The Koch Industries scions, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, have not only polluted American politics with global warming denial, but also barraged their employees with right-wing, anti-science propaganda for years. Koch Industries is one of the largest private companies in the world, with about $100 billion in annual revenues and 80,000 employees. The Koch brothers are virulently right-wing ideologues who have spent decades attempting to prevent regulation of their toxic pollution — including oil refining, formaldehyde, and industrial agriculture — through a network of hard-right think tanks and astroturf groups.
Exploring the Wichita-based Koch Industries in-house newsletter, “Discovery,” the Wonk Room has found that Koch Industries propagandizes its own employees — from the Flint Hills Resources refining group to the Georgia Pacific paper consumer products giant — with global warming denialism. Koch’s corporate climate denial cites the very front groups that it funds, such as the American Council on Capital Formation, Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the Institute for Energy Research.
In addition to climate denial, the Koch Industries newsletter — managed by Koch’s top propagandist Rich Fink — repeatedly asserts that any rule or regulation to limit pollution will destroy the economy and American freedom. Employees concerned about this assault on prosperity are encouraged to turn to Americans for Prosperity, Koch’s Astroturf organization that works to elect hard-right Republicans and dismantle progressive policies.
Ironically, the quarterly Koch newsletter also reports on the terrible damage caused by climate disasters to the Koch community from Kansas to Texas. In 2007, tornadoes flattened Greensburg, KS. In 2008, Hurricane Ike washed away the homes of 80 Koch employees and affected 1400 others.
Below is a review of the last few years of Koch Industries “Discovery” newsletters and their dark world of climate denial:
April 2010: Industry shill Patrick Moore responds to the Greenpeace exposé of Koch’s climate denial: “We do not believe there is any cause for alarmism about the earth’s climate and we are skeptical about the assertion that global warming is caused by human activity.”
January 2010: In addition to claiming low-carbon fuel standards have “debatable” environmental benefits but certain costs, the newsletter runs an extended piece on global warming. Koch Industries asks “why would a reasonable society rush to implement far-reaching (and costly) climate change policies based on such shaky understanding of the science?”
“It’s clear from the data that the science on greenhouse gases is not really settled,” says Mark Dobbins, executive vice president for Koch Supply & Trading in Houston. The newsletter cites the repeatedly debunked “Climategate” smear campaign as proof of the scientific conspiracy:
But what the recent “Climategate” scandal at the University of East Anglia may have illustrated is just how suspect many of those scientific assumptions may be. Correspondence indicates that when the data didn’t support their hypothesis, leading climate change advocates in England decided to change, hide, or, if necessary, destroy conflicting data. The scientific process of discovery is completely undermined if important information gets modified, manipulated, distorted or dropped if it contradicts a preferred outcome. Scientists have also perverted the peer review process, doing everything possible to prevent opinions contrary to the alarmist view from being heard.
“Rather than encouraging open and honest scientific enquiry and debate about the issue, climate extremists are trying to shout down any and all dissenters,” the newsletter claims. “All of this should be a warning flag for anyone proposing actions to respond to climate change on the mistaken assumption that ‘the science is settled.'”
The newsletter concludes with a remarkable assertion: “In other words, since we can’t control Mother Nature, let’s figure out how to get along with her changes.”
July 2009: “Discovery” cites the debunked Koch-funded Spanish “green jobs” study to claim that “each new job in that country’s renewable energy sector came at an extremely high cost, financially and socially.” Making a mockery of Koch’s supposed guiding principles (“Ensure excellence in environmental, safety, and all other areas of compliance”), the article repeats the false attack on limits on global warming pollution throughout:
“If the environmental benefits of this sort of regulatory activism are negligible and the costs enormous, why bother?”
“Overblown environmental concerns not only give governments the opportunity to create new bureaucracies, they provide a rationale for imposing new taxes.”
“Curbing global greenhouse gases is worthy in its intent,” they recently wrote, “but a system that will tax and penalize American families and businesses during these uniquely tough economic times is simply not the right approach.”
“Perhaps if we can convince our leaders to slow down the runaway train of environmental regulation,” the article concludes, “we can begin a rational discussion of what really creates the best value for the planet – and everyone on it.”
January 2009: Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross, thanks Koch Industries for its “compassion and willingness” for donating $1.1 million in disaster relief after “Hurricane Ike strikes Texas, damaging several Koch company plants, temporarily closing some offices and destroying at least 80 employee homes.”
October 2008: Even as “Discovery” reports on the 1400 Koch employees hit by Hurricane Ike, Koch Industries argues that fighting global warming “could create setbacks to our prosperity and freedom that far exceed our current financial threats.”
“Senators McCain and Obama, for example, have both proposed massive environmental policies that are likely to have little if any effect on global temperatures,” writes top Koch lobbyist Philip Ellender in a piece that argues for a Republican president while Democrats control Congress. “Rushing to meet such goals could create setbacks to our prosperity and freedom that far exceed our current financial threats.”
July 2008: Koch Industries promotes “Scared to Death,” a book by British tabloid journalists Christopher Booker and Richard North that argues the “new secular religion” of global warming is just one of many urgent “crises” that have turned out to be not-so-urgent. The newsletter also includes the quotation from “Dr. Roger Revelle, Harvard professor”: “The scientific base for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time. There is little risk in delaying policy responses.”
Not only is the quotation twenty years old, it was actually written by the conservative scientist Fred Singer, who manipulated Revelle on his deathbed to participate in a climate skeptic paper.
April 2008: Koch Industries publishes yet another extended article on climate change, attacking the Waxman-Markey climate legislation by citing economic analysis run by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Council on Capital Formation, both funded by Koch Industries:
Although there are plenty of questions about the long-term effects of climate change and how best to deal with it, there can be little doubt that a concerted effort is underway to promote climate change legislation. If most politicians have their way, we will be facing plenty of new taxes, new fees and new regulations.
“If you would like to learn more about energy balance, climate change and other energy issues,” the newsletter recommends that you check out the National Center for Policy Analysis (funded by Koch), the Heartland Institute (funded by Koch), the Institute for Energy Research (funded by Koch), and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (funded by Koch). The newsletter does not mention their ties to Koch Industries.
January 2008: “The U.S. Congress has already passed – or is considering – massive new regulations and subsidies,” Charles Koch himself writes, “many of them related to carbon reduction schemes.”
October 2007: “When it’s election time,” the newsletter recommends, “begin by familiarizing yourself with your elected officials and their point of view when it comes to debt, taxes, spending and additional government programs.” Do so by turning to Americans For Prosperity, “just one of many organizations seeking to educate taxpayers about economic policy and to mobilize citizens in the battle against runaway government.” The newsletter does not mention AFP’s ties to Koch Industries.
July 2007: Kansas governor Kathleen Sibelius (now Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) thanks Koch Industries “for your support of the many Kansans devastated by the tornado that struck Greensburg.” Koch employees contributed $150,000.
After touting Koch’s commitment to “sustainability” and “consistently applying good science,” the newsletter throws in a dig at “politicians who talk the most about saving the planet” but “don’t seem enthused about supporting significantly higher energy prices, especially with an election year coming up.”