Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell Say Climate Change is Real, So Why Haven’t They Dumped ALEC?

Climate
Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell Say Climate Change is Real, So Why Haven’t They Dumped ALEC?

When Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt recently called out the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for "literally lying" about climate change and his company announced it would not renew its ALEC membership, it was just one of the conservative business lobby group's latest—and loudest—setbacks.

"Climate change is real and it's a threat that we want to act on. We're not aligning with skeptics," said Shell CEO Ben van Beurden. So why is Shell funding ALEC?

Thanks to pressure from shareholders, unions and public interest organizations, more than 90 companies have severed ties with ALEC since 2012, according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which tracks the secretive group's activities on its ALEC Exposed website. The list of deserters comprises a veritable Who's Who of U.S. business, including Amazon, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Kraft, McDonald's, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart. And in the days following Schmidt's denunciation of ALEC for "making the world a much worse place," other Internet companies headed for the exits. Yahoo cancelled its membership, Facebook said it was unlikely it would renew next year, and Yelp divulged it was no longer a member.

Since its inception in 1973, ALEC—which currently boasts more than 1,800 state legislators and nearly 300 corporations, trade associations, corporate law firms and nonprofits as members—has been promoting model state legislation on a range of issues, from "stand your ground" laws to privatizing prisons to worker rights. Nearly 98 percent of the group's funding comes from its corporate sector members, which pay annual dues of $7,000 to $25,000. Those fees grant them direct access to ALEC legislators—who each pay a token $50 a year—and the opportunity to ghostwrite sample bills that serve as templates for statehouses across the country.

ALEC also lost a few energy sector members over the last two years, notably ConocoPhillips, Entergy, Xcel Energy and, in the wake of Schmidt's outburst, Occidental Petroleum. But roughly 30 fossil fuel companies and trade associations—including BP America, Chevron, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy and Shell -- are still steadfast supporters.

Two of the companies—ExxonMobil and Koch Industries—are so gung ho that they've been kicking in significantly more than the annual fee. ExxonMobil donated $942,500 to ALEC over the last decade, while Koch family foundations gave $747,000 between 2007 and 2012. On top of that, the oil and gas industry's premier trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, contributed $88,000 between 2008 and 2010.

Given this support, it's not surprising that ALEC's sample bills would, among other things, impede government oversight on fracking, undermine regional cap-and-trade climate pacts and introduce climate misinformation in school curricula. Last year, according to CMD estimates, ALEC sponsored more than 75 energy bills in 34 states. Thirteen of those bills, if enacted, would have frozen, rolled back or repealed state standards requiring electric utilities to increase their use of renewable energy. Fortunately, all 13 went down in defeat.

What is surprising is five of the seven ALEC energy behemoths I listed above—all but Koch Industries and Peabody Energy—publicly acknowledge the threat posed by climate change on their respective websites and claim to be doing something about it.

BP, for example, states that the company "believes that climate change is an important long-term issue that justifies global action." Chevron says "taking prudent, practical and cost-effective action to address climate change risks is the right thing to do."

Duke Energy, meanwhile, maintains it is "committed to finding new ways to confront one of our industry's biggest challenges—global climate change." And ExxonMobil, which sits on ALEC's corporate board, asserts it "engage[s] with policymakers directly and through trade associations around the world to encourage sound policy solutions for addressing the risks of climate change."

Finally, Shell's website features a lengthy Q&A with the company's chief climate change adviser, David Hone, who explains the basics of climate science and then concedes: "Business can't solve the climate problem on its own. I think it's the role of companies like Shell—which has been a strong advocate of the core solutions since the late 1990s—to help identify possible solutions for policymakers."

Just a few weeks ago, Hone's boss, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden, amplified his company's position in an interview with the Washington Post. "Let me be very, very clear," van Beurden said. "For us, climate change is real and it's a threat that we want to act on. We're not aligning with skeptics."

If that's the case, why is Shell—or BP, Chevron, Duke Energy and ExxonMobil, for that matter—still an ALEC member?

Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists. If you want to join UCS's campaign to persuade Shell to quit ALEC, click here.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Will Facebook Dump ALEC?

Pentagon Declares War on Climate Change

MUST-SEE: Stephen Colbert and Neil Young Sing ‘Who’s Gonna Stand Up?’

Former U.S. Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz listens during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 on October 13, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken / Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

By Jake Johnson

Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate change can evoke intense feelings, but a conversational approach can help. Reed Kaestner / Getty Images

Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.

"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.

She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.

"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.

She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.

This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.

"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

Trending

A rare North Atlantic right whale is seen off Cape Cod Bay on April 14, 2019 near Provincetown, Massachusetts. Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.

Read More Show Less
Sprinklers irrigate a field of onions near a Castilian village in Spain. According to a new study, the average farm size in the EU has almost doubled since the 1960s. miguelangelortega / Moment / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

A new report released Tuesday details the "shocking" state of global land equality, saying the problem is worse than thought, rising, and "cannot be ignored."

Read More Show Less
Members of the San Carlos Apache Nation protest to protect parts of Oak Flat from a copper mining company on July 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

In yet another attack on the environment before leaving office, the Trump administration is seeking to transfer ownership of San Carlos Apache holy ground in Oak Flat, Arizona, to a copper mining company.

Read More Show Less