The foundation responsible for providing the financial support to launch and sustain Bill McKibbens group 350.org, known best for organizing the People’s Climate March in New York City this past weekend, as well as their anti-Keystone XL pipeline effort and anti-fossil fuel divestment campaign, acknowledged this week that they have millions of dollars invested in fossil fuels, including oil sands. Thanks to a well-packaged and timely roll out, however, the mainstream media completely missed the stunning revelation.
Timed to coincide with the anti-fossil fuel march in New York City over the weekend, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (RBF) led a press conference of groups announcing a pledge to divest from fossil fuels. Given that board members of RBF are heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune, the media was led to believe that divestment from fossil fuels was a drastic change in practice for the foundation. Yet anyone who knows the least bit about RBF is well aware that foundation has given millions to groups that oppose fossil fuels for years.
In fact, RBF is credited for providing the financial support to launch 350.org. How do we know that? Because Bill McKibben himself reluctantly gave away those details in a little-watched YouTube video (full version of interview here) from three years ago with a news outlet called Climate Challenge.
From the transcript:
Climate Challenge: So you don’t get money from Pew or Rockefeller or any of those big foundations?
McKibben: No we did. Rockefellers Brothers fund gave us some money right when we were starting out that’s been useful too.
Climate Challenge: But they no longer fund you?
McKibben: Uhh I don’t know. I don’t have that sort of… funders sitting in front of me.
Climate Challenge: Really? That’s usually something that people know.
McKibben: Rockefellers is one of our… is a great ally in this fight.
So now the question becomes just how much money has RBF pumped into 350.org over the years? Vivian Krause, writing in the Financial Post looked into that early last year and found the number to be in the millions. In a piece out just today, Ron Arnold digs into the actual investments. No wonder McKibben was reluctant to divulge the information.
And it’s not just 350.org that RBF provides strong financial backing. The conservative media in 2012 uncovered a PowerPoint presentation showing “that during a July 2008 meeting, the $789 million Rockefeller Brothers Fund proposed to coordinate and fund a dozen environmental and anti-corporate activist groups’ efforts to scuttle pipelines carrying tar sands oil from Canada to the United States.”
A recent Senate Report from the Minority Staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reports that RBF is one of the “roughly a dozen prominent private foundations created by the Billionaire’s Club that have huge sums of money at their disposal to spend on environmental causes.” The report shows that RBF gives to a variety of anti-Keystone and anti-oil sands efforts, including the League of Conservation Voters and InsideClimate News, which acknowledges that it is a project of Rockefeller Brothers Fund grantee, Public Interest Projects, Inc.” Remember InsideClimate News was also the outlet that was given a Pulitizer Prize for its anti-oil sands reporting in April of this year, which the RBF touted on its website. And remember that so-called “new study” that was released in August by researchers from the Stockholm Environmental Institute, which argued that that State Department was wrong on Keystone XL? OSFC has the full debunk here, so we won’t go into the study’s flaws now, but the important point is that the organization receives financial support from RBF.
Of course, this level of hypocrisy brings to mind another avid anti-Keystone XL opponent, billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who also just announced that he will be “divesting,” after it was revealed that not only is his investment portfolio heavy on fossil fuels, but he was also invested in a pipeline that could compete with Keystone XL. Remember Steyer then credited Bill McKibben for his decision to “divest,” as the Washington Post reported earlier this year.
For all these reasons, it’s worth taking a closer look at RBF’s announcement and ask the important question: How much did RBF have invested in oil sands? According to the Globe and Mail, “The fund did not provide details about the size of coal and oil sands investments.” Nor are the family members themselves going to personally divest.
In the end, the biggest irony of all is that not even the funders of the “divestment” campaign have divested from fossil fuels. How is it that not a single reporter who covered the announcement took the time to investigate this for themselves?