Willie Soon Fails Conflict of Interest Test in Science Bulletin Article

CfA_adjusted.jpgDr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist, is an employee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (which has little to do with Harvard except it's location, but that's another story...)  

Dr. Soon raises money for his research, like many scientists, through grants from foundations, government and corporations.  However Soon's "research", which has mostly focused on debunking the consensus on climate change over the past decade or so has been supported almost entirely by corporate grants from fossil-fuel interests like the Charles Koch Foundation, ExxonMobil and Southern Company - well over $1 million dollars in total according to the Greenpeace Research Department which has investigated Soon's corporate funding via FOIA requests to the Smithsonian Institute over the past few years.

The larger question is what these corporate funders hoped would be achieved by funding Dr. Soon over the years.  Maybe they hoped he would prove the global science consensus was dead wrong?  Or maybe they knew it wouldn't but thought his efforts might provide a decent smokescreen, delaying policy action for a bit?

In a new tactical grasp for credibility, Dr. Soon apparently orchestrated the publication of this paper in a relatively new Chinese journal named Science Bulletin

Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model 

Christopher Monckton1, Willie W.-H. Soon2, David R. Legates3, William M. Briggs4

1. Science and Public Policy Institute, Haymarket, VA 20169, USA;

2. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA;

3. Department of Geography, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA;

4. New York, NY 10021, USA

Lord Christopher Monckton, lead author of the article, described the decision to target the journal to an E&E ClimateWire reporter:

"We didn't even think of publishing in the West," said Christopher Monckton, a climate denier who is also the lead author on the study. "We decided the West is now no longer doing science, it is doing propaganda via the learned journals, so we weren't playing that game anymore."

"Heartland Institute finds route into U.S. science news conduit through China", Gayathri Vaidyanathan, ClimateWire, January 23, 2015

Apparently giddy that they actually got a paper in a 'peer reviewed' journal (even as they decry the peer review process at every turn), the Heartland Institute broadcast the story to its base and funded the open distribution of the journal article according Heartland affiliate Anthony Watts.

This climate denial effort is nothing new for Soon who has been aided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics staff in releasing misinformation on climate since the 1990s.  For example, here (with the now retired Sallie Baliunas and a couple of Idsos) is a 2003 press release of another 'study', this time attacking historic climate records as opposed to climate models. 

Soon, along with Legates and Monckton, have been living on climate denial island for many years.

Climate Investigations Inquiry

Last week, the Climate Investigations Center wrote the Science Bulletin editorial staff expressing concern that Dr. Soon had not disclosed his funding sources or his outside consulting fees when submitting the article, in which “The authors declare that they have no conflict [of interest].”  We attached a spreadsheet of the known grants that Soon has received in recent years from fossil fuel interests (also pasted below).

The Boston Globe published today on our inquiry to the journal:

Boston Globe, "Climate change skeptic accused of violating disclosure agreement", by Sylvan Lane January 26, 2015

This weekend, Science Bulletin responded that they are investigating based on the information we submitted.  Our letter to the journal and their response can be seen below...stay tuned.

 

Big Oil Paid Edelman and FleishmanHillard Over $400 Million Since 2008

Screen_Shot_2015-01-15_at_7.27.40_AM.pngThe Center for Public Integrity has just released a report compiling spending by industry trade associations on public relations over the past decade or so.  The report, titled Who needs lobbyists?  See what big business spends to win American minds, by Erin Quin and Chris Young, was published this morning.  They also have an article on Huffington Post, currently on the front page.

The biggest spender was the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the biggest recipient in the PR industry was Edelman PR.  Edelman got $327.4 million between 2008 and 2012. (2008 was the first year such reporting was required by the IRS of trade association non-profits.)  API paid Edelman an additional $33 million in 2013.  The 2013 990s are still trickling out and were not included in the CPI analysis.  We obtained 2013 API 990 to extend CPI's fascinating inquiry.

FleishmanHillard was another big winner, raking in $5 to $24 million in annual fees from API between 2011 and 2013 for a total of $51.6 million.

In total, API paid these two PR firms $411 million 2008-2013.  ($355 million 2008-2012)

Overal, CPI's team found over $1.2 billion was paid by 144 trade associations to PR firms from 2008 to 2012.  This was 37 percent of all the independent contractor spending reported by trade associations.  CPI points out that "lobbying spending" is on the wain, while "soft lobbying", advertising and PR, are on the rise. The big spending category by far were the energy and natural resources trade associations, topping out at $430 million.  

The Edelman - API relationship accounted for over a quarter of all spending compiled by CPI and Edelman received a grand total of $347 million (2008-2012) from all its various trade association contracts.  

Influence Peddling on Hyperdrive

This report reveals the hyperdrive propaganda machine that has been cranked up really since the 2008 election cycle.  How did Big Oil become so powerful in Washington over the past six or seven years?  To the point where they now basically own the Congress?

With deliberate effort and a large bags of cash, that's how.  

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The most visible proof of this pressure is evidenced by Senate Bill #1 in the 114th Congress.  S.1 this year is simply titled "To approve the the Keystone XL Pipeline".  That's right, the very first priority after the triumphant 2014 Elections for the Republicans is energy, its Big Oil's agenda, a corporate pipeline project... and now oil exports and all of big oil's wish list are being tacked onto this bill as amendments.  Should be an interesting show over the next month as the bought and paid politicians perform for the Big Oil puppeteers.

The CPI report's revelations are striking, even for jaded climate/clean energy advocates.  We knew Edelman was getting a lot of oil money from API and from various oil companies like Exxon and TransCanada, but its really a LOT of money, ranging from $33 to $75 million per year from American Petroleum Institute alone since 2008.  Again, adding 2013 to the CPI compiled data, API has paid Edelman over $360 Million (2008-2013).  

These contracts are so large that they accounted for more than 10 percent of Edelman's total fees in many of those years. For example, in 2010, Edelman's global revenue was $532 Million and their contract with API was $63 Million.  

We also found that the contracts to Edelman accounted for a large percentage of API's total revenue - the membership dues paid by ExxonMobil, Chevron, et al. For example, in 2008, API's total revenue was $203 million and they paid Edelman $75 million, over a third.

We haven't run the numbers for other years, but adding Edelman's direct corporate PR contracts with big dogs like Exxon, one could easily crown Edelman the Big Oil Ad Men...kings of the Climate Mad Men.

 

The energy related trade associations covered in the CPI report include:

American Petroleum Institute, National Mining Association, Edison Electric Institute (utilities), American Natural Gas Alliance, National Propane Gas Association, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (utilities), Growth Energy (ethanol lobby), National Biodiesel Board, and the good guys at American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association.

The girth of the influence peddling by the energy industry and corporations is much larger if you include individual corporate PR contracts and lobbying money. In addition, the CPI analysis excluded industry front groups like ACCCE - the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity who fell outside the 501 c 6 category of trade associations.  See our next blog for ACCCE's massive PR and advertising spending.

 

Edelman fired by TransCanada After Leaked Energy East Plan

Screen_Shot_2014-11-26_at_9.33.34_PM.png

Edelman's Statement is a little bit different from TransCanada's...

Edelman NewsWire press release

http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1453435/edelman-and-transcanada-agree-to-end-collaboration-on-the-energy-east-pipeline-project

Edelman and TransCanada agree to end collaboration on the Energy East Pipeline project

TORONTO, Nov. 26, 2014 /CNW/ - Over the last week, attention has moved away from the merits of TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline project.  As a result, and in the best interests of the project, Edelman and TransCanada have mutually agreed not to extend Edelman's contract beyond its current term.  The contract concludes at the end of December, but Edelman will support the transition of work.

The communications strategy for the Energy East Pipeline is "to drive an active public discussion that gives Canadians reason to affirmatively support the project."

We stand by our strategy. It was both ethical and moral, and any suggestion to the contrary is untrue.

Unfortunately, the conversation about our efforts has become so loud in certain areas that it is impossible to have an open and honest conversation about the Pipeline project.  The project is too important and a thoughtful, deliberative conversation is needed more than ever.  For that reason we feel that selection of a new partner for the project is necessary at this time so a new conversation on the merits of the project can begin.

SOURCE Edelman Public Relations Worldwide

 

TransCanada email about firing Edelman and Statement

From: Jonathan Abecassis [mailto:jonathan_abecassis@transcanada.com
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 12:32 PM

Subject: Starting a new discussion on Energy East
The Energy East project makes sense for Canada. For the first time, western Canadian oil will be able to travel safely by pipeline all the way to Quebec and beyond to the east coast, strengthening Canadian energy security and offering direct local economic benefit all along the pipeline route. 
Regrettably, recent controversy around our communications strategy has created distraction most notably inQuebec. Media reports have incorrectly suggested that TransCanada’s communications practices are unacceptable.  The conversation about Energy East has turned into a debate about our choice of agency partner. We need to get back to a conversation about the project itself and as a result we have agreed that it is in the best interests of the project that we do not extend our contract with Edelman
.In the current environment, we can’t have the respectful conversation that we want to have with Canadians and Quebecers about Energy East. We need to discuss the project on its merits, responding to valid concerns such as how we will protect water and marine life, instead of talking about communications tactics.  
We are therefore starting a fresh conversation with all stakeholders. We want to be part of eastern Canadian communities for decades to come, and we want to do everything that will enable us to earn the trust of Canadians for the long-term.
You can also view our statement on the Energy East blog in English or French
Thank you,
Tim Duboyce
Spokesperson, Energy East Pipeline Project 

Leaked Documents: Secret Edelman PR Plan for TransCanada Pipeline Revealed

The gig is up...someone spilled the beans on Edelman's work for Transcanada on the Energy East pipeline.  Documents leaked to Greenpeace and revealed today by the New York Times, Vice Motherboard, Huffington Post, Guardian and others. 

It is rare to see so much detail about an ongoing P.R. battle plan.  Have a look for yourself...there are about one hundred pages to ponder. Here is a taste that shows this work is nothing new for Edelman or Big Oil.

Screen_Shot_2014-11-18_at_1.24.48_AM.png 

Here are all the links to the documents, key articles, articles about Edelman and the CIC Climate Survey:

News Articles on Leaked Documents

Huffington Post, Nov. 17, 2014, "Here's What Big Oil Has In The Pipes If Keystone Fails"

New York Times, Nov. 7, 2014, "P.R. Firm Urges TransCanada to Target Opponents of Its Energy East Pipeline"

Globe and Mail, Nov. 17, 2014, "Greenpeace sees 'dirty tricks' in PR Firm's TransCanada Plan"

Canadian Broadcasting Company, Nov. 17, 2014, "Energy East Pipeline 'advocates' Targeted in TransCanada PR Move"

 

Edelman Campaign Documents for TransCanada Energy East Pipeline

Energy East Research Synthesis, 11 pages

Energy East Grassroots Advocacy Vision Document, May 15, 2014, 20 pages

Energy East Digital Grassroots Advocacy Implementation Plan, May 20, 2014, 19 pages

Energy East Quebec Plan, May 20, 2014, 46 pages

Energy East Campaign Organization: Promote, Respond, Pressure, August 5, 2014, 8 pages

 

Coverage of Climate Investigations Center Survey and Edelman "Faux Pas"

Climate Investigations Center Survey with links to each PR company's response

The Guardian, Aug. 4, 2014 “World's Top PR Companies Rule Out Working With Climate Deniers”

Vice Motherboard, Aug. 5, 2014 “How the World's Biggest PR Firm Helps Promote Climate Change Denial” 

WBEZ radio program Kert Davies debate with Edelman representative Ben Boyd 

Richard Edelman ‘6 a.m. blog, Aug. 7, 2014  

The Guardian, Aug. 7, 2014, “Edelman formally declares it will not accept climate denial campaigns”

Vice Motherboard, Aug 12, 2014, "The World's Biggest PR Firm Is In Denial About Its Climate Change Denial"

PR Week, Aug 12, 2014, "Report: Response to climate-change survey led to Hass' departure from Edelman"

Odwyer PR, Aug. 13, 2014 "Edelman Fired Top Exec Over Climate Change Response"

Triple Pundit, August 14, 2014, 'PR Firms Take a Stand on Climate Change"

New York TimesAug. 17, 2014, “Edelman PR Firm is Take Steps to Address Faux Pas”

The Guardian, Aug. 19, 2014, “Climate changeable: Waffling lands PR firm Edelman in Hot Water”  

 

Energy Poverty and Coal "All Talk No Action" Australia Institute Report

AE4L.png   Ahead of the G-20 meeting in Australia later this week, a new report by an Australian think-tank, convincingly punctures coal industry claims that coal is an essential part of the solution to lack of access of electricity in the developing world.

   Zeroing in on Peabody Energy's "Advanced Energy for Life" global public relations campaign, which contends coal-fired power is a cheap, effective way to provide power to the large impoverished areas of India, Pakistan and elsewhere that now have none,  the new study by the Australia Institute states that, "Peabody’s only contribution to energy poverty is maintaining a website and social media page which promotes coal as the solution to the problem."

   Examining Advanced Energy for Life's claims one by one, the report concludes that while the issue is a serious one, "what Peabody says and what it does about energy poverty are very different."

   "Although the company contributes to many charitable causes, it does not donate money, staff time, expertise or discounted fuel to any project that directly alleviates energy poverty," according to the study, entitled, "All Talk and No Action: The Coal Industry and Energy Poverty," which was released last week.

   The report contrasts Peabody's behavior with that of other large coal companies - for instance, BHP Billiton, which supports solar projects in Pakistan, and the Indian coaler, Adani, which installed solar-powered street lighting in rural India.  Other companies have helped connect poor areas with hydroelectric or gas-fired power.

   While serious, sustained, far-reaching electrification efforts exist - most notably the United Nations and World Bank ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ program, which is active in 85 countries - none promote coal use.  In fact, not even the coal companies own efforts at alleviating energy poverty employ coal:

   "Despite extensive searches and contact with companies and mining lobby groups, we could not find a single example where coal companies have supported coal-powered energy poverty alleviation projects," according to the study, largely because of the enormous up-front costs of building coal-fired power plants and extending the grid out to rural areas.  Meanwhile, the cost of generating electricity via renewables such as solar has plummeted to the point where it is competitive with coal.

   Equally important, the report found no factual basis for the idea that coal is vital to continued global economic growth, or that it has been in recent times.  Since 1980, coal use has grown more slowly than the world economy, resulting in a gap of some $12 trillion between the two.  Between 1988 and 2002, in fact, coal use was flat while the global economy remained strong.  Most tellingly, recent reductions in the use of coal by developing countries haven't retarded their growth.

   And while life expectancy and economic growth can be correlated with coal use, it's not coal that increases life expectancy, despite Peabody's persistent claims, according to statistics examined by the Institute.  Both indoor and outdoor pollution caused by coal, not to mention the various impacts of climate change, negate that relationship. 

   Finally, the report reclarifies Advanced Energy for Life's blurring of the lines between the many different kinds of unhealthy emissions produced by coal.  While AEfL likes to lump them all together and pretend that the real reductions by coal-fired power plants in sulfur dioxide, particulates and other pollutants have been matched by decreases in CO2, the Australia Institute's findings reconfirm that when it comes to carbon, "clean coal" is still a pipe dream: 

   "To make serious reductions in coal-fired power greenhouse emissions, carbon capture and storage is required," the report notes, going on to observe that so far, there are only  thirteen CCS projects operating worldwide, which all told are removing only 25 millions ton of carbon dioxide per year, "or less than one tenth of one per cent (0.07 per cent) of the world’s total 33,376 million tonnes of emissions each year." 

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