Were climate change deniers funded by Peabody Energy?
The world’s largest privately owned coal company, Peabody Energy, has been exposed as a major financial backer for at least two dozen climate change denying organizations, lobby groups and proclaimed environmental science experts, according to documents presented in the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings at a St. Louis, Missouri, bankruptcy court.
“These groups collectively are the heart and soul of climate denial,” says Kert Davies, founder of the Climate Investigation Center, in correspondence with the Guardian. “It’s the broadest list I have seen of one company funding so many nodes in the denial machine.”
Many of the named organizations have been strong opponents of carbon-cutting programs and initiatives in the United States such as President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the Environmental Protection Agency’s controls on power plant emissions along with working more globally to obstruct action on climate change. Groups found to have received funding from Peabody include the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and the American Legislative Exchange Council as well as climate change deniers Richard Lindzen, Willie Soon and lobbyist Richard Berman.
In response to the revelations, Peabody’s senior vice-presdent Vic Svec stated, “While we wouldn’t comment on alliances with particular organizations, Peabody has a track record of advancing responsible energy and environmental policies, and we support organizations that advocate sustainable mining, energy access and clean coal solutions, in line with our company’s leadership in these areas.”
While the amounts paid by Peabody to each group have yet to be revealed, proceedings have revealed that the company was paying one of Barack Obama’s former law professors hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight against the U.S. Clean Power Plan. Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law School and former mentor of Mr. Obama’s, stated that since 2014 Peabody has paid him up to $75,000 a month and over $435,000 in total. Tribe spoke at a subcommittee meeting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions were akin to “burning the Constitution of the United States” and that the “EPA’s actions serve as a breathtaking example of executive overreach and an assertion of power beyond the agency’s authority.”
With 8,000 employees and worth an estimated $20 billion USD just a few years ago, Peabody Energy had begun its bankruptcy proceedings in April of this year, following a unprofitable expansion into Australian mining and a worldwide dip in coal prices which have sunk by 75 per cent since 2011, in large part due to cheaper natural gas prices and the growing use of alternative energy sources.
A new study finds that a sustained drop in oil prices can seriously hamper global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and the World Bank determined that global efforts to restrict the rise in average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius will be impacted by oil that stays below $40-55 USD per barrel, arguing that the emissions increases from cheap oil are large enough to offset potential gains made by some countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions under current climate agreements, to the tune of up to 20 per cent of the total budget available for staying being the two degree mark.