Big Oil, Not Big Tobacco, Wrote the Public Skepticism Playbook
By Nadia Prupis
Documents published Wednesday by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) show that the tobacco and fossil fuel industries used the same public relations firms, the same think tanks and in many cases, the very same researchers, to foment doubt about public interest issues—starting with climate change. The documents show that the "direct connections" between the industries go back even earlier than previously believed, CIEL says.
That includes the consistent use of the Stanford Research Institute, which CIEL says "was funded under secret tobacco industry accounts to build a machine to test for workplace carbon monoxide."
The Stanford Research Institute was already known as a major player in the campaign, having presented reports to the American Petroleum Institute in 1968 warning of the potential harm of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
More findings from Wednesday's investigation include:
- Exxon and Shell patented and actively promoted their own cigarette filters repeatedly from the 1960s through the 1990s and entered into joint research agreements with tobacco firms to bring them to market;
- A former Standard Oil executive recommended numerous oil-connected scientists for the Tobacco industry's Scientific Advisory Board, many of whom went on to work for tobacco;
- Theodor Sterling, recognized by both tobacco companies and Justice Department prosecutors as one of tobacco's most important scientific assets for two decades, did similar work for oil companies fighting lead regulation before his work with tobacco.
"These documents represent, at most, half of the story: the tobacco half," Muffett said. "The rest of this story—including vital truths about the history of climate deception—remains hidden in the oil industry's files. Six decades of denial and deception is six too many. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations, to bring that truth to light."
And check out the earlier videos produced by CIEL about Smoke and Fumes: