Someone Actually Looked At The Finances of Climate Alarmists

After 12,241 articles questioning the financial motivations of skeptics, someone finally looked at the financial motivations of alarmists:

Amid its calls for individual sacrifices in the name of the environment and paeans to “green” legislation, the network once again failed to disclose prominently that its parent company stands to get rich off of “environmentalist” laws.

NBC Universal is owned by General Electric, which plays a regular role in this column because of how aggressively the company has hitched its profits to its lobbying successes. GE spends more than any other corporation in America on lobbying the federal government — more than $20 million annually over the past three years — and Green Week and Earth Week probably should be disclosed as lobbying efforts.

In many of GE’s businesses, the profit model appears to be: (1) invest in something for which there isn’t much demand; (2) then lobby to mandate or subsidize it.

Wind turbines are a great example. GE describes itself as “one of the world’s leading wind turbine suppliers.” Absent subsidies, however, there might be no windmill industry, because windmills cannot reliably produce energy, and certainly not as affordably as traditional fuels such as coal.

Germany’s energy agency examined its subsidized wind industry and concluded in 2005: “Instead of spending billions on building new wind turbines, the emphasis should be on making houses more energy efficient.” But making houses more energy efficient doesn’t make GE rich.

GE spends millions lobbying to protect and expand the cornucopia of wind subsidies that includes a “production tax credit” for wind farms, government mandates on utilities to buy wind power and local subsidies. In one case in upstate New York, the GE turbines will be powering a wind farm completed using eminent domain.

GE’s coal gasification, solar power generation, electric cars and biodiesel businesses are the same: Consumers and investors acting with their own money would not patronize these technologies, but Congress, acting with your money, will. GE’s $20 million annual lobbying budget sees to it.

  • Mike

    I was listening to a talk show. A caller called in because he watched a program that aired on The History Channel about Global Warming. The caller was quite curious as to why a channel about history would take on something about the present, or the future. The host explained that The History Channel is owned by NBC, which is owned by GE. “Wouldn’t the higher-ups have a say in what programming NBC airs?”

    I bought stock in GE a few year ago, before the Global Warming craze, not realizing GE was, or was going to be, behind the push for less CO2 emissions. If you look at GE’s line up, they have all the products they can market to be “eco-friendly”. They have “cleaner” burning locomotives, higher efficiency gas turbines, wind turbines, etc…

    I believe that it’s great that GE has such a line up. What I disagree with is that their product line up essentially runs their television programming without actually having commercials for their products. I believe that utility and industry management should decide what technologies they want to purchase, whether it’s from GE or not. GE should have very influence in the government to mandate technology that they conveniently have.

  • Another Mike

    Mike:
    Dupont was all against banning CFCs. Then they patented HCFCs and all of sudden on board with the band. Regulations just open doors for some and closes doors for others. Companies have been doing it for years and the more regulations we have, the more they’ll do it.

  • Alan D. McIntire

    Lubos Motl pointed out a link between “Realclimate.net” and “Environmental Media Services”

    http://www.whois.net/whois_new.cgi?d=realclimate&tld=net

    Note: Registrant contact- Environmental Media Services

    It looks like they DO have a direct economic stake in drumming up
    hysteria:

    http://www.activistcash.com/organization_overview.cfm/oid/110

    Environmental Media Services
    Also known as a “project” of the Tides Center
    1320 18th Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20036
    Phone 202-463-6670 | Fax 202-463-6671 | Email e…@ems.org

    If you’ve ever been advised to steer clear of a food, beverage, or
    other consumer product based on the claims of a nonprofit
    organization, you’ve likely been “spun” by Fenton’s multi-million-
    dollar message machine — and Environmental Media Services (EMS) has
    probably been the messenger.
    EMS is the communications arm of leftist public relations firm Fenton
    Communications. Based in Washington, in the same office suite as
    Fenton, EMS claims to be “providing journalists with the most current
    information on environmental issues.” A more accurate assessment might
    be that it spoon-feeds the news media sensationalized stories, based
    on questionable science, and featuring activist “experts,” all
    designed to promote and enrich David Fenton’s paying clients, and
    build credibility for the nonprofit ones. It’s a clever racket, and
    EMS & Fenton have been running it since 1994.

    Tired of being nagged about which fish are politically correct to eat?
    Fretting about choosing the “right” catch of the day? You just might
    be under the influence of SeaWeb and the Natural Resources Defense
    Council (both Fenton clients), and their “Give Swordfish a Break!”
    campaign, communicated for over two years by the trusty flacks at EMS.
    Never mind that Rebecca Lent of the National Marine Fisheries Service
    said that Atlantic swordfish “are not considered endangered.” The
    point was to make SeaWeb and NRDC more believable and trusted when the
    next big enviro-agenda came along.

    Freaked out about so-called “Frankenfoods”? Worried that biotech corn
    will make you glow in the dark? You’ve probably been exposed to
    something harmful, all right — EMS’s anti-biotech message, approved
    and bankrolled by the large segment of the “natural” and organic foods
    industry that relies on Fenton Communications for its publicity. These
    include Whole Foods Markets, Green Mountain Coffee, Honest Tea, Kashi
    Cereal, and Rodale Press, a magazine publisher (Organic Style, Organic
    Gardening, and many more) that makes millions off of the misguided
    notion that organic foods are safer to eat than their conventional or
    biotech counterparts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s position,
    by the way, is crystal clear. Former USDA Secretary Dan Glickman has
    said that “[j]ust because something is labeled as ‘organic’ does not
    mean it is superior, safer, or more healthy than conventional food.”

    Afraid to eat dairy products from cows that have been treated with
    hormones to produce extra milk? Scared that the hormone, which the FDA
    calls “entirely safe,” will make its way into your body and cause
    cancer or other irreparable damage? Beginning with a huge press
    conference in 1998, EMS pushed that very message relentlessly for over
    two years. And they did it on behalf of Ben & Jerry’s, a paying Fenton
    client. Why would Ben & Jerry’s care? Because their ice cream is made
    with hormone-free milk, and David Fenton calculated that a little
    health hysteria would drive customers to their “alternative” product
    quite nicely.

    It’s called “black marketing,” and Environmental Media Services has
    become the principal reason Fenton Communications is so good at it.
    EMS lends an air of legitimacy to what might otherwise be dismissed
    (and rightly so) as fear-mongering from the lunatic fringe. In
    addition to pre-packaged “story ideas” for the mass media, EMS
    provides commentaries, briefing papers, and even a stable of experts,
    all carefully calculated to win points for paying clients. These
    “experts,” though, are also part of the ruse. Over 70% of them earn
    their paychecks from current or past Fenton clients, all of which have
    a financial stake in seeing to it that the scare tactics prevail. It’s
    a clever deception perpetrated on journalists who generally don’t
    consider do-gooder environmentalists to be capable of such blatant and
    duplicitous “spin.”

    The first rule of this game is that it’s strictly pay-for-play. For a
    price, you too can promote your product by maligning the competition
    with junk-science smear tactics. To Fenton Communications, you’ll be a
    “client”; down the hall at EMS, though, you’ll join the ranks of its
    “project partners.” And nobody will be the wiser.

    Surely by now you know that money makes the world go ‘round, and the
    globe doesn’t stop spinning for Environmental Media Services just
    because it calls itself “nonprofit.” EMS exists to make money. It
    turns a profit for Fenton Communications by improving the bottom lines
    of a wide variety of Fenton clients. Understanding how the money
    changes hands, though, requires a shift in focus from Washington to
    San Francisco, where the Tides Foundation is based.

    The Tides Foundation is an unusual philanthropy in many ways, not the
    least of which is that it gives away other foundations’ money.
    Corporations, individuals, and other foundations can all use Tides as
    a pass-through vehicle, “designating” that their cash be funneled to
    tax-exempt third parties. Tides is also unusual in that it runs its
    own “incubator” for these nonprofit entities, a subsidiary called the
    Tides Center that runs the day-to-day operations of new activist
    groups so they can focus on making life difficult for the rest of us.
    The end result is a “foundation” that uses its own tax-exemption as a
    sort of blanket coverage for newly-formed nonprofits (all of them left-
    of-center), while funding them with money that originates somewhere
    else.

    In this arrangement, startup activist groups don’t have to risk being
    turned down when they ask the IRS for tax-exempt status: they just
    ride piggy-back on Tides’s exemption, giving them the same privileges
    extended to churches and universities without having to satisfy any
    real requirements. And big-money donors with anti-corporate or anti-
    consumer leanings can readily fund the lunatic fringe without having
    to disclose where their money went. They only need mention in their
    tax returns that a donation was made to the Tides Center, and their
    legal obligations are fulfilled. One more curious side effect of this
    deal is that newly-incubated activist groups (what Tides calls
    “projects”) can appear to have absolutely no expenses of their own for
    employees, lobbyists, or fundraising contractors, as Tides officially
    cuts all the checks.

    So while Environmental Media Services was started, and is still run,
    by staffers of Fenton Communications, it was officially instituted as
    a “project” of the Tides Center in 1994. This gave Fenton some
    plausible deniability and initially shielded him from the suggestion
    that EMS was just a shill for his clients. It has also provided a
    ready-made funding mechanism for foundations, “progressive” companies,
    and other Fenton clients who don’t want their contributions to EMS
    noted for the public record [Editor’s note: despite the logistical
    roadblocks set up by Tides, our research still has been able to
    reverse-engineer several million dollars in foundation grants to
    EMS].

    Of course, anyone ingenious enough to invent such a scheme is also
    probably crafty enough to abuse it as well. Consider that the Tides
    Center paid EMS president Arlie Schardt over $115,000 in 1998. Fair
    enough, since he was technically a Tides employee, in addition to
    being the “Senior Counselor” at Fenton Communications and a board
    member at Friends of the Earth. But that doesn’t explain the $583,727
    that Tides paid to Fenton that same year, which was designated as
    “public relations” expenses in Tides’s tax return. You see, Tides has
    never “officially” been a Fenton client, as that would appear to be a
    huge conflict. The Fenton Communications web site doesn’t list Tides
    as a current or former client either. So what was the half-million-
    dollar payout for?

    We may never find out. But we do know that in the past three tax years
    (1998-2000), the for-profit companies “eGrants,” Seventh Generation,
    and Working Assets (which sells long-distance phone service and
    brokers credit cards), have each put over $1 million into Tides. They
    are all, by the way, clients of Fenton Communications. So are big-
    money foundations like the Pew Charitable Trusts, the David & Lucille
    Packard Foundation, and the John Merck Fund. Together, they have
    contributed another $1.6 million (that we know of) to EMS, using Tides
    as a money-funnel. “

    – A. McIntire