Rockefeller Heir’s Global Warming Activism Is More Self-Serving Than Noble

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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An heir of oil baron John D. Rockefeller donated all her shares in Exxon Mobil and will use the proceeds to fight global warming, and the non-profit she’s donating her shares to finances her academic work and attacks against Exxon.

“I thought the company was being foolish,” Neva Rockefeller Goodwin wrote in The Los Angeles Times Monday about Exxon’s insistence on selling oil and gas.

“But we now know it was worse: it was being deceitful, in a way that is almost unimaginably heartless to future generations,” Goodwin wrote about reports Exxon was funding global warming skeptics while internally conducting research on climate science.

Goodwin bases her claims on reporting “by two publications, working independently of each other —InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times” which shows “starting in the late 1970s, Exxon’s scientists were leaders both in understanding the role of carbon emissions in global warming and in projecting its effects.”

Goodwin added: “By the mid-1980s, however, the company… began to finance think tanks and researchers who cast doubt on the reliability of climate science.”

Neither Goodwin nor The LA Times note these “independent” reports of Exxon’s alleged climate deceit are funded by the same non-profit Goodwin donated her Exxon shares too and which funds her academic work.

Last year, InsideClimate News and Columbia University’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project (which published its work in The LA Times) both got funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) — a non-profit founded by Rockefeller’s heirs which backs anti-fossil fuel activists and campaigns.

Inside Philanthropy, a foundation watchdog, noted RBF was instrumental in funding anti-Keystone XL oil pipeline campaigns and other environmental campaigns.

“RBF is not afraid of a fight, and it has been a supporter lately of efforts to block the Keystone XL pipeline,” according to Inside Philanthropy. “[I]t gave $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters in 2013 to educate voters on the issues around Keystone and has addressed the broader threat posed by tar sands oil through a half-million-dollar grant to the Sierra Club Foundation.”

“In the past few years, RBF also has been a major funder of — a group at the forefront of the Keystone fight and other activist efforts to raise awareness about climate change,” Inside Philanthropy reports.

Not only does RBF fund the two news groups bashing Exxon’s handling of global warming science and environmental activists, the non-profit also funds the academic think tank which employs Goodwin.

Goodwin is an academic economist and co-director of the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University. The Institute lists RBF as one of its supporters, and Goodwin’s own curriculum vitae shows she was a trustee and vice-chair of RBF’s board until 2009 — none of these details are disclosed in her LA Times op-ed.

Despite her close ties to RBF, The Times allows Goodwin to claim “Exxon Mobil is positioned to supplant Big Tobacco as global Public Enemy No. 1.”

“Even before Exxon Mobil feels the loss in spending power among its expected developing country clients, public anger is likely to find other ways to take the company down,” Goodwin wrote. “Just when Exxon’s stock price will begin to reflect these realities is hard to predict. But I’m glad that the recipients of my Exxon stock sold it immediately.”

This is the latest chapter in environmentalists’ fight against Exxon Mobil. Last year, InsideClimate News and Columbia University came out with reports claiming Exxon, a successor company to Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, was employing scientists sounding the alarm on global warming while publically funding groups skeptical of man-made warming.

“At the same time, Exxon scientists warned the company of more dire climate change implications — for the planet and corporate revenue,” Goodwin wrote. “These findings were given to the company’s management, but not released to shareholders or to securities regulators.”

The news reports fired up environmentalist attacks on Exxon, and even got liberal politicians to call on the Justice Department to investigate the company. The attorneys general of New York and California have launched investigations into whether or not Exxon misled investors by not disclosing global warming risks in its shareholder reports.

Exxon, however, fought back against the RBF-backed newsgroups last year, claiming they “distorted” documents and interviews in an effort to smear the company.

“Columbia’s team ignored statements, included in the same documents they cited, demonstrating that our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time, which mirrored global scientific understanding,” Exxon lead spokesman Kenneth Cohen wrote in a letter to Colombia’s president in obtained by Politico.

Columbia fired back, claiming they did nothing wrong, but media attention also turned to The LA Times’ publishing of Columbia’s reporting — without disclosing they were backed by RBF. In fact, Columbia didn’t disclose its funding from RBF until after it had published its Exxon attack pieces.

The LA Times also did not initially disclose Columbia’s connection to RBF in articles they published on the journalism school’s behalf — though they eventually added such a disclosure.

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