Exxon’s Deep Pockets: Climate Change Denial

Joe Chemo spoof ad from the July 1996 issue of the Canadian magazine  Adbusters (artist unknown–will update if the art editor can enlighten me).  The character of Joe was suggested by Scott Plous (webpage, email, interview), a social psych prof at Wesleyan University,

I found the ad, while searching for an illustration to accompany my entry about “Science a la Joe Camel,” Laurie David’s November 26 op ed in the Washington Post.  A producer of “An Inconvenient Truth,” a Natural Resources Defense Council trustee and founder of StopGlobalWarming, org, David (bio, email)  writes about how the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) turned down 50,000 free copies of the movie.

I hadn’t realized it, but the film is another from Participant Productions, which I wrote about concerning its making of Syriana. Participant is currently sptrsfinh eotk og The Climate Project (email) of Tennessee’s efforts to train 1,000 folks to give a slideshow to inform the public the latest facts on global warming.

David writes of the NSTA,

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs.

Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film’s theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.

Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.

When I looked at NSTA’s website, I was struck by its invitation :

Call us to learn more about how you can make multiple profitable impressions.

Exxon-Mobile provides funds for a huge number  of think tanks and astroturf groups seeking to cast doubt on scientific research about global warming,   according to the ExxonSecrets.org database  maintained as a project of Greenpeace.  The list is so long, I’ve placed it at the end of this article.  You will recognize some of these groups from previous entries such my list of sponsors of the Conservative Political Action Conference and my entry on the State Policy Insitute.

In one example, Greenpeace maintains that

While NTSA doesn’t want an free movies participant productions, it turns out the group has not turned down classroom materials from Exxon debunking the  theory of global warming.  As David writes,

It’s bad enough when a company tries to sell junk science to a bunch of grown-ups. But, like a tobacco company using cartoons to peddle cigarettes, Exxon Mobil is going after our kids, too.

And it has been doing so for longer than you may think. NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996, mostly for the association’s “Building a Presence for Science” program, an electronic networking initiative intended to “bring standards-based teaching and learning” into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group’s corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education.

She continues,

In the past year alone, according to its Web site, Exxon Mobil’s foundation gave $42 million to key organizations that influence the way children learn about science, from kindergarten until they graduate from high school.

And Exxon Mobil isn’t the only one getting in on the action. Through textbooks, classroom posters and teacher seminars, the oil industry, the coal industry and other corporate interests are exploiting shortfalls in education funding by using a small slice of their record profits to buy themselves a classroom soapbox.

According to David, NSTA’s list of corporate donors include Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API).  The latter funds NSTA’s Web site on the science of energy.

There, students can find a section called “Running on Oil” and read a page that touts the industry’s environmental track record — citing improvements mostly attributable to laws that the companies fought tooth and nail, by the way — but makes only vague references to spills or pollution. NSTA has distributed a video produced by API called “You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel,” a shameless pitch for oil dependence.

Ominous is the API memo leaked to the media as long ago as 1998 explaining the association outreach to schools:

Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future.

API’s strategy seems to be working, if this message board, Toledo Talk,  is any sign.  Here folks argue how global warming is a good thing.  You know warm winters and all.  Am I the only one creeped out when I see pansies blooming at New Year’s?

You can find  read about the memo in Jim Drinkard’s  June 23, 1998 USA Today
article, “Lobbyists Trying to Sway Younger Minds” which is available on the site for the Center for  Commercial Free Education which got its start in battling Channel One.  While it appears to be defunt, its resources are still available through the imbiblio archive.


At its annual convention NSTA  features displays of  Exxon’s “many . . . education materials” David writes that John Borowski, a science teacher at North Salem High School in Salem, Ore.,

was dismayed by NSTA’s partnerships with industrial polluters when he attended the association’s annual convention this year and witnessed hundreds of teachers and school administrators walk away with armloads of free corporate lesson plans.

And it’s not just Exxon Mobil providing propaganda challenging global warming.  Other  curricular offerings included

lessons on forestry provided by Weyerhaeuser and International Paper, Borowski says, and the benefits of genetic engineering courtesy of biotech giant Monsanto.

As Borowski told David,

The materials from the American Petroleum Institute and the other corporate interests are the worst form of a lie: omission….The oil and coal guys won’t address global warming, and the timber industry papers over clear-cuts.


Borowski (email) writes regularly on environmental education.  Here are some of his articles:


In an  interesting convergene with  David’s  use  Joe Camel, take a look at “Smoke Signals: Global-warming activists can learn from the anti-smoking campaign” by Audrey Schulman in the February 3, 2004 Grist.


Here are the links to fact sheets on Exxon-Mobile donations:

  • 60/Sixty Plus Association
  • Accuracy in Academia
  • Accuracy in Media
  • Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty
  • Africa Fighting Malaria
  • Air Quality Standards Coalition
  • Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
  • Alliance for Climate Strategies
  • American Coal Foundation
  • American Conservative Union Foundation
  • American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research
  • American Council on Science and Health
  • American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies
  • American Friends of the Institute for Economic Affairs
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • American Petroleum Institute
  • American Policy Center
  • American Recreation Coalition
  • American Spectator Foundation
  • Americans for Tax Reform
  • Arizona State University Office of Cimatology
  • Aspen Institute
  • Association of Concerned Taxpayers
  • Atlantic Legal Foundation
  • Atlas Economic Research Foundation
  • Blue Ribbon Coalition
  • Capital Legal Foundation
  • Capital Research Center and Greenwatch
  • Cato Institute
  • Center for American and International Law
  • Center for Environmental Education Research
  • Center for Security Policy
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise
  • Center for the New West
  • Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
  • Centre for the New Europe
  • Chemical Education Foundation
  • Citizens for A Sound Economy and CSE Educational Foundation
  • Citizens for the Environment and CFE Action Fund
  • Clean Water Industry Coalition
  • Climate Research Journal
  • Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
  • Communications Institute
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Congress of Racial Equality
  • Consumer Alert
  • Cooler Heads Coalition
  • Council for Solid Waste Solutions
  • DCI Group
  • Defenders of Property Rights
  • Earthwatch Institute
  • ECO or Environmental Conservation Organization
  • European Enterprise Institute
  • ExxonMobil Corporation
  • Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies
  • Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment
  • Fraser Institute
  • Free Enterprise Action Institute
  • Free Enterprise Education Institute
  • Frontiers of Freedom Institute and Foundation
  • George C. Marshall Institute
  • George Mason University, Law and Economics Center (ouch!)
  • Global Climate Coalition
  • Great Plains Legal Foundation
  • Greening Earth Society
  • Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
  • Heartland Institute
  • Heritage Foundation
  • Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University
  • Hudson Institute
  • Illinois Policy Institute
  • Independent Commission on Environmental Education
  • Independent Institute
  • Institute for Biospheric Research
  • Institute for Energy Research
  • Institute for Regulatory Science
  • Institute for Senior Studies
  • Institute for the Study of Earth and Man
  • Institute of Humane Studies, George Mason University
  • Interfaith Stewardship Alliance
  • International Council for Capital Formation
  • International Policy Network – North America
  • International Republican Institute
  • James Madison Institute
  • Junkscience.com
  • Landmark Legal Foundation
  • Lexington Institute
  • Lindenwood University
  • Mackinac Center
  • Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
  • Media Institute
  • Media Research Center
  • Mercatus Center, George Mason University
  • Mountain States Legal Foundation
  • National Association of Neighborhoods
  • National Black Chamber of Commerce
  • National Center for Policy Analysis
  • National Center for Public Policy Research
  • National Council for Environmental Balance
  • National Environmental Policy Institute
  • National Legal Center for the Public Interest
  • National Mining Association
  • National Policy Forum
  • National Wetlands Coalition
  • National Wilderness Institute
  • New England Legal Foundation
  • Pacific Legal Foundation
  • Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy
  • Peabody Energy
  • Property and Environment Research Center, formerly Political Economy Research Center
  • Public Interest Watch
  • Reason Foundation
  • Reason Public Policy Institute
  • Science and Environmental Policy Project
  • Seniors Coalition
  • Shook, Hardy and Bacon LLP
  • Small Business Survival Committee (since when is Exxon a small business?)
  • Southeastern Legal Foundation
  • Stanford University GCEP
  • Statistical Assessment Service (STATS)
  • Tech Central Science Foundation or Tech Central Station
  • Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • The Advancement of Sound Science Center, Inc.
  • The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
  • The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy
  • The Justice Foundation (formerly Texas Justice Foundation)
  • The Locke Institute
  • United for Jobs
  • University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc.
  • US Russia Business Council
  • Virginia Institute for Public Policy
  • Washington Legal Foundation
  • Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy
  • Western Fuels
  • World Climate Report
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