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NYTimes.com Article: Exxon Backs Groups That Question Global Warming

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    Message 1 of 1 , May 28, 2003
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      Exxon Backs Groups That Question Global Warming

      May 28, 2003
      By JENNIFER 8. LEE

      WASHINGTON, May 27 - Exxon Mobil has publicly softened its
      stance toward global warming over the last year, with a
      pledge of $10 million in annual donations for 10 years to
      Stanford University for climate research.

      At the same time, the company, the world's largest oil and
      gas concern, has increased donations to Washington-based
      policy groups that, like Exxon itself, question the human
      role in global warming and argue that proposed government
      policies to limit carbon dioxide emissions associated with
      global warming are too heavy handed.

      Exxon now gives more than $1 million a year to such
      organizations, which include the Competitive Enterprise
      Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, the George C. Marshall
      Institute, the American Council for Capital Formation
      Center for Policy Research and the American Legislative
      Exchange Council.

      The organizations are modest in size but have been
      outspoken in the global warming debate. Exxon has become
      the single-largest corporate donor to some of the groups,
      accounting for more than 10 percent of their annual
      budgets. While a few of the groups say they also receive
      some money from other oil companies, it is only a small
      fraction of what they receive from Exxon Mobil.

      "We want to support organizations that are trying to
      broaden the debate on an issue that is so important to all
      of us," said Tom Cirigliano, a spokesman for Exxon. "There
      is this whole issue that no one should question the science
      of global climate change that is ludicrous. That's the kind
      of dark-ages thinking that gets you in a lot of trouble."
      He also noted, "These are not single-agenda groups."

      The organizations emphasize that while their views align
      with Exxon's, the company's money does not influence their
      policy conclusions. Indeed, the organizations say they have
      been sought out in part because of their credibility.
      "They've determined that we are effective at what we do,"
      said George C. Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom,
      a conservative group that maintains that human activities
      are not responsible for global warming. He says Exxon
      essentially takes the attitude, "We like to make it
      possible to do more of that."

      Frontiers of Freedom, which has about a $700,000 annual
      budget, received $230,000 from Exxon in 2002, up from
      $40,000 in 2001, according to Exxon documents. But Mr.
      Landrith said the growth was not as sharp as it appears
      because the money is actually spread over three years.

      The increase corresponds with a rising level of public
      debate since the United States withdrew from the Kyoto
      Protocol, some of the groups said. After President Bush
      rejected the protocol, a treaty requiring nations to limit
      emissions of heat-trapping gases, many corporations shifted
      their attention to Washington, where the debate has
      centered on proposals for domestic curbs on the emissions.

      "Firefighters' budgets go up when fires go up," said Fred
      L. Smith, the head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
      Myron Ebell, an analyst from the institute, spoke at last
      year's Exxon shareholders' meeting, where he criticized a
      renewable energy resolution proposed by a group of

      Exxon's backing of third-party groups is a marked contrast
      to its more public role in the Global Climate Coalition, an
      industry group formed in 1989 to challenge the science
      around global warming. The group eventually disbanded when
      oil and auto companies started to withdraw. As companies
      were left to walk their own path, Exxon shifted money
      toward independent policy groups.

      "Now it's come down to a few of these groups to be the good
      foot soldiers of the corporate community on climate
      change," said Kert Davies, a research director for
      Greenpeace, which has tried to organize an international
      boycott of Exxon.

      Exxon's publicly disclosed documents reveal that donations
      to many of these organizations increased by more than 50
      percent from 2000 to 2002. And money to the American
      Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that
      works with state legislators, has almost tripled, as the
      policy debate has moved to the state level.

      The gifts are minuscule compared with the $100 million,
      10-year scientific grant to Stanford, which is establishing
      a research center that will focus on technologies that
      could provide energy without adding to greenhouse gases
      linked by scientists to global warming. Nevertheless, the
      donations in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands
      of dollars are significant for groups with budgets ranging
      from $700,000 to $4 million.

      Critics say that Exxon and these groups continue to muddle
      the debate even as scientific consensus has emerged, and as
      much of the industry has taken a more conciliatory stance
      toward the reality of global warming. As Exxon has become
      isolated from its peers, it has faced increasing pressure
      from shareholders and environmentalists. BP, Shell and
      ChevronTexaco have developed strategies that incorporate
      renewable energy, carbon trading and emissions reductions.

      Among the initiatives that Exxon's money has helped is the
      Center for Science and Public Policy. The two-month-old
      center is a one-man operation that brings scientists to
      Capitol Hill on two issues: global warming and the health
      effects of mercury.

      "We don't lobby, we educate," said Bob Ferguson, head of
      the center, who spent 24 years working as a Republican
      Congressional staff member. "We try to be nonpolitical and
      nonpartisan and nonideological."



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