The Heat Is Online

ExxonMobil Continues to Fund Greenhouse Skeptics

Has Exxon Really Seen the Light on Global Warming?

$23 Million Given to Climate Change Skeptics Since 1998, Congress Wants Answers, May 18, 2007

ExxonMobil continues to quietly pump millions of dollars into a network of organizations that deny or question global warming, despite acknowledging such payments had become harmful to the company's image, according to a new report by the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace.

In the report, to be released today, Greenpeace said ExxonMobil is still awarding grants to groups known to question the science behind climate change at a time when the international scientific community has accepted the reality of global warming.

ExxonMobil gave almost $23 million to such groups from 1998 to 2006, including $2.1 million to 41 organizations last year alone, Greenpeace said.

(Details  available )

ExxonMobil said the organizations it awarded grants to are not necessarily doing Exxon's bidding.

"In common with many other companies, we support numerous public policy organizations that research and promote discussion on a variety of topics, such as energy policy and international affairs," Exxon spokesman Dave Gardner told ABC News in an e-mail. "These groups do not represent us or speak on our behalf, nor do we have any control over their views and messages."

A Greenpeace spokesman said the organization wanted Exxon to halt the funding.

"We want this company to own up to its legacy of funding these groups," said Kert Davies, the research director at Greenpeace who contributed to the analysis and report. "We want them to cease funding them, and at the very least declare what these organizations are doing."

Tax documents examined by Greenpeace show that ExxonMobil gave grants to 14 groups skeptical of global warming. ExxonMobil had classified them as "general support" grants in public reports, according to the environmental group.

A public shaming campaign by Greenpeace and others has led ExxonMobil to vow recently to cut its charitable giving to such groups.

"The funding was unfortunately becoming a distraction," one ExxonMobil executive told BusinessWeek magazine recently.

Greenpeace believes Exxon's chief motivation for funding groups that question climate change science is to control the emerging policy debate in Congress and soften the blow from expected restrictions in greenhouse gas emissions that will affect the oil and gas industry.

Company Calls Warming a 'Serious Issue'

ExxonMobil said it has taken steps to portray itself as having come to grips with the fact that the heat-trapping gases released from the burning of fossil fuels is a major factor contributing to global warming. "Our position on climate change is clear," Exxon's Gardner told ABC News. "We believe that climate change is a serious issue and that action is warranted now."

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson addressed the topic in February.

"It is clear that something is going on. It is not useful to debate [the matter] any longer," Tillerson said. He often touts the steps ExxonMobil has taken to reduce its own carbon dioxide emissions.

Congress Calls for Action

But some in Congress want to make sure Exxon's public pronouncements are backed by real action.

A just-released letter to Tillerson from Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., calls on Exxon to provide lawmakers with the amount and purpose of every corporate grant it awarded in 2006, along with other documents.

"The company's support of climate skeptics, many of whom have no real grounding in climate science, appears to be an effort to distort public discussion about global warming," wrote Miller, who serves as chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology. "I hope that the company has moved away from support for public policy advocates who attempt to twist and distort the scientific record."

Despite the concern over the company's donations, Greenpeace's Davies also believes Exxon is at least part of a solution to a warming climate.

"The bottom line is, we want ExxonMobil to help stop global warming," Davies said. "We need their help. And until they own up to what they've been doing for the last decade and unless they start pulling with the rest of the world, we're going to have a hard time solving global warming."

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Greenpeace: Exxon still funding climate skeptics


Reuters News Service, May 18, 2007


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp. gave over $2 million in 2006 to groups Greenpeace called global warming skeptics even as the oil company campaigned to improve its climate-unfriendly image.


Nevertheless, Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded company, cut its donations to these groups by more than 40 percent from 2005.


The company still funds about 40 "skeptic groups," according to the report from Greenpeace, but Exxon disputed that many of the organizations were "global warming deniers."


The groups listed include: the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Many of them concern themselves with a wide range of issues.


Earlier this year, Exxon said it had stopped funding a handful of groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that have downplayed the risks of carbon dioxide emissions.

Exxon has argued that its position on global warming has been widely misunderstood and has taken part in industry talks on greenhouse gas emission regulations.


"We believe that climate change is a serious issue and that action is warranted now," said Exxon Mobil spokesman Dave Gardner.

Gardner said in a statement that the company supports numerous public policy organizations on a variety of topics that do not represent Exxon or speak on its behalf.


"The groups Greenpeace cites are a widely varied group and to classify them as 'climate deniers' is wrong," he said, adding most of the groups had taken no position on climate change.


Still, the Greenpeace report is already receiving scrutiny in Washington, where Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat, has joined the environmentalist group in calling for Exxon to release its plans for contributions during the current year.


"The support of climate skeptics, many of whom have no real grounding in climate science, appears to be an effort to distort public discussion about global warming," Miller said. "So long as popular discussion could be about whether warming was occurring or not, so long as doubt was widespread, consensus for action could be postponed."




Margo Thorning, chief economist of the American Council for Capital Formation said she took "strong exception" with Greenpeace's classification of the group.


"If Greenpeace would take the time to examine the testimony I've given over the years, we've always said that climate change is a problem," Thorning said of her group, which says on its Web site that it promotes economic and environmental policies that promote economic growth.


"We're not climate deniers, we're problem solvers," she said.

Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said his group believes that there has been a change to the climate, but that the cause is still uncertain.


"Whether its cyclical -- something that happens every few hundred years -- or whatever, I don't know. I don't believe anyone has the answer yet," said Alford, head of the group that says on its Web site it is dedicated to economically empowering African-American communities.


"I think where Greenpeace gets upset is that we don't agree with them. But so what? I think their position is pretty radical and one-sided," he said.


Greenpeace said it included groups that either tried to mischaracterized the science behind global warming or "obstruct the policy debate."


Spokesman Kert Davies said these arguments "hinged on the fact that this (global warming) is not an urgent problem or has no basis. Ultimately, it always boils down to, 'There is no problem, so why would you destroy the economy to solve it."'


Exxon Mobil's spending on the groups was less than a third of the company's $6.5 million in contributions for policy research.

The company and its foundations donated a total of $138.6 million to non-profit organizations and social projects worldwide in 2006.


According to the Greenpeace report, Exxon's spending was well below the nearly $3.6 million it spent on "denial groups" in 2005 and just over half the $3.9 million it shelled out in 2004.


© Reuters 2006.