How Canada made the Koch brothers rich

Author’s note: Until this past February, I worked as a contracted television producer for Global TV and its current affairs program,16×9. Last fall, I was commissioned to do a story for the program about the Koch brothers, their holdings in Alberta’s oil sands and their interest in getting the Keystone XL pipeline built. In January, two days before the 22-minute documentary was about to air on16×9, Global’s senior management pulled the story. After Jesse Brown’s Canadaland published a story about its sudden disappearance, Global fired me, although I was not quoted in that story or had any involvement with it. What you’re about to read includes some of the material that has not yet been permitted to be shown on Global.

The attacks were nasty.

In the winter of 2011, Karen Kleiss, a reporter with the Edmonton Journal, wrote a story about how Koch Industries Inc. had hired a lobbyist in Alberta. The story provided background on the Wichita, Kansas-based energy conglomerate, its presence in Alberta, and its American billionaire owners, Charles and David Koch.

Kleiss reported at the time that no one from Koch Industries addressed her questions. Nevertheless, after her story appeared, Koch Industries went on the offensive. On their website, kochfacts.com – and in vivid red type – they lashed out at Kleiss’s article, claiming it was “slanted,” that it “parroted partisan political rhetoric and other distortions” and that its coverage of the Koch brothers registering a lobbyist in Alberta was a “purported story.” The Koch Industries representative summed up by saying:

“There is a place for opinion on the op-ed pages, on blogs, and on Twitter. It does not belong on the news pages of an objective journal.”

What the paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal did not dispute was Kleiss’s assertion that Koch industries is “an American energy conglomerate owned by two powerful billionaire brothers who help fund the Tea Party and climate change denial movements in the U.S.”

The attack was so strong that Lucinda Chodan, editor-in-chief of the Journal at the time, felt compelled to write a lengthy response to Koch defending her reporter’s work. The company replied by taking further potshots at the newspaper and at Kleiss’s judgment.

Around the same time, a similar scenario was playing out after Reuters ran a story entitled “Koch Brothers Positioned To Be Big Winners If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved,” that also detailed Koch’s holdings in Canada. It discussed how the Koch brothers would benefit if the Keystone XL pipeline was built.

Written by David Sassoon, a journalist who runs InsideClimate News— a Brooklyn, NY-based, Pulitzer prize-winning website that covers climate change issues— the Reuters piece eventually elicited a ferocious response from Koch’s PR department. The company accused Sassoon of publishing “falsehoods” and of being an “environmental activist,” and Reuters of printing “advocacy journalism.”

Koch Industries even took out ads via Facebook and Google with a photo of Sassoon under the headline “David Sassoon’s Deceptions.”

Once again, a Reuters editor had to intervene with a lengthy letter to Koch defending their use of Sassoon’s reporting. These attacks went on for some months. Today, Kleiss and Sassoon refuse to discuss these events.

But at that time Koch Industries’ campaigns against the media were not unusual. Their website, KochFacts, criticized reporting in The New York TimesThe New YorkerMother JonesForbes.comThe Washington Post and Bloomberg’s Markets Magazine.

By 2011, the Koch brothers – currently the sixth richest people in the world, with US$42.3-billion apiece – were attracting attention because of their efforts at influencing the US political system, helping foster the Tea Party movement, and attacking attempts to curb climate change. They were also emerging as political kingmakers: two weeks ago, the brothers were in the news for endorsing Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, as their choice for the Republican presidential nominee (Walker is well-known for his attacks on labour rights in his state).

 Tax records show that since 2007 the Fraser Institute, one of Canada’s oldest conservative think tanks, has pocketed a total of US$765,000 from one of Charles Koch’s foundations.

Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the US, has become infamous for playing hardball.

Yet the broadsides on articles linking the Koch brothers to Canada might have had another purpose: to direct prying eyes away from their company’s history in this country. After all, few people know how Canada and its oil riches have been central to creating their vast fortune.

And what a fortune it is: today, Koch Industries is a global behemoth with annual sales of US$115-billion and a presence in 60 countries and employing more than 100,000 people worldwide. It has invested US$70-billion in capital expenditures over the past 12 years. They produce a wide range of products, and not only from the 750,000 barrels of oil they process every day: fertilizers, drywall, windowpanes, carpets, Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, chemicals, and fibre optics.

As it turns out, Koch Industries also controls anywhere from 1.1 million to as much as two million acres of Alberta’s oil sands – or the equivalent of around 4,500 square kilometers – thereby guaranteeing the company’s prosperity for decades to come. The value of their oil sands holdings is in the tens of billions of dollars. MORE

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Deniers deflated as climate reality hits home

Image: Dunk/Flickr

Climate science deniers are becoming desperate as their numbers diminish in the face of incontrovertible evidence that human-caused global warming is putting our future at risk. Although most people with basic education, common sense and a lack of financial interest in the fossil fuel industry accept what scientists worldwide have proven through decades of research, some media outlets continue to publish inconsistent, incoherent opinions of people who reject climate science.

Over the past few weeks, Canada’s Postmedia chain has run columns denying or downplaying the seriousness of climate change, by Fraser Institute senior fellow Ross McKitrick; defeated politician Joe Oliver; and fossil fuel executive and Fraser Institute board member Gwyn Morgan, who is also former chair of scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin.

McKitrick, an economist, has also signed the Cornwall Alliance Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which says, in part, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” Other prominent deniers, including Roy Spencer and David Legates, have also signed.

South of the border, the Heartland Institute, a leading U.S. denial organization with ties to Canadian organizations such as the misnamed International Climate Science Coalition, still holds its annual denial-fest. But even that organization is feeling hard times in the face of evidence — similar to the proof that made it walk back its previous support for the tobacco industry to the point that its members now admit smoking is bad but defend vaping and other “smokeless” tobacco industry products.

Heartland’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change — held at the Washington, D.C., Trump International Hotel — was down from three days to one. It once attracted more than 50 sponsors, but this year drew just 16 — and one was fake! Fossil fuel companies have also cut funding, realizing denial is not an effective way to gain social licence. Attendance was limited to a couple hundred mostly older white men.

As usual, the conference speakers’ reasons for denying climate science were all over the map.

Some simply rejected all evidence. According to British eccentric Christopher Monckton, who has no scientific credentials, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are decreasing; sea levels are falling, not rising; and rising carbon dioxide emissions are improving life on Earth!

Others argued that CO2 levels aren’t rising, while some claimed the planet is cooling. In other words, the arguments were mostly easily debunked, contradictory nonsense in service of the most profitable and polluting industry in human history.

You’d think Heartland would be riding high under a government that shares its anti-science views. But even holding the conference in a Trump hotel blocks from the White House didn’t gain it the profile organizers would have liked. Tom Harris, a discredited Canadian fossil fuel promoter who works with Heartland and the International Climate Science Coalition, penned a sad article with fellow denier, Heartland “science director” and convicted criminal Jay Lehr, crying, “no one from the Trump administration will be in attendance,” which, they whined, is “a huge loss since ICCC-13 will reveal that neither science nor economics back up the climate scare.”

Lehr, a groundwater hydrologist by training, also worked for The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, an organization founded by Phillip Morris and by PR firm APCO Worldwide to cast doubt on the scientific evidence regarding harms caused by tobacco. Harris also worked for APCO Worldwide.

It’s getting harder for anyone to deny the reality staring us in the face. Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments.

Even some prominent deniers have come around. Political consultant Frank Luntz — who once advised the U.S. government to cast doubt on scientific certainty around climate change and to use the term “climate change” rather than “global warming” because it sounds less scary — now says, “I was wrong in 2001.” In recent testimony before the U.S. Senate, Luntz said, “Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, tornadoes, and hurricanes more ferocious than ever. It is happening.”

Yes, it is happening. And it’s time for deniers to accept evidence and reason or get the hell out of the way. SOURCE

‘The Big Stall’ details how neoliberal think tanks blocked action on climate change

Neoliberalism is a philosophy that says growth and investor returns not hindered by government taxes and regulations will lead to economic prosperity. It results in the welfare of ordinary citizens and protection of the environment being ignored. It has been suggested that economic prosperity will trickle down to all eventually. On the contrary,experience has shown that neoliberalism results inevitably in a growing income gap in society.

The Bill Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada By Donald Gutstein, James Lorimer & Company Ltd. 2018 $24.95

The world’s biggest oil companies knew for years that climate change was real, but they did all they could to derail government action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Donald Gutstein’s latest book, The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada is a deep dive into the strategies that Canadian oil companies and their friends have implemented to prevent political action to slow and reverse catastrophic climate change.

The author, a former communications professor and co-director of the media-monitoring project NewsWatch Canada at Simon Fraser University, follows the individuals and organizations that have shaped Canada’s energy and environmental policy over the last four decades.

Gutstein doesn’t neglect the politicians (he devotes a chapter to Alberta NDP leader and just-defeated Premier Rachel Notley), but he spends more time on the players who fly slightly under the public radar or whose impact is felt long after they’ve fallen from view. People like Maurice Strong, appointed the first head of Petro-Canada by Pierre Trudeau and the secretary-general of the UN Conference on the Human Environment, who said in his opening speech that “There is no fundamental conflict between development and the environment.”

That this position, articulated in 1972, could sum up current official Canadian climate change policy, wasn’t inevitable, argues Gutstein. Justin Trudeau’s “clean growth economy” — a mix of investing in ‘green’ technologies and “getting our oil to new markets,” — can be traced to the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s. But we can’t only blame the ideological context Trudeau inherited. There has been a concerted campaign to stall and prevent significant action on climate change by fossil-fuel industry lobbyists and policy think-tanks. MORE

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