Meet the Machine That Drives the Environmental Movement: Big Green, Inc.

Meet the Machine That Drives the Environmental Movement: Big Green, Inc.
Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP

The Environmental Left relishes its carefully crafted image as a modern-day David battling the mighty fossil fuel giants in an epic struggle to save our dying planet. While it may sound compelling, this narrative is simply false. 

What is conveniently left out, and often underreported, is that the environmental movement is a deep-pocketed and powerful force in American politics, orchestrating efforts to restrict the production and movement of our domestic natural resources and upend our energy markets. This multi-billion dollar effort weakens our nation’s energy prosperity, does little by way of environmental protection, and disproportionately harms the poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes.

In July, Huffington Post published an article perpetuating the myth that “Fossil Fuel Industries Outspend Clean Energy Advocates On Climate Lobbying By 10 To 1.” This misleading claim gives an incomplete picture of the green advocacy movement. More accurately, the green lobby has developed the breadth and depth to advance anti-fossil fuel campaigns through billionaire-funded activist groups not required to file as lobbying organizations.

A handful of under-the-radar foundations give millions, and some, hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support environmental causes and misguided policies, which in turn, lead to unnecessary anti-fracking ballot measures, pipeline hold ups, and “Keep It In the Ground” anti-fossil fuel advocacy touching all fifty states.

It begs the question of which “green” is truly motivating them. A more accurate name for today’s environmental movement should really be Big Green, Inc.

Take the California-based Sea Change Foundation and Energy Foundation, for instance: these two institutions alone have spent over $800 million to advance Big Green’s agenda since 2008. In New York State, these foundations have funneled $80 million into 47 different “grassroot” advocacy groups. These front groups, such as “Environmental Advocates of New York,” are leading opponents of fracking and advocates for government mandates for renewables. Groups like these have succeeded in pushing the Empire State to implement some of the most aggressive environmental regulations in the nation to the detriment not only of New York families, but to New England residents as well. 

The combination of a lack of essential pipeline infrastructure and restrictions on the development of inexpensive fossil fuel sources such as coal, have caused Northeastern states to experience, at times, the most expensive electricity prices in the world, with some winter rates increasing to 60 to 70 times the normal rate. More supply is needed, yet Big Green, Inc. continues to funnel millions of dollars towards blocking the construction of needed natural gas pipelines and obstructing new development that would diversity the grid in the Northeast.

One of the green lobby’s most celebrated activities is their assault on the American coal industry. Between 2008 and 2016, the Energy Foundation donated more than $25 million to projects designed to either accelerate the retirement of domestic coal-fired power plants or block the development of new ones. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also donated over $100 million to this cause. According to the Sierra Club, one of the many benefactors of this special interest money, environmental groups have “defeated” over 270 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. since 2007.

Another example of Big Green, Inc. hard at work can be found in the key energy-producing state of Colorado. Since 2008, a network of environment-focused foundations have provided more than $91.7 million in grants to green causes in the Centennial State. One of the largest contributors, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, invested over $53 million in the state between 2008-2016. These funds have gone to organizations such as Western Resource Advocates and Public Counsel of the Rockies with specific direction to prevent “oil shale development in the Rocky Mountain West.” The Hewlett Foundation’s contributions reveal the hostile war the Environmental Left has dedicated to waging against traditional energy sources no matter the cost.

These cases demonstrate that when it comes to the story of money and influence in politics, one shouldn't be fooled by the media supported narrative of citizen activists fighting the deep-pocketed energy industry. It is the environmental lobby that is the true Goliath in the struggle to protect consumers and keep energy affordable and abundant.

Thomas J. Pyle is president of the Institute for Energy Research. IER recently unveiled Big Green, Inc., a first-of-its-kind research tool that provides a detailed accounting of the billions of dollars that flow into and throughout the green movement. It can be viewed here.

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