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Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, we are gathered in the Senate in the somber shadow of the events in Boston at the marathon, and I guess I will start by conveying my sympathies to the individuals and their families who were killed or hurt in that terrible act. I share the determination of so many people that our law enforcement folks will indeed get to the bottom of this; that they will get the resources they need, and we will have answers and justice for the families who are affected.


I rise today, though, on the subject I come to the floor every week we are in session to discuss, which is the need for this body to wake up to the reality of the clear scientific consensus that human activity is driving serious changes in our climate and oceans.

For more than two decades the fossil fuel companies and certain rightwing extremists have cooked up a well-organized campaign to call into question the scientific evidence of climate change. The paid-for deniers then manufacture an interesting product--they manufacture uncertainty--so the polluters who are doing the paying can also keep polluting because a sufficient atmosphere of uncertainty has been created to inhibit progress.

This is not a new strategy. We have seen this played before. Industries eager to drown out scientific evidence to maximize profit is not a new story. They questioned the merits of requiring seatbelts in automobiles, they questioned the toxic effects of lead exposure, and they questioned whether tobacco was really bad for people. Well, they were wrong then and they are wrong now about climate.

Interestingly, they do not actually care. It is not their purpose to be accurate; they just want to create doubt, to sow enough of a question to stop progress. So these sophisticated campaigns are launched to give the public the false impression there actually is a real scientific debate over climate change. In the Senate, regrettably, some of my colleagues even promote this view.

But let's be practical. Which is the more likely case: Are a handful of nonprofit environmental groups using their limited funding to pay off literally hundreds and hundreds of climate scientists in an internationally coordinated hoax to falsify complicated climate research? Really? Or is it more likely that fossil fuel corporations are using a slice of their immense profits to float front groups to protect their immense profits? Well, I think the answer to that question is obvious just from the logic, but we don't have to apply logic. We can follow the money and look at evidence.

According to an analysis by the Checks and Balances Project, a self-described pro-clean-energy government and industry watchdog group, from 2006 to 2010, four sources of fossil fuel money--just four of them--contributed more than $16 million to a group of conservative think tanks that go about the business of being publicly critical of climate science and of clean energy. Those four sources are the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, and oil giant ExxonMobil.

On the receiving end is a lengthy roster of well-known and often-cited right-ward leaning outfits. We will just talk about the top 10 in this set of remarks. They are the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for

Energy Research, the George C. Marshall Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and the Mercatus Center.

Who is giving? Well, Charles Koch is the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries and the sixth richest person on the planet. Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in the United States of America. Koch companies include the Koch Pipeline Company and Flint Hills Resources, which operates refineries with a combined crude oil processing capacity of more than 292 million barrels per year. That much oil accounts for 126 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year--as much as 35 coal-fired powerplants produce or 26 million cars.

So to put it mildly, this fellow has some skin in the game. Between 2006 and 2010, the Charles G. Koch Foundation gave almost $8 million to think tanks and institutes, including $7.6 million to the Mercatus Center, and $100,000 to the American Enterprise Institute.

Charles Koch, along with his brother David, also established the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation--those two have the same source--and they direct that foundation's giving as well. This foundation provided almost $5 million to climate-denying think tanks and institutes, including over $1 million to the Cato Institute and more than $2 million to the Heritage Foundation.

The Earhart Foundation was started by Henry Boyd Earhart, using funds from his oil business, White Star Refining Company--now a part of, you guessed it, ExxonMobil. The Earhart Foundation has donated almost $1.5 million to climate denier groups, $370,000 to the American Enterprise Institute, $330,000 to the Cato Institute, and another $195,000 to the George C. Marshall Institute.

That leaves us, of course, ExxonMobil itself, which is the second largest corporation in the world and often the most profitable. Ranked No. 1 among Fortune 500 companies, its total revenues reached nearly $ 1/2 trillion in 2012, and their profits were nearly $45 billion. ExxonMobil produces over 6 million barrels of oil per day at its 36 refineries in 20 countries. So it is the world's largest oil producer. From 2006 to 2010, the petroleum giant gave institutes more than $2.3 million: $1.2 million to the American Enterprise Institute, $220,000 to the Heritage Foundation, $160,000 for the Institute for Energy Research, and $115,000 for the Heartland Institute.

So what did the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation and the Earhart Foundation and ExxonMobil get for all of that so-called charitable giving? Well, the Checks and Balances Project found from 2007 to 2011 the 10 organizations I cited--the top 10--were quoted or cited or had articles published over 1,000 times--over 1,000 times--in 60 mainstream newspapers and print publications, and invariably they were promoting fossil fuels, undermining renewable energy, or attacking environmental policies.

That is good investing--spend millions of dollars on a handful of think tanks to protect billions of dollars in profits. Really, it is a 1,000-to-1 return. But here is the problem. The public is unaware of the connection usually. Only a handful of these attacks were accompanied by any explanation by the media the fossil fuel industry was involved in them.

Here is one prime example: Last summer, when the Navy displayed its great green fleet, a carrier strike group that runs on a 50-50 blend of biodiesel and petroleum, Institute for Energy Research president Thomas Kyl wrote a column for U.S. News and World Report calling that initiative ``ridiculous'' and ``a costly and pointless exercise.'' Never mind for a moment our defense and intelligence communities have repeatedly warned of the threats posed by climate change to national security and international stability and of their own need to secure a reliable and secure fuel supply.

What is misleading is that the U.S. News and World Report in publishing that article attributed the column simply thus, ``Thomas Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research,'' with no mention the Institute for Energy Research is a front for big donors such as the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation and ExxonMobil.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for 5 additional minutes.


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. The problem is that this is one example of a misleading practice that is the norm in the media. More than half of the time, media outlets do nothing more than state the name of the publishing organization, such as ``Thomas Pyle and the Institute for Energy Research,'' or they may add a functional description such as ``think tank'' or ``nonpartisan group.''

The instances where the publication described the basic ideology of the group--for example, as a ``free market'' or ``conservative'' think tank--amount to less than one-third. In all of the media outlets reviewed between 2007 and 2011, the financial ties between the authors and the fossil fuel industry were mentioned a mere 6 percent of the time. Ninety-four percent of the time, the fossil fuel industry funders got away with it.

This chart shows some of the examples. The Washington Post ignored the financial connection 88 percent of the time, Politico ignored the financial connection 95 percent of the time, the Christian Science Monitor ignored it every time, USA TODAY ignored it 98 percent of the time, and the New York Times ignored it 90 percent of the time. So the scam of laundering money through independent-sounding organizations works. The media lets it work. The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is occurring, but a recent Gallup Poll revealed that only 62 percent of Americans believe that the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is occurring.

Well over 90 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening and that humans are the main cause. The only uncertainty is about how bad it is going to be, and the leading research predicts warmer air and seas, rising sea levels, stronger storms, and more acidic oceans.

Most major players in the private sector actually get it. While the big fossil fuel polluters try to confuse the public in order to boost their bottom line and prolong their pollution, hundreds of leading corporations understand that climate change ultimately undermines our entire economy. Let me mention some of the examples: the Ford Motor Company; Coca-Cola; GE; Walmart; the insurance giant Munich Re; Alcoa, the great aluminum maker; Maersk; Proctor & Gamble; FedEx; and the so-called BICEP group, which includes eBay, Intel, Starbucks, Adidas, and Nike.

This notion that this is a hoax, that there is doubt, is belied by some of the most respected names in the private sector. Those companies join the National Academies, they join NASA, they join the U.S. Department of Defense, the Government Accountability Office, the American Public Health Association, and, yes, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as a majority of Americans in understanding that it is time to wake up, to end this faux controversy that has been cooked up by the fossil fuel industry, and to do the work in Congress that needs to be done to protect Americans from the harms of carbon pollution.

I yield the floor.


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