ExxonMobilA free-market think tank headquartered in Dallas was spotlighted in a British newspaper’s recent story on the latest round of sparring between Texas-based ExxonMobil and environmentalists who want the oil giant to stop all funding of groups that voice skepticism about manmade global warming and emission-reducing measures to attack it.

The Guardian reported last week that the company had disclosed in a report about its corporate giving that it made donations in 2008 to a pair of organizations expressing such skepticism – $75,000 to the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and $50,000 to the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

Greenpeace, Britain’s Royal Society (its national academy of sciences) and others have been calling on ExxonMobil for several years to discontinue funding of global warming skeptics.

The Guardian reported last year that a corporate citizenship report by ExxonMobil had included this pledge: “In 2008 we will discontinue contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”

In a virtually identical statement now on its Web site, the company says it has discontinued such contributions “in recent years.” The statement is prefaced by this sentence: “We regularly review the groups we fund to ensure they are consistently and constructively contributing to advancing meaningful understanding and solutions to issues of concern, including climate change.”

In last week’s article, The Guardian quoted an official of an environmental institute at the London School of Economics as criticizing the company’s continued funding of the National Center for Policy Analysis and Heritage Institute because they had published what he called “misleading and inaccurate information about climate change.”

The article cited as evidence of that charge this passage from the NCPA Web site: “NCPA scholars believe that while the causes and consequences of the earth’s current warming trend is [sic] still unknown, the cost of actions to substantially reduce CO2 emissions would be quite high and result in economic decline, accelerated environmental destruction, and do little or nothing to prevent global warming regardless of its cause.”

A policy report published on the group’s Web site last month began with this assertion: “Global warming is a reality.  But whether it is a serious problem — and whether emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from human fossil fuel use are the principal cause — are uncertain.  The current debate over the U.S. response to climate change centers on greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies, which are likely to impose substantially higher costs to society than global warming might.”

The NCPA report alternatively recommended a number of “no regrets” policies – including eliminating subsidies for fuel use and reducing regulatory barriers to new nuclear plants – “that would prove beneficial whether or not human activities are creating a global warming problem.”

ExxonMobil’s own Web site has a statement about climate change that includes this passage: “With increased global energy demand, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are expected to rise by an average of 1 percent per year through the year 2030. As was recently summarized in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the risks to society and ecosystems from increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are significant. Meeting the enormous energy demand growth and managing the risk of GHG emissions are the twin challenges of our time.”

(The 2007 IPCC report that the company cited concluded that evidence of climate warming was “unequivocal” and that it was “very likely” that most of that trend since the mid-20th century was due to human use of fossil fuels including oil and coal.)

In contrast to the nonregulatory and regulation-cutting policies proposed in the NCPA report, ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson in January advocated a “carbon tax” – a direct tax on emissions of carbon dioxide – to address climate change. Such a tax is the leading regulatory alternative to the cap-and-trade system of tradeable emission permits proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which  passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month.

The Guardian’s article last week on ExxonMobil’s funding of NCPA included this quote from a company spokesman: “Only ExxonMobil speaks for ExxonMobil and our position on climate change is clear. We have the same concerns as people everywhere, and that is how to provide the world with the energy it needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We take the issue of climate change seriously and the risks warrant action.”

There was no comment from NCPA included in The Guardian’s article. No response to an invitation by Texas Climate News to comment on the newspaper’s article was received by the time of this TCN Journal entry’s posting.

NCPA says its overall goal “is to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector.”

– Bill Dawson

Image credit: ExxonMobil