The Independence Institute, a self-described “action tank” based in Colorado, wants us to celebrate fossil fuels on Earth Day, April 22. “Enviros celebrate by planting trees but they never celebrate the trucks that deliver the trees, or the gas that powers that truck, or the plastic handles of the shovels they use,” it said in a recent email to ThinkProgress.
“Shouldn’t Mother Earth be thanked for making Earth Day events possible?” Those of us with an artistic streak are being asked to send original works of art to the Institute by April 21. The principal requirement is that they “should showcase the awesomeness of fossil fuels.” Who are these people? ThinkProgress did some research and came up with the following information which is based on data provided by Conservative Transparency, Guidestar, and CitizenAudit. Since 2001, benefactors and donations to the Independence Institute include:
- $146,000 combined from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, a pair of tax-exempt foundations controlled by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation and the Center to Protect Patient Rights, entities closely tied to the brothers.
- $2,565,766 combined from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, two affiliated donor-advised funds that funnel donations from supporters to non-governmental organizations that promote limited government and free enterprise.
- $3,540,412 combined from Adolph Coors Foundation, Castle Rock Foundation, and PEMA Foundation, three foundations tied to the beer-brewing Coors family. Environmentalists have long criticized the company’s record.
- $1,040,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. The brothers made their fortune in electrical controls and Harry was active in the John Birch Society. The foundation gives tens of millions of dollars annually to conservative and anti-government causes. Note: Fred C. Koch, father of Charles and David Koch was a founder of the John Birch Society.
- $437,500 from the National Rifle Association Foundation. Though best known for its pro-gun aims, the NRA has attacked science to oppose regulations on toxic bullets that might inconvenience gun owners.
- $1,158,500 from the Anschutz Foundation. Its founder, Philip Anschutz built his fortune in oil, real estate, entertainment and other industries and is known for his conservative activism. He owns the conservative Weekly Standard.
- $394,463 from the State Policy Network (SPN), a national network dedicated to putting a right-wing think tank in every state. Its affiliates have pushed for a rollback of climate regulations. A 2013 investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy detailed SPN’s efforts to push an extreme right-wing agenda in states and its close ties with groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity, both of which receive Koch funding.
“The Independence Institute’s position on tackling climate change is about as independent as a fox’s view on protecting the henhouse,” Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, tells ThinkProgress. “It’s really a corporate backed fake think tank with a track record of opposing renewable energy development in Colorado where it has sponsored events and hosted rallies attacking the Clean Power Plan.”
Amy Cooke, executive vice president and director of the Energy Policy Center at the Independence Institute, has been critical of Colorado’s renewable energy standard. She argues that clean energy sources should be expanded to include fossil fuels like clean coal, natural gas, hydroelectric power, and nuclear. Late last year, Cooke was named to the Trump administration’s EPA “landing team,” and wrote of her excitement for the future of the EPA under Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Cooke tells ThinkProgress that the organization’s fossil fuels art contest is rooted in inclusivity. “Fossil fuels seem to get left out of the Earth Day celebration. As an energy feminist – pro-choice in energy sources — I feel it’s important to have hydrocarbons equally represented. In general, people and organizations support us because of the work we do includes being energy agnostic,” she said. “We encourage innovation instead of over-regulation. It’s actually kind of liberating because we aren’t boxed in by an either/or cynical choice paradigm.”
Fossil fuel advocates like to say they don’t want government picking winners and losers. Let the market decide, they say. That position looks good on the surface, but it fails to take into account the staggering amount of direct and indirect subsidies fossil fuel companies receive from governments every year. The International Monetary Fund places the value of those subsidies at more than $5 trillion dollars a year.
How much of that are the Koch Brothers and their colleagues willing to give back? If you said “None,” go to the head of the class. It’s as if the Kochs are flushing their toilets onto your lawn and expecting you to clean up their mess. Make fossil fuel companies bear the full cost of their actions — including keeping the US military prepared to defend the world’s access to oil in unstable countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt among others — and the price of oil would skyrocket, putting them all out of business in less than a year.
These companies have trillions and trillions of dollars invested in fossil fuels. No wonder they spend so freely to protect their investments. As one commenter to a story on CleanTechnica observed this week, the business model we operate under today involves capitalizing the profits and socializing the costs. Apparently, lots of people think that’s what makes America great. Thanks to the Kochs and other right-thinking patriots, America now has the best government money can buy.
Source: Think Progress Photo credit: Independence Institute.
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