‘Big Green, Inc.’: Inside The $4 Billion Wealthy Liberal Foundations Handed To Environmentalists

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor
  • Ten liberal foundations gave $3.7 billion to environmental groups and causes over eight years.
  • The funding is being tracked by the website “Big Green, Inc.”
  • Foundations have promised $3 billion more to “reduce the rate of global warming.”

Major foundations handed nearly $4 billion to global warming activists, anti-fossil fuel campaigners and other environmentalists over the past eight years, according to a database debuted Monday.

The website Big Green, Inc. tracked $3.7 billion in commitments from major grant-making foundations to environmental causes from 2008 to 2016. It’s a project of the free market Institute for Energy Research and is based on nonprofit tax filings.

IER president Tom Pyle said the vast web of funding detailed by Big Green, Inc. shatters the notion environmentalists are locked in a David versus Goliath-like struggle against energy companies. (RELATED: Here’s A Look At The ‘Climate Industry’ Players Bankrolling Jerry Brown’s Climate Summit)

“The truth is the environmental left is a deep-pocketed and powerful force in American politics that is working to stop all natural gas, oil, and coal production in the United States,” Pyle said in a statement.

IER’s project found, for example, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave out $2 billion in grants to environmental causes, including climate activism, between 2008 and 2016 — the largest grant-maker in the database.

The Energy Foundation handed out $444 million in grants and the Sea Change Foundation doled out $373 million. The Energy Foundation got funding from liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s charitable trust from 2009 to 2013, the group disclosed on its website.

Steyer, a deep-pocketed environmental activist, is leading an effort to impeach President Donald Trump. The former Hillary Clinton campaign bundler has poured millions of his own fortune into his “Need To Impeach” campaign.

The Sea Change Foundation has been targeted by Congress over potential ties to Russian oligarchs. House lawmakers asked the Department of the Treasury to investigate a Bermuda-based shell company that gave Sea Change $23 million in 2010 and 2011.

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology said the Bermuda-based shell company is run by a law firm with ties to Russian oligarchs.

IER followed the money to more than 1,500 environmental groups, including Climateworks and the Natural Resources Defense Council that got $1.7 billion and $79 million, respectively, from major foundations.

But IER’s database is only the tip of the iceberg. IER tracked more than 8,800 grants from the 10 largest U.S.-based grant-making foundations over an eight-year period. Notably, IER found about four times as much funding than a recent study.

Northeastern University communications professor Matthew Nisbet tracked nearly $567 million on global warming-related funding between 2011 to 2015 from major foundations.

“Significant funding was also devoted to mobilizing public opinion and to opposing the fossil fuel industry,” Nisbet wrote, later adding: “$69.4 million in grants focused on promoting policy actions and regulations to limit fossil fuel production and development.”

“In this case, $42 million was devoted to opposing coal power,” Nisbet wrote. “The major funders in this area were Bloomberg ($20 million) and MacArthur ($15 million) which supported the Sierra Club’s work on the issue.”

Billions more are on the way for the environmental movement. A group of 29 foundations pledged another $3 billion over the next five years “to reduce the rate of global warming,” according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The foundations’ pledges were made at the end of a climate activist summit in San Francisco co-hosted by California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York City Independent Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

“And they have a strong ally in the mainstream media, which all-too-often has become a cheerleader for their harmful agenda,” Pyle said. “Big Green, Inc. is a first-of-its-kind research tool that provides a detailed accounting of the billions of dollars that flow into and throughout the green movement.”

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