their own integrity is far more in question.

By 10.13.05

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"How much money did you receive from ExxonMobil in 2005?" When energy expert Indur Goklany gave a National Press Club briefing about his recent paper, "Living With Global Warming," he probably expected inquiries about his findings and research. But that's the accusation he was hit with during the Q&A from David Tuft, an official of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We know you received $315,000 [from Exxon] through 2004; we're wondering what it is in 2005."

The National Center for Policy Analysis, which published Goklany's research, did receive funding from ExxonMobil, but Goklany rightly responded that he received no Exxon money. Still, he was forced to publicly confront a left-wing smear tactic. Unable to win the public policy debate fair and square, environmental groups are falling back on an old stand-by -- they attack the integrity of their opponents by dragging a corporate bogeyman out of the closet. Disgruntled green groups failed to win passage of global warming regulations in the recently passed energy bill, so they are resorting to claims that ExxonMobil buys off everyone who doesn't take their side. Some strategy.

The Exxpose Exxon campaign (Exxpose, get it?) was launched by some of the biggest guns in the environmental movement: Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, Environmental Action, Greenpeace, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and the Union of Concerned Scientists. True Majority, the creation of leftist ice-cream maker Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry's), and MoveOn.org, whose members played such a large part in Howard Dean's attempt to capture the Democratic presidential nomination, also are part of the anti-Exxon group. They charge (correctly) that Exxon favors opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and opposes restrictive global warming legislation, and they argue (questionably) that Exxon refuses to invest "enough" money in alternative energy sources.

However, the thrust of their report "ExxonMobil Exxposed" is as hollow as a Halloween pumpkin: "In 2004, ExxonMobil gave $1.9 million to 26 organizations specifically to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming," it says. Does the report then compare the Exxon amount to the amount that foundations give to groups that believe global warming is an imminent threat to the environment? No. Fortunately, the George C. Marshall Institute has done just that. It examined funding trends for 2000-2002 and discovered that among the twenty top grant-makers on the issue, ExxonMobil was the only one not hyping global warming and it only ranked 14th in the amount of money it gave away. The top two givers, the Energy Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, gave over $43 million and $12 million, respectively, for programs on climate change. Both are strong supporters of the argument that the world is growing warmer because Americans use too much oil.

Indeed, looking at the funding patters of the groups in Exxpose Exxon reveals that they have a vested interest in promoting global warming hype. In fact, some groups raked in more money in one year for their own global warming campaigns than ExxonMobil doled out in total. According to the Marshall Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists each took in over $2.4 million just in 2002. From 2000-2002, they took in $6.7 million and $6.3 million, respectively, for activities promoting the global warming hypothesis. Other big grants went to the National Environmental Trust ($2,150,000), U.S. PIRG ($1,015,000), Sierra Club ($405,000), Greenpeace ($385,000), and Friends of the Earth ($150,000).

One Greenpeace website called "Exxon Secrets" claims to have discovered more shady information about ExxonMobil's support for policy groups that question the global warming argument. But there are no "secrets" here. ExxonMobil's grantmaking is public information, and it is available from the company's 2002 Annual Report and its 2003 and 2004 Corporate Giving Reports. They are all posted on ExxonMobil's website.

Like other activist groups, the anti-Exxon coalition arrogantly demands a boycott. Americans can help "by refusing to work for ExxonMobil, refusing to invest their hard-earned dollars in ExxonMobil, and refusing to buy ExxonMobil products" [italics added]. But guess what? Some of the foundations that support these groups invest their own money in ExxonMobil! The Ford Foundation gave $150,000 each to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Friends of the Earth in 2003. According to its most recent tax return, the foundation owned about 2.2 million shares of ExxonMobil stock that was then valued at about $82 million. The Surdna Foundation handed out $125,000 to Defenders of Wildlife (in 2001) and $75,000 to the National Environmental Trust (in 2003), and it owned about 15,000 shares of ExxonMobil stock. The Wallace Global Fund gave $490,000 to the Sierra Club Foundation (2001-2003), $200,000 to the Union of Concerned Scientists (2001-2003), and $100,000 to Greenpeace (2001), and it owned 20,000 shares of ExxonMobil. Because those "hard-earned dollars" are invested in ExxonMobil, will the green groups return the tainted money?

Few debates have been as one-sided as the one over whether the scientific evidence backs up arguments for global warming and what American public officials should do about it. Environmental groups have gone overboard in attacking the integrity of anyone who questions their assertions. Leftist groups never hesitate to argue that having a "national debate" means all sides need to be heard. Funny, though, how that doesn't apply to ExxonMobil's support for the other side of the climate debate.

David Hogberg is a senior research analyst at the Capital Research Center. (CRC is a recipient of the ExxonMobil
Foundation.) He also hosts his own website, Hog Haven.

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David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.