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Are the Koch Brothers the Single Biggest Obstacle to Preventing Disastrous Climate Change?

Researchers say Kochs have funneled tens of millions of dollars into climate denial science, lobbying and more to derail climate reforms.

AMY GOODMAN: This is  Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,  The War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting from the 18th U.N. climate change summit. I’m Amy Goodman.

The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known for funneling vast donations into Republican campaigns in the United States. But what impact are the Koch brothers having on global warming? As the U.S. is accused of blocking progress here at COP18 talks in Doha, a new  report says the Koch brothers may be the biggest force behind the climate stalemate. The Koch brothers run oil refineries and control thousands of miles of pipeline, giving them a massive personal stake in the fossil fuel industry. But researchers say they’ve also funneled tens of millions of dollars into climate denial science, lobbying and other efforts to derail policy that could lessen the impact of global warming. The report is called "Faces Behind a Global Crisis: US Carbon Billionaires and the UN Climate Deadlock."

To talk more about this, we’re joined by one of its authors, Victor Menotti, executive director of the International Forum on Globalization.

Victor, we welcome you to  Democracy Now! And I just want to point out, for people who are watching on television, you may have noticed a spider over my left shoulder. And that is a piece of art here at the convention center. It’s a massive nine-meter-high sculpture by the sculptor Louise Bourgeois. It’s called  Maman, and it’s got marble eggs inside the spider’s sac. And it was—she thought of it fondly, actually, for her mother, who was a weaver in France. You have an image of the—what you call the "Kochtopus," Victor Menotti, not exactly what you consider a positive image, but not looking so different from this work of public art behind us.

VICTOR MENOTTI: It is—it’s the perfect backdrop to explain what’s going on here in Doha. It’s a follow-the-money story. And it goes from Doha to Washington, to Wichita, which is where the Kochs are based. A lot of people may think this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but if you look very soberly at what the—who’s moving the money and where it’s coming from, these two brothers, Charles and David, are now the world’s wealthiest individuals. Their combined net worth now exceeds that of the world’s wealthiest man, Carlos Slim. And they have spent more than anybody, more than any gas and oil company, more than even Exxon, in campaign contributions—

AMY GOODMAN: The richest men are—number one?


AMY GOODMAN: Number two?

VICTOR MENOTTI: It’s Bill Gates. Number three is Warren—Amancio Ortega from Spain of Zara, the clothing company. Then Warren Buffett. But if you took the Koch brothers together and combine them, we consider them a single financial, political entity, the way they operate.

AMY GOODMAN: So they’re number one.

VICTOR MENOTTI: They’re at $80.2 billion, and Carlos Slim at $71.8 billion. So, they wield their wealth to really stop the process in the U.S. for phasing out fossil fuels. They’ve spent more than anybody on campaign contributions, lobbying expenditures, climate denial science. And they’re—we’re not saying they’re the only force. They are part of the fossil fuels complex. But they are the financial force and the ideological leaders of the countermovement.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about an action that took place this week. I wanted to play a comment of one of the people who were arrested this week protesting in Texas, as delegates and activists gather here in Doha at the U.N. climate conference. On Monday, two activists in Texas locked themselves inside of a section of pipe that’s part of the Keystone XL pipeline that’s now under construction by the company TransCanada. The pipeline would carry crude oil from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, a project opponents say would produce lethal levels of carbon emissions while endangering communities along its path. President Obama now faces a decision about the pipeline’s approval, after delaying it until after the 2012 election. The section of the pipe where activists locked themselves would run less than a hundred feet from homes near Winona, Texas. This is Matt Almonte, speaking in the dark from 25 feet inside the section of pipe, after he locked himself between two barrels of concrete weighing over 600 pounds each.