Published on February 22nd, 2016 | by Steve Hanley


Koch Brothers Can’t Stop Trying To Kill People

February 22nd, 2016 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

How much damage can two individuals do? If those two people are the Koch Brothers (pronounced “coke”) the answer is, a lot. They are among the wealthiest people on earth, having amassed a global financial empire based largely on fossil fuels. Their business interests generate about $115 billion a year in revenue, according to The Huffington Post.

Koch Brothers

This week, reports have surfaced that long-time Koch Brothers operative James Mahoney has joined forces with well known Washington lobbyist Charlie Drevna to create a group that will spend about $10,000,000 a year promoting the glory of fossil fuels. Until recently, Drevna was the paid mouthpiece for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade group.

Together, they are encouraging several large refineries and other fossil fuel companies to join their group. One unnamed industry source told HuffPo the plan is to “make the public aware of all the benefits of petroleum-based transportation fuels.” He indicated the campaign is spurred in part by opposition to subsidies for electric vehicles. “They’re worried about state and community subsidies. In 20 years, electric vehicles could have a substantial foothold in the U.S. market,” he said.

“The Kochs have invested heavily in a pugnacious defense of fossil fuel consumption,” said one conservative energy analyst. “They’ve done this in the electricity sector, and as the debate shifts to transportation they’re behaving true to form.” Indeed, money from Koch Brothers interests is believed to be behind attacks on residential solar power in several states, including Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. They have donated a prodigious amount of money to conservative causes over the years, some of which may have been used to fund the infamous Citizens United lawsuit.

The Koch initiative has drawn scorn from Tesla chairman Elon Musk, who is a passionate proponent of electric vehicles.

Musk’s tweet references a report from the International Monetary Fund last year that said burning fossil fuels costs the world $5.3 trillion a year in direct and indirect subsidies. Among those indirect subsidies are costs associated with global warming, including rising sea levels, loss of animal and plant species, and healthcare for billions of people affected by elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Koch Industries does not oppose electric vehicles,” said Philip Ellender, a spokesman for the company. “What we oppose is government subsidizing and mandating a particular form of energy over another. We oppose all subsidies – even for those industries in which we participate.”

That last part is patently false. A good deal of the money that wound up in the Koch Brothers wallets came from precisely the kinds of subsidies the IMF enumerates. It appears that what the Koch Brothers are really saying is that they have made a ton of money from raping the earth and making people sick and want to be free to continue doing so.

If the new promotional efforts begin as expected later this year, expect to see lots of commercials telling us why destroying the earth is good for us, why earthquakes and polluted groundwater are a small price to pay for energy independence, and how moving away from fossil fuels will throw millions of people out of work.

What do you call people who would trade the health of their own grandchildren for a few shekels? Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 30 pieces of silver?

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr (some rights reserved)

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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." Elie Wiesel

  • nsecchi

    The koch bros. are getting up in years. Do you think the fact that you can’t take it with you will be suspended in their case? How can someone take such craven greed to the grave?

  • Denys Allard

    I agree, the alternative energy revolution has already taken hold and no amount of money that they spend will change the inevitable. Several billionaires have pulled their investments in the oil industry in favor of solar. Even companies like PG&E are investing in EV charging infrastructure and all the car manufacturers are going electric. The former oil minister predicted that in 30 years there will be a surplus of oil and no customers.

  • Bubba Nicholson

    Why demonize the Koch brothers? Do not the facts speak for themselves? Besides, they have both been drugged by the Bushes/Rubio/Cruz Plumbers Death Squad with enflurane which causes amnesia (they cannot remember being indoctrinated) and loss of will. They’re total tools of the old John Birtch Society. Can’t we oppose evil without being evil ourselves?

  • Larry

    Koch Industries epitomizes what is wrong with capitalism. Greed and disregard for human suffering are their hallmark. I keep waiting for Karma to balance the scales. Can’t happen soon enough.

  • RIF

    I ran the numbers on a Tesla verses a $50K car at 30 mpg and $4.00/gallon fuel. I still couldn’t make it work.
    When the electric vehicle and solar panels are the best choice, people will switch and fossil fuels will die.
    This is how the system works. Supply and demand.
    There are problems with all forms of electricity. No one wants a nuclear reactor near their home and/or store the waste. The windmills are killing the birds, coal is polluting the environment, and power companies are still charging me for being hooked up to the grid.
    I want a solar house with batteries. I want to drive an electric vehicle. I want to remove the Middle East as a strategic location because of their crude oil, but until the math works, I will continue to drive my diesel truck and car.

    • Roger Lambert

      You can buy a used Nissan Leaf for well under $10K now – perhaps you would like to run that math equation again?

    • neroden

      At the moment, a Tesla is advantageous on a purely financial basis if you drive 100,000+ miles per year and keep the car for 8 years. (Yes, that’s a *hell* of a lot of driving.)

      I don’t drive that much. I paid the premium for the Tesla because I hate hate hate going to gas stations, and I never have to do so ever again.

      Model 3 will make the financial math work if you drive a lot less.

  • David Howell

    No surprise from Koch in there statement over clean energy. That is a very clean politico statement . To keep the way the Koch gain wealth ..WE can find the same-thing in there influence . Over the money that is spent to buy policies and votes..

  • sjc_1

    They might say they are going the country a favor, people need gasoline for their cars. This status quo position is good for their bottom line, people can easily see this.

  • Adrian

    We know they’re going to “lose.” The issue is that we need to be electrifying transport as quickly as possible, and this kind of BS slows down that transition. Shooting down their FUD also wastes a lot of money and brainpower which could be put to better use.

    Best possible outcome is that it causes a wider public discussion about the breaks the fossil industry receives.

  • JamesWimberley

    It’s too late. The electric utilities, most of the carmakers, and a good number of big city mayors are already on board the EV revolution. Nobody is really opposed to EV tax breaks. The Kochs are just wasting their money. Worse for them, by attacking a very popular cause they are making themselves and their class even more hated. If I were a billionaire in anything but oil and gas, I would be praying for the Kochs to STF up.

  • Dragon

    I would change the article title to “Koch Brothers Can’t Stop Killing People for Profit”.

    Some history:

    • onesecond

      Koch Industries have to be put down like the rabid dog that it is, and the Koch Brothers belong in jail for the rest of their miserable lives.

      “In fact, it appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market. Koch has profited precisely by dumping billions of pounds of pollutants into our waters and skies – essentially for free. It racks up enormous profits from speculative trades lacking economic value that drive up costs for consumers and create risks for our economy.”

      Their existence is harmful for everyone.

      • True Citizen

        Agreed. Math and logic tell us they should both be put to death as quickly as possible for the continuation of the human race.

  • Carl Raymond S

    Most successful people amass a certain amount of wealth, then one day wake up realising that there’s something more important than earning yet another dollar i.e. earning the respect of their friends, relatives, peers and the general public.

    I’ve never understood what it is that allows people like the Koch Brothers (James Packer, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rhinehart, a few notable Aussies who fit the bill) to go on waking up each day knowing they are not respected. Greed doesn’t explain it – there’s nothing you can buy with 80 billion that you can’t buy with 40.

    • nakedChimp

      They don’t come into contact with the populace on those terms or levels and also are totally aware that success brings haters.
      Their problem is lack of proper feedback.
      They’re surrounded by an armada of attachees and servants, shielding them from essentially everything.
      They are lazy.

      Ever heard of the king that snug out and dressed normal to find out how the people really thought about him?
      That was a smart guy.
      There is not many people like him in the upper class.

      • Dragon

        I’d call them sociopaths who care only about themselves but the thing about the brothers is they are leaders amongst those actively trying to screw 99% of the population for the benefit of the 1%. They don’t just try to raise their own profits but they hold private conferences to organize other 1%ers to work together towards the benefit of that particular group.

        So do the Kochs actually care about all those poor rich people they organize or do they just see it all as a tool to ultimately increase their own wealth? I’m not sure. But I do see it as some form of mental illness to have more money than you can ever use and yet organize to try to take more away from 99% of people to increase your own “share”. I’m sure they’re shielded from the real world as much as possible but I still think it requires some mental problems to behave as they do.

  • Sconi grower

    This reads like satire, but contains a startling amount of truth.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    At some point in time they will straddle both sides of the energy fence. When that time comes I’ll be saddened to see all the shallow people welcome the evil brothers in with open arms.

  • Harry Johnson

    The Koch Bothers won’t live to see the plug-in vehicle grow much beyond the current <1% of vehicles sales and $10 million proves they don't take the threat too seriously.
    This is just good old fashioned spite.

    • Philip W

      I was thinking the same.
      Firstly they can’t stop the EV revolution anymore, it’s just too far progressed. Secondly if they realized how far EVs already are, they would spend billions and not a lousy 10 million.

      All 4 Koch brothers are between 75-82 years old. So they’ll be gone soon anyway, thankfully.

      • Justin Pursley

        Unfortunately, their dad lived to be 88.

        • Philip W

          Fred C. Koch? That guy died at 67.

  • Shiggity

    Human life isn’t profitable unfortunately.

    Always the dollar. Always the fucking dollar.

    Bonus points if you know what movie that quote is from.

    • James Rowland

      I think it’s from Casino.

      If markets actually worked as they should, the two would align. In reality, they often don’t – and it’s not the fault of over-regulation, as some would have you believe.

      • neroden

        It’s mostly the fault of under-regulation, in fact. Companies dumping toxic waste and making it “someone else’s problem” rather than paying to clean it up, as they legally should. Using lawyers with abusive tricks, and bribing judges, to suppress the tort lawsuits against them.

    • jeffhre

      Human life is not the most profitable when measured on a quarter to quarter basis. In the long run, it’s a bad idea to kill off the customers of the businesses your kids will inherit.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      It isn’t about the money, they already made their fortune. These are Ideologs

      • Adrian

        This. Much of the crazy ultra-libertarian stuff over the past two-ish decades has had Koch brothers money behind it. And even the third, quiet brother has dabbled – providing most of the funding behind the opposition to the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts

    • Robert Pollock

      The Bible?

  • James Rowland

    Well, that’s not how I pronounce their name. 🙂

    • True Citizen

      Me either!

  • Kyle Prell

    What kind of transportation does Steve Hanley use and how does he power his home?

    • Nick Thiwerspoon


      • Kyle Prell

        Yes it is relevant.

    • Dragon

      A better question is: What kind of transportation and home power sources could Steve Hanley have been using by now if the Koch brothers and similar financiers of the status quo did not exist?

    • True Citizen

      Better question: Are you also that kind of a$$hole? Don’t let the Kochs kill you. Kill the Kochs!

      • Kyle Prell

        Kill them?

  • wattleberry

    Just gives America’s implacable foes more ammunition.

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