Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bush and Harper Climate Change Denial Funded by Oil Companies

During the 2006 Canadian federal election campaign, ads began to flood the airwaves, paid for by a group called Friends of Science, denouncing global warming and slamming the Kyoto protocol. Since these ads aped statements made by Stephen Harper's Conservative Party, many began to wonder just who Friends of Science were.
David McGuinty was baffled when he first heard provocative advertising about global warming in the midst of the 2006 federal election.The radio spots criticized a consumer energy conservation program along with the climate change policies of the government of the day and appeared to come from nowhere, he said.

"I was having to explain an awful lot about climate change at the door, as a candidate," said McGuinty, the Liberal MP for Ottawa South, in an interview. "So when I heard this, I thought, 'Well, why would anybody even run these ads in Ottawa? Why are they going here? And I didn't know they were going across the province in five zones at the time."

The mysterious ads were part of a campaign launched by the Friends of Science - a group formed by retired academics and oil industry insiders... (1)
This group obviously wanted to get Stephen Harper elected, knowing that he had a weak, almost non-existent environmental platform. 'Made in Canada' with few details.

These mysterious ads would become part of a criminal investigation, prompting an internal audit about the anti-Kyoto group's elaborate funding system. An internal audit revealed how donations at a community charity organization flowed through trust accounts for research at the University of Calgary for advertising, lobbying and public relations activities.

Though sixteen pages of the report was blacked out, what we did learn was quite disturbing.

The audit revealed that Morten Paulsen, a veteran Reform and Conservative party strategist who was also a Tory spokesperson during the 2006 campaign, was simultaneously in charge of a consulting firm that received at least $25,000 from the Friends of Science to develop the radio ad campaign and select which cities would be targeted right before Canadians went to the polls. (1)

And from FOS themselves, who openly boasted to have impacted the election:
Before the 2006 election, the Friends of Science pledged in a newsletter to have a "major impact" on the vote through their ad campaign. After Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative party formed a minority government, the group boasted in another newsletter that its campaign "was working." The ads generated 300,000 hits to the group's website in the days leading up to polling day, the Friends of Science said in a January 2006 newsletter. (1)

When asked in the House of Commons about this possible violation of the Canada Elections Act , it garnered the usual response:
"Blah, blah, blah," Baird said in the Commons last week. "(McGuinty) puts on his tinfoil hat and develops these great theories." (1)
But David McGuinty wasn't the only one questioning this and in August of 2006, Charles Montgomery, wrote for the Globe and Mail, that.
Friends of Science has taken undisclosed sums from Alberta oil and gas interests. The money was funneled through the Calgary Foundation, to the University of Calgary and on to the FOS though something called the “Science Education Fund.” All this appears to be orchestrated by Stephen Harper’s long-time political confidante and fishing buddy, U. Calgary Prof Dr. Barry Cooper. It seems the FOS has taken a page right out of the US climate change attack group’s playbook: funnel money through foundations and third party groups to “wipe the oil” off the dollars they receive. (2)
The University of Calgary would break ties with Friends of Science after the scandal:
The University of Calgary has discontinued its relationship with the controversial Friends of Science organization and, after the results of an internal audit released Mon., Apr. 14, the U of C will revise policies related to research funding. But the audit did not determine whether funding from two trust funds at the university for an anti-Kyoto ad campaign was in violation of the Canada Elections Act. (3)
FOS is also connected to the Fraser Institute, through Dr. Timothy Ball.

George W. Bush and the Cato Institute

In the U.S. there are many AstroTurf groups attempting to block any attempt to reduce emissions. (4) A comprehensive Climate Change Denial network.

But perhaps the most influential during the Bush years was the Cato Institute, who while claiming to be non-partisan, are funded in large part by the Koch brothers. The same people behind the Tea Party. According to SourceWatch:
Cato was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane and Charles Koch, [2] the billionaire co-owner of Koch Industries; the largest privately owned company in the United States. According to Jane Mayer, who authored an August, 2010 article about the Kochs in the New Yorker, "According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1986 and 1993 the Koch family gave eleven million dollars to the [Cato] institute ... Patrick Michaels, a former Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and an outspoken global warming skeptic.
And Koch Industries did very well under George Bush:
Koch Industries is also a major polluter. During the 1990s, its faulty pipelines were responsible for more than 300 oil spills in five states, prompting a landmark penalty of $35 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In Minnesota, it was fined an additional $8 million for discharging oil into streams. During the months leading up to the 2000 presidential elections, the company faced even more liability, in the form of a 97-count federal indictment charging it with concealing illegal releases of 91 metric tons of benzene, a known carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Koch Industries was ranked number 10 on the list of Toxic 100 Air Polluters by the Political Economy Research Institute in March, 2010.

... After George W. Bush became president, however, the U.S. Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges. Two days before the trial, John Ashcroft settled for a plea bargain, in which Koch pled guilty to falsifying documents. All major charges were dropped, and Koch and Ashcroft settled the lawsuit for a fraction of that amount.

Koch had contributed $800,000 to the Bush election campaign and other Republican candidates. Alex Beehler, assistant deputy under secretary of defense for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, previously served at Koch as director of environmental and regulatory affairs and concurrently served at the Charles G. Koch Foundation as vice president for environmental projects. Beehler was later nominated and re-nominated by the Bush White House, to become the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Inspector General.
These climate change denial groups are well funded by the oil and gas industry on both sides of the border. As quick as one is exposed, another springs up.

Friends of Science are still operating and Stephen Harper has yet to explain their involvement in his 2006 victory. "Blah, blah, blah" is not an answer.


1. Liberals question Conservative link to anti-Kyoto group: David McGuinty was baffled when he first heard provocative advertising about global warming in the midst of the 2006 federal election, By Canwest News Service, April 20, 2008

2. Oil Companies Funding Friends of Science, Tim Ball takes the brunt, Jim Hoggan, DeSmog Blog, August 12, 2006

3. Friends of Science audit released: University looks into policies regarding research funding, By Jon Roe, Features Editor, The Gauntlet, April 17, 2008

4. The Book on Bush: How George W. (mis) Leads America, By Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN: 0-670-03273-5, Pg. 16

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