“Are Coal, Oil and Gas the Subprime Assets of the Future?”

Bubble.jpgThat question was actually asked by British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey last year, and its ramifications are extensively explored in a provocative report released today by the Center for International Environmental Law, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

According to CIEL, the answer to Davey’s question is a resounding “yes.”

The report makes a compelling case that the three big financial rating agencies – Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor - that gave clean bills of health to the toxic financial products that caused the 2008 worldwide financial meltdown are giving similarly bad advice to investors by rating fossil fuel investments without acknowledging climate change-related risk.

Along the way, the report, called “(Mis) Calculated Risk and Climate Change: Are Ratings Agencies Repeating Credit Crisis Mistakes?,” stresses the potentially enormous legal liability for the agencies if their ratings understate the pitfalls of what are likely to be severe climate impacts on oil, gas, and particularly coal companies. 

Ignoring the Bubble

Coal is not only the leading contributor to atmospheric CO2 levels, it is the most financially dangerous investment. Coal prices have plummeted. Between 2010 and 2014, three coal plants were delayed or scrapped for every one built. After being dropped from Standard and Poor’s 500 Index in September, Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal firm, was dropped from Standard & Poor’s MidCap Index today because its market cap has plunged from $3.9 billion to just $700 million.

Other recent developments have made the idea of stranded fossil fuel assets far more tangible. These have included the G-20 conference asking for an investigation into $6 trillion in planned fossil fuel extraction investments, the wholesale divestment from coal by the Norwegian Pension Fund, and the International Monetary Fund’s repeated calls for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. 

So far, the Big Three rating agencies have ignored all this – just as they, along with the rest of Wall Street, ignored both common sense and strong evidence that housing prices would not rise forever.  The U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which probed the causes of the 2008 crash and worldwide depression, called the three rating firms “key enablers of the financial meltdown. The mortgage-related securities at the heart of the crisis could not have been marketed and sold without their seal of approval. Investors relied on them, often blindly. In some cases, they were obligated to use them, or regulatory capital standards that were hinged on them. This crisis could not have happened without the rating agencies.” 

Now the agencies are again playing the role of the blind leading the blind, relying on the assumption that no steps will be taken to reduce fossil fuel reliance, and that a warming world won’t interfere with business as usual.  CIEL writes:

“Many in the finance industry continue to rely on the current ≥4°C climate scenario (a “carbon bubble”), just as many relied on scenarios where housing prices did not decrease or stabilize. Indeed, the financial risks of a 2°C climate scenario loom large, just as the risks of sub-prime mortgages loomed over the financial industry prior to the credit crisis. Some analysts project that the fossil fuel industry could lose $28 trillion USD of revenue over the next two decades.  Recently, the Bank of England’s Finance Policy Committee announced that it will investigate whether the carbon bubble could lead to a financial collapse.” [The 4-degree scenario is one in which no measures are taken to restrict warming to 2 degrees.]

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Willie Soon: Conflicted Climate Science and Role of Science Journals

Media Update - coverage of the report below:

Science Magazine - "Journals investigate climate skeptic author’s ties to fossil fuel firm as new allegations arise", by David Malakoff 

Inside Climate News - "Willie Soon's Fossil Fuel-Funded Work Draws Ethics Review From Publisher",  by David Hasemyer

Guardian - "Climate sceptic researcher investigated over funding from fossil fuel firms",  by Suzanne Goldenberg

PLoS Public Library of Science - New Charges of Climate Skeptic's Undisclosed Ties to Energy Industry Highlight Journals' Role as Gatekeeper, by Liza Gross

Nature - Earth science wrestles with conflict-of-interest policies, by Jeff Tollefsen, June 24, 2015



Willie Soon and Conflicted Climate Science

Today we are releasing a report summarizing our communications with science journals over the past four months regarding Willie Soon's lack of disclosure of sources of financial support to those science journals and in Soon's research and commentary published in peer reviewed literature.  The introduction and summary of findings are below.  

View and download the full report, Willie Soon and Conflicted Climate Science, on DocumentCloud 

Additionally, we have queried two prestigious journals where Willie Soon has published commentary and papers, while declaring no conflict of interest.

We sent the report to the National Academy of Sciences with a letter inquiring about a piece that Willie Soon published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in May 2014.  View letter to PNAS.

We sent a letter to Nature regarding a March 2015 paper Soon co-authored in Nature Geoscience.  View letter to Nature.


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This is Your Planet on Heartland Institute Drugs

Screen_Shot_2015-06-11_at_1.14.02_PM.pngJay Lehr, one of Heartland Institute's looser cannons, and there are a lot of loose cannons on this reckless pirate ship...

Lehr laid out his vision for stopping "global warming insanity" at today's Heartland Institute Climate Denial-Palooza.  He was unguarded and blunt in his attacks, calling those in favor of solving global warming "flat out evil."

As I watched the streaming video, I was reminded of a long term project of mine - capturing what these people want the world to look like, their vision.  


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Peabody's Five Point Plan for Getting the World to Adapt To Peabody

When a coal company chief executive officer offers a decarbonization plan, it means one of two things.

One, he has finally seen the light, and realizes that coal is irremediably dirty.

Or two, this is just “green talk” intended to paper over business as usual.

Once you know that the CEO in question is Gregory Boyce of Peabody Energy, who has released what he called a “Five-Point Plan to Accelerate Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy,” you probably know the answer.

And if you also know that Peabody is entering the final round of its struggle against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, intended to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, and that the rule is to be finalized this summer, you understand the timing of Boyce’s manifesto, which was addressed directly to “Congress and political leaders.”

Parting Shots

Boyce issued his five point plan just before his company’s annual shareholder’s meeting on May 4, and just after he took a small pay cut in a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that his company managed to lose 94 percent of its value in the last four years, a period Boyce likes to call “challenging.”  The pay cut and the carbon plan were two of Boyce’s final acts as head of the company as he makes way for a new CEO, Glenn Kellow, an Australian.

“Challenging” is a word that gets twisted in unnatural ways at Peabody. Normally,“challenging” implies the possibility of survival. Here, the challenge is figuring out how that word could possibly apply to a situation where the world has turned decisively against coal and is driving your company out of business because the world is threatened by global warming caused very largely by the product you’re selling.

Which brings us back to Peabody’s Five Point Plan.

Remember, this is the company that proudly proclaims on its website that it is “the only global pure-play coal investment” - as though that was a good thing.

If you sell lumps of impurity-riddled carbon and you decarbonize, aren’t you left selling...well, nothing?

AEfL Rejiggered

The answer lies in the fact that the Five Points actually have nothing to do with decarbonizing, but are merely a repackaging of Peabody’s global Advanced Energy for Life messaging campaign for domestic consumption in a desperate last-ditch effort to slow or kill the EPA rule.

Remember that AEfL is supposedly dedicated to the proposition that coal is cheap and plentiful and can bring power to billions of people around the world suffering from energy poverty.

"Energy poverty" is an emerging slogan for a real issue others refer to "energy access". That is, the puzzle of how to supply energy to the billions of people who currently don't have electricity without torching the planet by following the same dirty energy path that the fueled the industrial revolution.  This is an issue that has everyone from the United Nations to anti-poverty NGOs to the Pope mobilizing to address it. But only Peabody's Advanced Energy for Life campaign claims that imposing anti-carbon regulations and shifting to renewable sources of energy will deny the needy access to life-saving coal.  Everyone else, including the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has identified coal as part of the problem as a warming earth will hurt the poor far more than the rich.

The target of Boyce’s five-point manifesto is of course the Environmental Protection Agency’s forthcoming Clean Power Plan, which Peabody has previously attacked as impossibly burdensome and based on flawed science, among many other criticisms.

Let’s also remember that Peabody’s senior vice-president for government relations is Fred Palmer, a global warming denier, and Palmer is keeping his job under new CEO Kellow.  

That doesn’t bode well for this decarbonization plan.

Palmer was once quoted saying when you "burn fossil fuel and put CO2 in the air, you are doing the work of the Lord. It is the ecological system we live in."

A slightly different message than that coming from the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences just last week.




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The Anti-Environmental Archives launch on Earth Day 2015


To celebrate 2015 Earth Day, we have just released a huge, online, and searchable archive of documents on anti-environmental campaigns, individuals involved in these campaigns and the corporations that back them.

The Anti-Environmental Archives, now live on Polluterwatch.com, is a unique archive that reveals the plotting and scheming by industry and industry-funded think tanks and coalitions against a range of environmental issues of the time – from global warming to ozone depletion, spotted owls, national parks – and the environmentalists fighting for regulation.  

The 27,000+ page, text-searchable archive documents more than 300 groups in 3500 documents. The documents themselves are mounted on the great DocumentCloud platform built for journalists with a grant from the Knight Foundation in 2009 and now run by the organization, Investigative Reporters and Editors.

This will be an ongoing project, with documents added from additional paper archives in coming months.

The files released today are mostly archives collected during the 1990s by an organization called CLEAR (Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy Research) that was part of the Environmental Working Group at the time, later curated by Greenpeace’s Research Department.  Finally, they’ve been transferred from their full 15 linear feet of hardcopy files that sat in a dark room into something far more useful.


Even before CLEAR was formed, Greenpeace published its paperback “The Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations” in 1993 - a tight reference guide that listed 54 different groups and organizations campaigning against environmental regulation, but alas the footnotes and research files are lost to time.  We have the Greenpeace Guide scanned and up on the Anti-Environmental Archives, or see if you can find a copy on Amazon.


Turning dusty old paper files into text searchable digital files is a magical trick and a whole lot of work...

What did we find? Let’s start with at Earth Day, seeing as we’ve released this archive on the occasion. 

On Earth Day in 1996, the Heartland Institute published its “Free Guide for Saving the Planet” outlining the “sound science” that put paid to various environmental issues of the day – ozone depletion isn’t happening, neither is global warming, second hand smoke is good for you, oil isn’t running out… you get the picture.  They apparently distributed this paper nationwide on campuses and elsewhere.  It includes:

  • Climate denier Dr. Sallie Baliunas, writing here for the George C. Marshall Institute an article titled  the "Cold Facts on Global Warming", calling for a five year delay on any government action and concluding, "The entire hypothesis of a disastrous manmade global warming is suspect."
  • Dr. Fred Singer this time questioning the dangers of ozone layer depletion and the role of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)
  • An article questioning the EPA's assessment of the health impacts of secondhand smoke, a hot topic for the tobacco industry at the time.
  • Another article by Joe Bast of Heartland bragging about reduced pollution from automobiles since the 1970s, without mentioning that these gains were forced by environmental regulations.

Consumer Watch’s Earth Day 1997 document was just as good: "A Vision for our Environment, Our Children, Our Future" offered "Principles for New Environmental Policy" including:

  • Economic Growth is Prerequisite for Environmental Progress
  • Land and Natural Resources are Best Managed by Private Owners
  • No Regulation Without Representation

Signatories included most of the anti-environmental organizations and individuals of the day.  Some of them, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are still very much in action.

In 2005 there was the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Earth Day “The sky isn’t falling” release, proclaiming the earth’s future was “as green as ever.”

The sad and important thing is that some of these organizations are still banging the same drum, with the same arguments, 20 years later.

These documents paint a portrait of the days of early climate denial.

It was around the mid-90’s that Philip Morris and PR company APCO were employing Steve Milloy for the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. Milloy turns up a lot in these papers, from his book, “silencing science” to his involvement in Consumer Alert and his Op Eds.

The Kyoto Protocol hadn’t yet been agreed, but the Global Climate Coalition was up and running with its “Global Climate Information Project”



The best books written on this period of raging anti-environmentalism during the  Clinton presidency were David Helvarg’s “The War Against the Greens” (1994, with an updated version released in 2004) and Andy Rowell’s 1996 book, Green Backlash, both documenting the birth of the so called Wise Use Movement, a term appropriated by Ron Arnold from Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the US Forest Service who coined the term "conservation ethic".  These books also document the role of multiple front groups being set up by PR companies such as Burson Marstellar

The archive has a trove of documents from the George C. Marshall Institute, one of the early think tanks funded by corporates, and a large focus of Naomi Oreskes’ book – and now film - “Merchants of Doubt.” 

The Marshall Institute’s resident senior scientist was Sallie Baliunas, who 

published a “study” that attacked the models of global warming, argued temperature records were wrong, and that it had all happened before.  Baliunas worked closely with the Cooler Heads Coalition, in 1998 publishing another paper we found in these files.

Baliunas was an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and would later take on a protégé, Willie Soon. Together, they would take millions from the fossil fuel industry for work to counter the climate science consensus.

There is a Competitive Enterprise Institute brochure from the 90’s where they actually admit who funded them.  Also within the archive are documents from the 2000s via research and FOIA's conducted by Greenpeace Research Department, including that somewhat famous memo from Myron Ebell and Chris Horner of CEI to the Bush White House CEQ’s Phil Cooney pushing back on the Bush Administration moving forward at all on climate and imploring Cooney not to quit the White House after it was revealed that he was editing EPA reports on climate change, an episode made famous by Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth.

There are hundreds of documents from organizations pushing anti-environmental legislation, and seven pages of documents on the issue of "property rights". There are copious documents on the fight against Federal control of land in the West, managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Manangement and other agencies including grazing permits, mining permits and national forest leases.  This fight is still going-to take Federal public land away from the government, including the ALEC assisted push by Ken Ivory of the Americans Land Council.  More coming on this thread.

These are just some of the documents we’ve found when going through these files with the new search engine capability. 

What will you find?

Please contact us with research questions, ideas and comments at Info@ClimateInvestigations.org

And contact us if you have useful documents to add to the archive to P.O Box 91, Alexandria ,VA 22314

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Are Climate Deniers Retreating or Doubling Down? Heartland and ALEC can't decide

Screen_Shot_2015-04-09_at_6.32.44_PM.pngAre climate deniers in retreat? We think not. But Heartland and ALEC seem to be speaking from both sides of their mouths the days.  Flip flopping for sure.

This week has seen a bizarre collection of some climate deniers denying their own denial, while others are denying they’re no longer deniers.  It's getting weird inside the Denial Machine.  Corporations, politicians and this week non-profit organizations are suddenly trying to either run from climate denial, deny their own history of denial or double down on denial.  

It all started with the recent revelations that ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) had sent “cease and desist” legal letters to a random selection of organizations (Common Cause, League of Conservation Voters and CREDO), calling on them to stop saying ALEC denied the science of climate change.   The Washington Post broke the story Monday.

But wait, said experts, ALEC does deny the science of climate change:  it regularly invites longtime hard core science deniers like Heartland’s Joe Bast, former Peabody Coal employee Craig Idso, CFACT's Lord Christopher Monckton and Marc Morano to speak at its meetings.  

That was strange enough.  Why would ALEC bring attention to its obvious climate denial?   Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Google had already left ALEC, citing its climate denial as a central reason.  

ALEC pointed interested parties at its statement on climate change and renewables

At this point it really started to get weird.  In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank announced his theory with the headline “Climate Change Deniers are in Retreat.”  Fair point and supposition, given ALEC’s flurry of legal letters.

He also pointed to a little-read blog by Heartland Institute blogger and editor, Justin Haskins, late last year on a conservative Justin.jpgwebsite.   Haskins made what some would call a substantially “off message” (for Heartland) series of statements about climate change (bold emphasis added):

The real debate is not whether man is, in some way, contributing to climate change; it’s true that the science is settled on that point in favor of the alarmists.

Haskins, who was only hired by Heartland last year, also put forward the usual argument that nobody knows the extent of how much climate change is human-caused and argued that warming would take a very long time.  But he’s clearly been doing some personal thinking about this issue, heading way out on the limb he was already balancing precariously on:

“However, if climate change is occurring, even if it’s occurring at a very slow rate, the world must take the potential dangers related to this problem very seriously—more seriously than many of the global warming skeptics are currently willing to agree to.

 And this statement that might as well be from Greenpeace:

 “It’s a rather extreme position to say that we ought to allow dangerous pollutants to destroy the only planet we know of that can completely sustain human life.” 

It was on these words that the Washington Post's Dana Milbank quite reasonably based his pretext about deniers being in retreat. 

And these are also some of the core arguments Heartland has been fighting against for at least a decade, the organization’s main message.  Heartland would never say "the alarmists" (our side) has won even a point.  Maybe they do internally however and that's where young Justin picked it up.

So.  Has the Heartland Institute changed its tune? 

It seems that Haskins is somewhat of an outlier within his organization.  Joe Bast, Heartland's director shot back at Milbank quiet venomously on the Heartland website, arguing somehow that Haskins’ view was very outdated, being from a whole four months ago.  Bast hastened to tell everyone that no indeed, the Heartland Institute hadn’t changed its view:

“The man-made global warming paradigm is crumbling, public support is vanishing, and except for a few last hold-outs at the Washington Post and New York Times, the whole world knows it. Human activity is not causing a climate crisis.”

Bast noted “I would have phrased it a bit differently, but I don’t disagree with the points Haskins made.

Which points exactly, Joe?  We’re confused. The ones that say the “alarmists” have won the debate about climate change being human-caused, or the one where Haskins calls carbon dioxide a “dangerous pollutant”?

Just in case we hadn’t heard him, Bast enlisted his mate James Delingpole at Breitbart (which appears to be the new Heartland mouthpiece, having run a series of frothing-at-the-mouth defences of Willie Soon), who also lambasted the Washington Post for getting it wrong.

Back to ALEC, where Bast, an invited speaker, told their 2014 summer annual meeting among other things:

“there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change."

The benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs.

Global warming is not a crisis.  The threat was exaggerated.  

There is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so."

Are they all trying to have it both ways?  Is Heartland in retreat?  It seems not, neither is ALEC, although the difference is that ALEC is trying to look like it is, whereas Heartland is trying to look like it isn’t.

We look forward to this year’s ALEC annual meeting where perhaps they might like to hear from some of the 97% of scientists who agree that humans are causing climate change - instead of their usual rollcall of Bast and his cronies.  

Meanwhile it’s going to be difficult to see Heartland’s Haskins being allowed out of his blogger box on climate change for some time, if he keeps his job at all.



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Southern Company Dumps Climate Denier Willie Soon

The Washington Post broke the news yesterday that Southern Company confirmed it is dropping the contract with Dr. Willie Soon at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  But not immediately...at the end of the current 2015 contract.

Southern Co. has not issued a public statement or explanation, only sparse email responses to reporters.  

Before this week, Southern's response was a lot of avoiding the question.  As in this response to the New York Times in late February:

“Southern Company funds a broad range of research on a number of topics that have potentially significant public-policy implications for our business,” said Jeannice M. Hall, a spokeswoman. The company declined to answer detailed questions about its funding of Dr. Soon’s research.

Inside Climate News reports an email confirmation today from Southern Company

"Our agreement with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory expires later this year and there are no plans to renew it," Southern spokesman Jack Bonnikson said in an email.

Hidden within Monday's Washington Post article on American Legislative Exchange Council is this Willie Soon news:

In a separate example that echoes ALEC’s plight, Southern Co., the country’s fourth-largest electric utility, recently decided to quietly drop its funding for controversial scientist Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a solar physicist at the the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory...
The company had been underwriting Soon’s research through a grant to the Smithsonian-affiliated laboratory where the scientists works, but the company has decided to end the relationship later this year, a spokesman confirmed. Soon declined a request to comment.
(Bold emphasis added)

What Southern Company Knew and When They Knew It

We have known this fact for some time, hearing through the grapevine that high ranking Southern Company executives were reaching out to multiple "stakeholders" immediately after the Willie Soon story broke in late February.  
The executives claimed ignorance of the Soon contract, calling it an artifact of a bygone era, some remnant contract, some other guy, etc.  We know this to be somewhat false. The Southern Co. PR/media team at least has been aware of that their covert relationship with Soon for at least four years, back to spring of 2011, when there was a round of coverage about Willie Soon's fossil fuel funders.
In fact, Southern Company was on the record in 2011 and just as cagey about the relationship, with a non-answer response about their broad research spending.
In 2011 when Greenpeace got the first return on its Freedom of Information Act request (detailing grants from Southern Company, ExxonMobil, Charles Koch Foundation, Donors Trust and others) Southern was questioned by Tim Gardner of Reuters and stated that they "did not fund Soon last year."  

"Southern gave Soon $120,000 starting in 2008 to study the Sun's relation to climate change, according to the FOIA documents. Spokeswoman Stephanie Kirijan said Southern has spent about $500 million on environmental research and development and funding and did not fund Soon last year.

Southern funded Soon for studies of solar variability but not to deny that mercury emissions are dangerous, she said."

At the time we only had funding data from Smithsonian through 2009 since the original FOIA was filed in 2009.  We now know Southern took a break in 2010 for some reason, then began funding Soon again in 2011 and continued through 2015, racking up over $400,000 in checks to Dr. Soon. 

We also know the Soon contract was run out of Southern Company Services, Inc. a subsidiary that does contract work for Southern, hires lobbyists etc.  Southern describes the subsidiary this way: "SCS is the system service company providing, at cost, specialized services to Southern Company and its subsidiary companies."

You can bet Southern Company HQ knows what Southern Company Services does... like take Federal grants to build the over budget underperforming Kemper "clean coal" plant, like sue whistleblowers who want to talk about Southern's "clean coal" plant, like hire Haley Barbour's lobby firm BGR to do the company's bidding...

More questions for Smithsonian and Southern Company

Some intrepid reporter or investigator might push Southern for more comment and explanation:
  • Has Smithsonian been notified by Southern Company on the termination of the contract?
  • Are there modifications to the existing contract with Southern Company through 2015?
  • What are the expected "deliverables" from Soon to Southern Company for 2015?
  • We also have not seen the "deliverables" or "Year End Reports" from Soon to Southern for the 2013 or 2014 contracts. (Inside Climate News reports that there is an expected report for the 2015 work)
Or to ask Southern Company the same questions:
  • Why wait until the end of the year?  
  • Why not end the contract with Soon immediately?  

This story will continue until we stop.

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Alabama Power: No Public Oversight, No Plan, No Relief in Sight

What happens when a politically powerful utility is allowed to spend its customers’ money without any public accountability for over thirty years?

In Alabama, billions went to upgrade coal-fired power plants that are approaching – or have reached – the end of their useful lives, while the Alabama Power Company, which provides power to most of the state, faced nothing more than a rubber-stamp from the Alabama Public Service Commission, which routinely approves adding such costs to the rate base, according to a new report.

The result, says the study, is that customers will pay for decades for Alabama Power’s continued reliance on coal without the company ever having to demonstrate it's making good use of their money.

The report is called “LEFT IN THE DARK: How the Alabama Public Service Commission Makes Customers Pay Billions of Dollars for Alabama Power Investments without Any Meaningful Public Review or Involvement.” http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Left-in-the-Dark-Feb-2015.compressed.pdf

Author David Schlissel, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, has written before on Alabama Power and the Public Service Commission. Schlissel’s report was prepared for the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (GASP).

Dominated by ultra-conservative Republicans who virtually never oppose Alabama Power’s will, the Alabama PSC has not conducted a public rate-setting hearing since 1982 when it traded hearings for something called “Rate Stabilization and Equalization,” under which Alabama Power adjusts its charges each year without the inconvenience of evidentiary hearings or participation by the rate-paying public. Instead, the utility opens up its books to the PSC and its staff, which reviews the numbers privately and renders a decision.

 In an earlier report, Schlissel wrote that this “extreme rate-making process” - held up as a national model by the Edison Electric Institute - was devised specifically “to shield the process from public involvement and scrutiny.” http://arisecitizens.org/index.php/component/docman/doc_view/948-arise-report-public-utility-regulation-without-the-public-3-1-13?Itemid=44

Even within the Southern Company family of politically-influential utilities in Georgia, Mississippi and northwestern Florida, Alabama Power is considered unusually dominant in its home territory, where it provides electricity to about 1.2 million residential, 197,000 commercial and 5,200 industrial customers in the southern two-thirds of Alabama. And while Georgia Power has boasted of beefed-up solar capacity and its costly new nuclear plant, and while Mississippi Power brings delegations of energy ministers to its still-incomplete $6 billion “clean coal” facility, Alabama Power’s plan for the future is evidently to double down on its aging coal fleet.

Big Investments, Big Profits

For which it is being rewarded with industry-leading profits. Nationwide, the average return on equity for utilities between 2008 and 2011 was 9.4 percent. However, Alabama Power was allowed to earn 13.3 percent - nearly 30 percent more - under the PSC’s formula rate process.  Given this atypically generous return, it’s easy to see why Alabama Power is considered the cash cow in the Southern Company empire.  

Fueling this inflated profit margin is the 11.6 percent return the company gets on investments it adds to the rate base, such as the more than $3 billion in environmental upgrades Alabama Power has made at existing power plants in past 10 years, all without having to offer any evidence in a public forum that these expenditures are the most cost-effective and least risky of available alternatives. The same applies to another $722 million in upgrades that will be added to rates by 2019. 

 “Moreover, placing an investment into rate base means that the Company is allowed to earn a return on that investment for decades and can also recover annual operating & maintenance and depreciation expenses,” Schlissel notes.

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BP Leaves ALEC, Shades of Global Climate Coalition Defections

In what could be a throwback to the 1990s, the National Journal just broke that British Petroleum (BP) has quit the American Legislative Exchange Council today, saying ALEC membership was not needed to pursue its interests.

"We continually assess our engagements with policy and advocacy organizations and based on our most recent assessment, we have determined that we can effectively pursue policy matters of current interest to BP without renewing our membership in ALEC," the spokesman said.

BP was not specific about what triggered this move.  Shell and others have been under increased pressure since Google left ALEC in a hurry last September as a result of ALEC's climate change stance.

While BP is far from a green company and is not even greenwashing itself like it was in the "Beyond Petroleum" days, this reminds some climate policy observers of the late 1990s corporate defections from the Global Climate Coalition, when companies were no longer denying the urgency of climate change nor the scientific consensus underpinning that urgency.

As Lester Brown writes in his essay "The Rise and Fall of the Global Climate Coalition", BP left the GCC in 1997 after CEO Sir John Browne's famous speech on climate change at Stanford.  Dupont departed even earlier. Then, Shell jumped ship in 1998 and soon companies couldn't leave fast enough, as Ross Gelbspan recaps here:

"Between December, 1999 and early March, 2000, the GCC was deserted by Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Texaco, the Southern Company and General Motors. While many of the defecting companies said their anti-Kyoto posture had not changed, this was a major blow to a 10-year campaign by oil, coal and automotive interests to prevent public action to address the climate crisis."

We have detailed ALEC's CLIMATE DENIAL history in this Climate Investigations Center blog.

Big Companies Have Left ALEC

How important is it for ALEC to lose membership of large companies? Climate Investigations Center has compiled a table of the companies who have left ALEC since 2012.


Twenty three companies in the Fortune 500 top 50 have left ALEC since 2012.  (BP is not in the Fortune 500 of U.S. Companies)

Ranked by Market Cap, the results are even more stunning.  The total Market Cap of the companies that have left ALEC in recent years is over $7.25 Trillion (trillion with a T)  The biggest company that is still an ALEC member is ExxonMobil with a current Market Cap of $355 Billion.

These tables with sources are available for reporters, please contact us at info@climateinvestigations.org


  Big Companies that have left ALEC 2012-2015  

23 of the top 50 companies in the Fortune 500 have left ALEC since 2012...

just 13 of top 50 Fortune 500 remain ALEC members, down from 36

  Companies in Bold below have left ALEC  
Fortune 500 Rank    
1 Wal-Mart Stores  out
2 Exxon Mobil  in
3 Chevron  in
4 Berkshire Hathaway  out
5 Apple  not
6 Phillips 66 (spun off from ConocoPhillips 2012) out
7 General Motors  out
8 Ford Motor was member 1999
9 General Electric  out
10 Valero Energy  not a member
11 AT&T  in
12 CVS Caremark  out
13 Fannie Mae  out
14 UnitedHealth Group  out
15 McKesson  not
16 Verizon Communications  in
17 Hewlett-Packard  out
18 J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.  not
19 Costco Wholesale  not
20 Express Scripts Holding  out
21 Bank of America  out
22 Cardinal Health  not
23 IBM  out
24 Kroger  not
25 Marathon Petroleum  in
26 Citigroup  not
27 Archer Daniels Midland  member in 2003
28 AmerisourceBergen  not
29 Wells Fargo  out
30 Boeing  member in 1998
31 Procter & Gamble  out
32 Freddie Mac  not
33 Home Depot  out
34 Microsoft  out
35 Amazon.com  out
36 Target  not
37 Walgreen Co.  out
38 WellPoint  out
39 Johnson & Johnson  out
40 American International Group  not
41 State Farm Insurance Cos.  in
42 MetLife  not
43 PepsiCo  out
44 Comcast  in
45 United Technologies  not
46 Google  out
47 ConocoPhillips  out
48 Dow Chemical  in
49 Caterpillar  funder, not member
50 United Parcel Service  in
  BP out
  51Pfizer  in
  52Lowe's Companies  out
  53Intel Corporation  out


Corp That Have Left ALEC since 2012 Market Cap Dec 2 2014 (billion $) Fortune 500 rank
Microsoft $398.73 34
Berkshire Hathaway Energy $366.86 4
Google $363.86 46
Johnson & Johnson $302.58 39
Wells Fargo $278.58 29
Wal-Mart $277.36 1
General Electric (GE) $261.15 9
Roche Diagnostics Corporation $250.84  
Procter & Gamble $243.00 31
Nestlé USA Inc.  $241.70  
Facebook $208.43  
Coca-Cola Company $194.52  
Intel $180.83  
Bank of America $177.30 21
Merck $172.56  
IBM $160.37 23
Entergy $151.98  
Amazon.com $150.28 35
PepsiCo $149.99 43
Home Depot, Inc. $130.04 33
Amgen $125.43  
Unilever $123.29  
BP $121.27  
GlaxoSmithKline $113.57  
Union Pacific Corporation $103.48  
CVS Caremark $103.05 12
3M $101.91  
Bristol-Myers Squibb $97.67  
Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals $96.96  
UnitedHealth Group  $94.99 14
McDonald's $93.13  
AstraZeneca $92.46  
SAP America $86.68  
ConocoPhillips $84.04 47
Medtronic $72.55  
Hewlett-Packard $72.51 17
Walgreens $63.80 37
Occidental Petroleum $62.83  
Lowe's Companies, Inc. $61.68  
Express Scripts/Medco $61.39 20
General Motors (GM) $52.70  
Yahoo Inc. $47.35  
Emerson Electric Co $43.70  
Reckitt Benckiser Group $37.93  
Kraft $35.33  
PacifiCorp $35.21  
WellPoint $34.67 38
YUM! Brands $33.87  
John Deere & Company $31.97  
Freeport-McMoRan $27.34  
Intuit $26.83  
Dell Computers $24.38  
The Pacific Gas and Electric $24.13  
PG&E $24.03  
International Paper $22.46  
Brown-Forman Company $20.31  
Reed Elsevier $19.65  
Sprint Nextel $19.27  
Symantec $18.10  
Xcel Energy $17.46  
Visa $16.13  
Motorola $15.72  
Dr Pepper Snapple Group,  $14.30  
MillerCoors (Molson Coors) $14.09  
Best Buy $13.03  
Publix Super Markets $11.46  
Endo Pharmaceuticals $10.97  
Ameren $10.52  
Western Union $9.46  
News Corporation $8.83  
Darden Restaurants $7.57  
Alliant Energy $7.06  
MidAmerica $5.46  
Sallie Mae $4.09  
Yelp $4.02  
AOL $3.55  
Alliant Energy $3.52  
Wendy's $3.20  
Overstock.com $0.59  
Blue Cross Blue Shield private  
Cargill private  
EMD Serono private  
Kaplan private  
Mars private  
TOTAL MARKET CAP $7,253.91  
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Willie Soon Scandal: Corporate Funding Year By Year

People keep asking how much Soon got from each of his corporate funders year by year, and why some places it says $1.2 million total and others $1.5M...

The total funding since 2001 that we know about from Greenpeace FOIAs to Smithsonian and corporate foundation 990s is $1,573,270, tabulated below.

That total excluding the 'anonymous' donation from Donors Trust, leaved known fossil funding at $1,248,471

Funder Grant Description from source Grant Year(s) Grant Amount Source
American Petroleum Institute   1994-1997 ?? Soon published papers
American Petroleum Institute Sun's impact on climate over the last 1000 years 2001, 2002 $58,380 Smithsonian FOIA
American Petroleum Institute 1000 years of solar variability 2003 $60,053 Smithsonian FOIA
American Petroleum Institute The 11-22 year climate responses 2004, 2005 $50,178 Smithsonian FOIA
American Petroleum Institute Understanding Arctic Climate Change 2005, 2006 $50,000 Smithsonian FOIA
American Petroleum Institute The solar influence of arctic climate change 2006, 2007 $55,000 Smithsonian FOIA
API Total     $273,611  
Charles G. Koch Foundation Koch/Mobile Charitable foundation 2005, 2006 $110,000 Smithsonian FOIA
Charles G. Koch Foundation Understanding Solar Variability and Climate Change 2010 $65,000 Smithsonian FOIA
Charles G. Koch Foundation Understanding Solar Radiation and Climate Change 2010-2012 $55,000 Smithsonian FOIA
Charles Koch Foundation Total     $230,000  
Donors Trust Understanding Solar Radiation and Climate Change 2011 $50,000 Smithsonian FOIA
Donors Trust A Circum-global Teleconnection View of Regional Sun-Climate Connections 2011-2012 $64,935 Smithsonian FOIA
Donors Trust Wavelet Analysis And Solar Dynamo Theory of Solar Activity Variations 2013 $70,000 Donors Trust 990
Donors Trust Wavelet Analysis And Solar Dynamo Theory of Solar Activity Variations 2013 $49,864 Donors Trust 990
Donors Trust Wavelet Analysis And Solar Dynamo Theory of Solar Activity Variations 2013-2015 $209,864 Smithsonian FOIA
Donors Trust   2014-2015 $90,000 Two 2013 grants subtracted from 2013-15
Donors Trust Total     $324,799  
Mobil Foundation   1995-1997 ?? Acknowledged in Soon's published papers
ExxonMobil Foundation listed by Exxon as a grant to SAO 2005 $105,000 ExxonMobil Worldwide Giving Report 2005
ExxonMobil Foundation Listed by Exxon as "project support" to SAO. 2006 $105,000 ExxonMobil Worldwide Giving Report 2006
ExxonMobil Foundation Exxon-Arctic Climate Change 2007, 2008 $55,000 Smithsonian FOIA/Exxon Giving Report
ExxonMobil Foundation "Exxon - Soon - Solar Variability" "Understanding Solar Variability and Climate Change: Signals from Temperature Records of the United States" 2008-2010 $70,106 Smithsonian FOIA/Exxon Giving Report
ExxonMobil Foundation Total     $335,106  
Southern Company Understanding Arctic Climate Change 2006, 2007 $110,000 Smithsonian FOIA
Southern Company Solar variability and Climate Change signals from temperature 2008, 2009 $120,000 Smithsonian FOIA
Southern Company Understanding Solar Radiation and Climate Change 2011 $60,003 Smithsonian FOIA
Southern Company Understanding Solar Radiation and Climate Change 2011-2012 $59,942 Smithsonian FOIA
Southern Company A Study of Solar Activity Variation on Multiple Timescales 2013-2015 $59,809 Smithsonian FOIA
Southern Company Total     $409,754  
Electric Power Research Institute   1994-1999 ?? Acknowledged in Soon's published papers
Texaco Foundation   1996 ?? Acknowledged in Soon's published papers
Free to Choose The sun's influence on climate change 2008 $19,383 Smithsonian FOIA
Total known grants 2001-2015     $1,573,270  
Total known Fossil grants     $1,248,471  




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