Koch Industries: The 100-Million ton Carbon Gorilla

Koch Industries, the private company of the billionaire Koch brothers, is one of the primary sources of carbon pollution in the United States. However, the actual emissions profile of the diversified giant, with its oil and gas, chemicals, cattle, forestry, and synthetics holdings, is unknown, because of the lack of mandatory carbon reporting in the United States.

Brad Johnson has the story — and his estimates of the Koch carbon pollution.

Furthermore, Koch is exempt from the risk disclosures that are standard for public corporations. The financial status of Koch Industries is similarly clouded in secret, with only vague statements of annual revenue around $100 billion and the Forbes estimates of the principals’ extraordinary wealth. Charles and David Koch have directed many millions of their shared $43 billion net worth into a vast propaganda machine denying the threat of global warming pollution, corrupting American politics to permit their pollution-based enterprise to continue.

Below, the Wonk Room makes some estimates of the Koch Industries carbon footprint, based on the pollution generated by its activities and from the use of the products it sells:

The Koch Industries Carbon Footprint Is About 300 Million Tons. With the assumption that Koch has a carbon intensity on the order of oil majors such as Chevron and ExxonMobil, each billion dollars of revenue corresponds to 2 to 4 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases. Therefore, each year, Koch Industries is likely responsible for about 300 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution every year. Flint Hills Resources, Koch’s refining subsidiary, processes 300 million barrels of oil a year. This one company “” with its refining, pipeline, chemical, fertilizer, cattle, and forestry operations “” is involved in up to five percent of the entire United States 7-gigaton carbon footprint.

Koch Climate Denial Is Dirty Self Interest. The virulence of the Koch brothers’ opposition to climate policy “” to anything that would make polluters instead of society pay for the cost of their pollution “” is purely a matter of self-interest. The immense profitability of their carbon holdings depends on their freedom to pollute without consequence “” a toxic freedom they have sold to the American public, and particularly the Tea Party faithful organized by the various Koch front groups, as inherent to the American dream. If their pollution was fairly priced in a free-market system such as the cap-and-trade markets the Koch successfully demonized in Washington (but failed in their attempt to do so in California), the Kochs would be facing costs of anywhere from $1 billion to $40 billion a year. Spending well less than $1 billion a year on their political and philanthropic activities, the Kochs have made a brilliant investment to defend their killer business model.

The Carbon Liability Of The Kochs Is Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars. Over the lifetime of the Koch Industries, as it has grown from a $100 million enterprise built on oil refining in Stalinist Russia to one of the largest private companies in the world, its cumulative carbon footprint rivals that of most nations. Experts estimate that the social cost of carbon “” the true cost to society of global warming pollution “” is between $30 and $300 per ton of carbon dioxide. The potential liability the Kochs face for having knowingly destabilized the global climate system “” and funded a propaganda network to prevent political action to end their pollution “” represents practically the whole of their wealth.

Charles And David Koch Each Have A Carbon Footprint Of 100 Million Tons. The average American has a carbon footprint of 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year “” much greater than the European average of 9 tons, the Chinese average of 5 tons, or India’s annual average of 1.4 tons of carbon dioxide per person. However, the annual carbon footprint of the Charles and David Koch is on the order of 100 million tons of carbon dioxide each. Just as their personal wealth is staggeringly greater than that of the average American, so is their damage to this planet.

Koch’s carbon pollution is inherent to its business model, putting them in direct opposition to people who care about preserving God’s creation and their children’s future.

— Brad Johnson, in a WonkRoom cross-post

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8 Responses to Koch Industries: The 100-Million ton Carbon Gorilla

  1. Chad says:

    Hmmm, at a conservative price of $20 per ton, that mean’s the Koch’s are only destroying $6 billion in value every year with this one form of pollution.

    We should send them a bill for what they owe us for using our public property as a garbage dump…at 19.9% interest and with a $35 late fee for good measure.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, Brad.

    I proposed several legal actions during the protest at Rancho Mirage. Do you or Joe work with law firms on strategies here? The Kochs, like Exxon, have a pattern of finding friendly politicians to reduce their fines. In spite of the Kochs’ proven record of chronic fraud, theft, and negligent homicide, they have never faced criminal penalties.

    Any chance of a strong legal firm actually putting some serious legal pressure on them?

  3. Edward says:

    “the true cost to society of global warming pollution — is between $30 and $300 per ton of carbon dioxide.”
    How do you put a price on the extinction of Homo Sap?

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Koch email pranksters speak out for the first time

    Exclusive interview with the anonymous pranksters currently defending a criminal lawsuit pursued by Koch Industries

    Koch Industries Inc is a firm believer in our nation’s First Amendment and the right to free speech. This lawsuit was filed in response to a wilful act of identity theft, theft of intellectual property and impersonation that extends beyond the boundaries of free speech. It was a publicity and fundraising stunt perpetrated with the intent to deceive and confuse the public, and disrupt and harm Koch Industries’ business and reputation.

    Koch funds the Attack on Science with Lies, now someone did a prank and they are up in full force.

  5. Pete says:

    Is there any way as a consumer to avoid Koch’s refined petroleum products (i.e., at the gas pump)? (I’ve seen an earlier post indicating some of the brand names of other consumer products Koch is associated with.)

    It would be a small gesture, but it has been many, many years since I have purchased Exxon or Mobil gas, and I am running a decent streak on BP as well.

  6. Leland Palmer says:

    Well, the Kochs are huge, but ExxonMobil is much, much bigger.

    If it was a country, ExxonMobil would be the fifth or sixth largest carbon emitting country on earth.

    This one corporation has been calculated to have contributed maybe 5% of historic anthropogenic carbon emissions.

    ExxonMobil is the direct descendant of the Standard Oil monopoly of John D. Rockefeller, both through Exxon and through Mobil.

    So, if the Koch’s climate liability is roughly equal to their fortune, what is the climate liability of the Rockefeller family?

    The government ought to just nationalize Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, and break the power of these lying parasites, IMO.

    All the money that they have ever made, and all the assets purchased with that money would be a suitable penalty.

    Not including punitive damages and criminal penalties, of course.

  7. Craig P. says:

    Charles & David Koch have annual carbon footprints of 100 million tons each, compared to 19 tons for the average American? Wow … or should some of (or most of) those carbon emissions rather be counted toward their customers’ carbon footprints?

    I really don’t like to sound like I’m defending the Koch brothers, but this doesn’t seem like the usual method of calculating a carbon footprint.

  8. Leif says:

    Craig P, @7: Koch brothers annual footprint of ~100 million tons each clearly points out the discrepancy of the “over population” problem as each of these dudes contribute a carbon stomp equivalent to ~33,000,000 third world folks.

    While I agree that a significant amount of the carbon stomp should be attributed to the consumers of those products, likewise it is clear that mitigation efforts on the part of the Kochtapuss would go a long way. On the other hand the carbon stomp sited does not include the denial effects of these two cow pies.