Shell Just Broke Up With ALEC Over Climate-Change Denials

Another oil and gas company just said it won’t renew its ALEC membership. CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/DYLAN PETROHILOS/THINKPROGRESS
Another oil and gas company just said it won’t renew its ALEC membership. CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/DYLAN PETROHILOS/THINKPROGRESS

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) just lost another high-profile member.

Oil and gas giant Shell has announced that it will not renew membership to ALEC, a Koch-funded organization that does not support action against climate change.

“We have long recognized both the importance of the climate challenge and the critical role energy has in determining quality of life for people across the world,” the Dutch and British company said in a statement provided to Responding to Climate Change. The company said ALEC’s position was “clearly inconsistent” with its own.

ALEC has fought pro-renewable energy legislation and does not accept that there is anything that the United States can do to help combat global warming. “Climate change is a historical phenomenon and the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions,” the group says in its policy position.


Taking a stand on climate change comes at an odd time for Shell, which has been under fire this summer for its plans to do exploratory drilling in the Arctic Sea. Hundreds of protesters delayed a Shell oil rig from leaving Seattle in June, after the Obama administration approved the company’s permit application. Shell has plans to drill in two places in the Chukchi Sea this summer to explore the viability of developing the area for oil extraction.

This plan is, of course, directly at odds with any plan to prevent the continued warming of the planet. Not only does the burning of oil and gas contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, drilling in the Arctic has also been uniquely shown to increase risk to the climate, due to the release of black carbon and methane during the drilling process.

“It’s a bad sign for the climate denial movement that ALEC’s rhetoric is too extreme even for a cynical exploitative corporation like Shell,” Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols, said in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. “It’s also clear that Shell’s ill-conceived Arctic drilling plan is causing a PR panic, but this move won’t fix Shell’s bad name. It’s completely absurd for Shell to claim it wants to confront climate change while engaging in this destructive plan to drill in the Alaskan Arctic.”  Still, some applauded Shell’s announcement Friday. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a science advocacy group, has been pressuring companies to leave ALEC. UCS has been meeting with Shell employees for over a year and gathered more than 130,000 signatures on a petition to the company, a UCS rep said.

“We’re happy that they’ve responded to scientists and investors who have been urging Shell to sever its ties with ALEC,” said Angela Anderson, director of UCS’s Climate and Energy Program, in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. “It’s simply untenable for companies to ask policymakers to adopt a carbon price while supporting groups that fight climate and clean energy policies and spread misinformation about climate science. If other fossil fuel companies want to be taken seriously when they say they support action on climate change, they should do the same.”

UCS had also been working with oil and gas giant BP, which announced in March that it would leave ALEC. BP did not give a reason for the departure.


Several high-profile technology companies, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Yelp have also discontinued membership in the group. Those companies — which rely on a large amount of electricity for data servers — were outspoken that ALEC’s position on the climate was untenable.

UPDATED: This article has been updated to include comments from Greenpeace.