BP is currently the oil company everyone loves to hate, but there was a time, not too long ago, when ExxonMobil attracted a lot more scorn—in part because it was funding so many different climate-change denier groups. (See Chris Mooney's old but excellent Mother Jones piece that followed the money trail.) Then, in 2007, the company announced it would quit donating to anti-science groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the bad press mostly went away. Until now, that is. The Times of London reports today that ExxonMobil is back on the wagon:
ExxonMobil gave almost [$1.75m] last year to organisations that campaigned against controls on greenhouse gas emissions. Several made outspoken attacks on climate scientists at the University of East Anglia and argued that their leaked emails showed the dangers of global warming had been grossly exaggerated. ...
The energy giant had indicated it was pulling back from funding sceptics. In its 2007 corporate citizenship report, it stated: "In 2008, we will discontinue contributions to several public policy groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner."
Exxon also gave reassurances last year that it had no funding links with the sceptics' biggest annual conference, the International Conference on Climate Change. But a list published by Exxon this month of its "2009 worldwide contributions and investments" revealed it had given four co-sponsors of the New York event $US275,000. It also gave $US1m to 20 other sceptic groups.
I'll just add that climate denier groups aren't wrong because they take money from oil companies; they're wrong because they spout nonsense. But this sort of funding still matters quite a bit—even if it's not in the way most people think. The folks attending these skeptic conferences would believe the crazy things they believe even if they didn't get a cent from ExxonMobil. And I doubt anyone ever changes their position so that they can get more oil donations. But what oil money does help do is bring this marginalized view into prominence, and give fake experts a megaphone that they otherwise might not have.