No. 1: ExxonMobil

Meet the 12 loudest members of the chorus claiming that global warming is a joke and that CO2 emissions are actually good for you.

Front page photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user <a href="" target="_blank">azrainman</a>

ExxonMobil, the Michael Jordan of climate change denial, was supposed to have quit the game. In 2005, Mother Jones reported that the oil company had pumped $8 million into more than 40 think tanks, media outlets, and consumer groups that questioned the existence of climate change. In 2007, new CEO Rex Tillerson announced that the company would try to “soften” its dirty image. A few months later, it pledged to stop funding groups “whose position on climate change could divert attention” from the need for clean energy.

Yet corporate records released earlier this year show that the world’s largest petroleum company hasn’t cut off the cash altogether. In 2008, it gave at least $50,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which recently published a report claiming that the Waxman-Markey climate bill will kill millions of jobs, boost electricity prices 90 percent, and cost a typical family $4,600 per year in taxes and extra energy costs by 2035. Sarah Palin posted a segment of the report on her Facebook page. (In reality, the Congressional Budget Office has found that the bill would cost the average household $175 a year by 2020; the EPA pegs its cost at no more than $140 per household per year.)

In 2008, ExxonMobil also gave more than $100,000 to the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which supports overseas groups that often oppose action on global warming. Atlas’ websites in 14 countries translate and syndicate stories and videos such as a recent interview about “Climategate” with the Cato Institute’s resident global warming skeptic, Patrick Michaels. In addition, it has supported more than 200 libertarian think tanks in countries including Spain, China, and Ghana. In the lead-up to Copenhagen, more than 76 think tanks in 48 countries signed its petition against “Green Protectionism,” creating the impression of a global grassroots movement opposed to action on climate change. Since 1998, ExxonMobil and its foundations have given Atlas nearly $1 million.

Meanwhile, Exxon is basking in the glow of its supposed change of heart. In August, Forbes (whose publisher, Steve Forbes, sits on the board of the FreedomWorks Foundation) hailed Tillerson for not being “as gruff and forceful as his predecessor Lee R. Raymond in dismissing global warming alarmists.” For that, and the company’s efforts to pump more natural gas, the magazine named ExxonMobil “Green Company of the Year.”

UPDATE: Media Maters itemizes Exxon’s extensive donations to groups that have trumpeted the overblown ClimateGate affair.

Click here for the next member of the dirty dozen.

Click here to return to the main page.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.