There is clear evidence that significant funding is directed to promoting the continued use of fossil fuels, which is going to lead to a lot of bias material intended to sway public opinion to the view that any risks posed by climate change are questionable.
Then there is the counter argument that is scientists also have a bias, and that scientists also have a motive to exaggerate any climate change threat, making what scientists say no more unbiased than what fossil fuel companies say.
This is a look at the reality of each side actively pursuing an agenda, and the budget each side has to promote that agenda.
Most people feel they are not really influenced by advertising and promotion, which would mean companies like Apple, KFC or Coca-Cola who spending billion advertising and promotions simply do not know what they are doing and are just wasting that money. Plus, it would also mean there was never any need to ban cigarette advising etc, and there is no reason to be concerned about election, funding as there is no advantage to be gained from having a bigger advertising budget.
Or, perhaps, it is that most people feel only other people are influenced by advertising and promotion, just like most people feel they are a better than average driver. Even if only other people are influenced, the budget that goes into influencing opinions does have some effect.
This is a page to examine the budgets available to various advocate groups, and who spends what budget and efforts to influence support for renewables vs fossil fuels.
What is evidence to validate statements that ‘big oil’ has a huge budget to spend on downplaying and debunking climate change? Is three really anyone with a vested interest in exaggerating climate change, with anywhere near a similar budget? Logically, if there is a media bias, it will go with the money. Realistically from what I can see, the money is against any claim that climate change presents a real threat.
This page will collect links evidence of a budget on either side of the debate. The page should be updated over time, providing an increasing number of links to articles about funding either for, or against, climate change.
For balance, I examine whether ‘big climate’ or ‘big science’, could fund biased data to counter any efforts of made by ‘big oil’.
The reality is, we do have a similar fight to ‘big tobacco’ vs ‘big non-profit medical researchers’ all over again. Remember, how doctors earn more when more people are sick, yet they came out against tobacco?
Could this be the opposite and somehow science is finding for more research funding from ‘big science‘ or ‘big green energy’ than the companies and billionaires of ‘big oil‘ find from the over US$7 billion per day in oil revenue? In the end, the only thing that really seems clear is that for intelligent highly qualified people, research scientists are not paid well enough to suggest they are mostly doing it for the money.
Who are big oil / big fossil?
It is not hard to find organisations of significantly wealth, who stand to lose a lot revenue if sales of fossil fuel products are reduced. Here is an extract from the list compiled by influencemap, of just such companies who lobby and act against measures to limit climate change.
As you can see, all the companies have substantial means to pursue their agenda, and either earn revenue, save costs, or improve market position from the continued use of fossil fuels.
See the links and resources section below for articles on the spending of ‘big oil’/ ‘big fossil’ to influence beliefs.
Big fossil revenue at risk.
The total revenue from fossil fuels is quite astounding. The world currently consumes over 97 million barrels of oil per day which at time of writing represents a value at over US$7 billion per day in revenue.
While Elon Musk could be considered a billionaire, this status is recent so only since 2017 could he be considered ‘big renewable auto’.
Which means any ability of Elon Musk to influence opinions has been very recent, which contrasts with Rockefeller, J. Pail Getty, the Saudis, the Sultan of Brunie and many more oil billionaires, as shown by a few sample lists:
The list under ‘big science‘ is not really comparable.
What about big renewables, big science or big climate?
Big Renewables: Big Sun, Big Wind.
There is direct equivalent to oil and gas billionaires
If a company could own the rights to sunshine, or wind energy, the way a company can own supplies of oil, coal or gas, then there would be two equal sides arguing which should be used for energy. But in the end, no one monetises the sun or wind itself, and no one, at least so far controls supply. This means the amount of money available to promote fossil fuels is orders of magnitude beyond that available for promoting green energy. Further, there are entire nations, such as Russia and those in the middle east, who have a vested interest in promoting continued use of fossil fuels. Plus, even governments in countries without any reserves of fossil fuels, achieve more economic activity and taxation revenue from the sales of fossil fuels than is possible with renewables, which can though home solar etc, even allow consumers to have energy without any opportunity for the government to take a cut.
If someone finds a way to earn as we use sun or wind, then this could become a reality, with implications beyond energy.
Elon Musk and Big Electric Vehicles (Big EVs)?
Elon Musk became the world’s richest man at one point though the value of his shareholding in Tesla, a company that it could be argued would have failed without renewable energy, in the same way that Henry Ford also profited from the plentiful supply of oil.
However, this wealth was only since 2017 as, pre
While Elon Musk could be considered a billionaire who has benefited from climate change through Tesla, as recently as 2017 Tesla was yet to ever return a profit and was on the brink of bankruptcy:
In the middle of a discussion about Tesla’s fundraising history, a follower asked, “How close was Tesla from bankruptcy when bringing the Model 3 to mass production?”
Musk replied: “Closest we got was about a month. The Model 3 ramp was extreme stress & pain for a long time — from mid-2017 to mid-2019. Production & logistics hell.”Elon Musk says Tesla was ‘about a month’ from bankruptcy during Model 3 ramp
Musk is not a direct equivalent to an oil billionaire, and he only achieved sufficient wealth to use it to influence people very recently. Having taken over twitter have an
Big renewable energy equipment manufacturers and suppliers?
There are companies who make solar cells. There are companies that make the turbines for wind farms. These equipment suppliers of ‘renewable energy equipment’ are the equivalent of oil rig construction companies or mining equipment companies. Note that oil rig construction companies and mining equipment companies do not make the list of ‘big oil’ or ‘big fossil’. In the end, supplying equipment just isn’t a big enough business to justify the spending required for a publicity campaign, nor is it so specialised that the industry relies on building one specific thing.
So: no ‘big equipment suppliers, either supporting fossil fuels or renewables.
I searched for a list of richest climate-scientists, but it found best climate scientists, but no richest climate scientists. I did find list of richest scientists, but no climate scientist made the list. If smart enough to be a scientist and you care about money, climate science is a poor choice.
Also, there is no evidence of a ‘big science’ industry. Scientists are people who work in industries that monetise science, but science itself is not an industry. A scientist could make big money from, for example, the pharmaceutical industry, for their breakthrough research, but the industry making money is pharmaceutical industry, and there is no science industry. Scientists are either poorly funded pure researchers employed by research bodies or employed by industries that can profit from scientific research.
Scientists doing climate research generally not funded by any industry, but instead are funded by research bodies.
One thing ‘the big bang theory‘ comedy gets right, is that research body scientists are not well paid, and research funding is limited. Despite the suggestion that these people, despite being highly intelligent, could not find work if not for research grants, wall street is one of the top employers of physics graduates.
People work in science because they are passionate about science. There is no real profit motive for so many scientists to find the same conclusions as everyone else: that climate change is real. In science you get more attention by finding something new, not the same things over and over.
As a scientist you could fight for a government grant, or a big oil grant. Which is likely to provide the better funding? Or is there the possibility of a grant from ‘big climate’?
In any event, there is no ‘big science’.
So what about ‘big climate’? In the recent Australian election, candidates with a policy supporting action on climate change could get funding from ‘Climate 200‘, a group supported started by a billionaire who wants action on climate change, apparently following his frustration from being expelled from a group to support a politician for calling for support for more action on climate change.
Other groups like this exist and support action on climate change, but there is no evidence any of the donors to these groups have any financial motivation for action on climate change. Sure, the donors tend to be very wealthy, but they become donors after they have gained wealthy from unrelated business activities.
The influence of ‘big’ groups on policy and the market.
Advertising: Consider sport advertising.
First it was tobacco, then it was banned. Then alcohol became the main sponsor, with limits now applied because of negative health outcomes. Currently the most visible advertiser is often gambling, another product that has prompted governments to place limits on advertising. At least in theory.
So why do governments limit advertising of certain products? Because two factors are at play:
- Advertising works, with enough advertising, you can change the behaviour of a percentage of people
- Many of the most advertised products, result in negative outcomes for those influenced by the advertising
So are fossil fuel companies advertising? Yes:
- Sweat not oil: Why sports should drop advertising and sponsorship from high-carbon polluters
- Oil companies’ sponsorship of the arts ‘is cynical PR strategy’
I plan to more links over time.
- 2023 Feb 27: Added Elon Musk section, details on oil revenues and slightly updated synopsis.
- 2022 June 7 : First Version.
Links and resources.
At this time, this is an early version of this page, so this section is just a raw collection of largely unsorted links. I hope to improve things over time, but in the meantime there quite a number of stories on how ‘big oil’ spends billions in a fight against action on climate change.
- How the PR Industry Has Helped Big Oil Transform the Way We Think About the Environment
- Study Exposes Climate Claims by Big Oil as Corporate Propaganda
- Chevron and ExxonMobil, BP and Shell—the four majors also at the center of an ongoing investigation by a U.S. House panel.
- Big oil propaganda earns 431 MILLION views on Facebook
- Big Oil is spending massive amounts on Facebook and TV ads to kill a climate ballot measure in Washington state
- How a powerful US lobby group helps big oil to block climate action
- Ron Desantis Signs a Bill That Mandates Cities Keep Using Fossil Fuels
- Australian Gas Led Recovery
- Is Your Utility Waging War On Solar Panels? Many Are!
- Solar and Wind Energy in Australia: Untapped or Unwanted.
- Energy transition specialist, Simon Holmes à Court
- Yes… But Are Electric Vehicles Really SUSTAINABLE?
- Why Using an electric car is FAR better for the environment in every country in the world
- climate in general