Over the past two years, nine of the most frequently cited US think tanks have released reports endorsing crude oil exports, sent experts to advocate exports in Congressional testimony, and published op-ed columns supporting a repeal of the ban on exporting crude oil.
The think tanks have used their influence in the media and policy arena to push for an end to the ban, arguing it to be an economic and geopolitical benefit to the United States while largely ignoring the environmental and climate consequences of such a move. The Heritage Foundation, for example, enthuses that the US has more than five times the amount of recoverable oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, even as climate scientists warn that recovering all the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves would be apocalyptic. The Center for American Progress, the most prominent think tank to oppose lifting the export ban, reported in 2015 that lifting the ban would produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 135 coal fired power plants.
The think tanks’ new push for lifting the ban only makes sense in light of their deep and extensive ties to oil companies. This report documents these connections.
PAI found that all of the think tanks examined receive significant funding from major oil and gas companies that have a financial interest in exporting crude oil. Further, oil and gas executives and lobbyists have actual governing power over these think tanks. All of the think tanks analyzed had oil and gas executives or lobbyists on their boards.
ExxonMobil Corporation, which is currently under investigation for funding a campaign of disinformation to sow doubt about climate change, is a major donor to every think tank analyzed in the report.
In addition to the industry influence over individual think tanks, PAI found that several of the experts who produced pro-export research have had positions at multiple pro-export think tanks, sometimes simultaneously, in effect creating an echo chamber of highly influential institutions funded, directed, and staffed by many of the same corporations and people and delivering the same pro-industry messages.
Many of the think tanks studied agree on the reality and urgency of climate change, and even the politically conservative Cato Institute acknowledges that “[g]lobal warming is indeed real, and human activity has been a contributor since 1975.” But their push for lifting the ban suggests that they have made the bottom lines of their corporate sponsors a more important factor in determining their advocacy agendas.
On October 9, 2015, the House of Representatives approved a bill in a 261-159 vote that would repeal the government’s authority to ban the export of crude oil granted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. Another bill, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, approved by the House on December 3, 2015 in a 249-174 vote, also included a repeal of the export ban. Both bills have yet to be voted on by the Senate.
Despite the House votes, and despite the aggressive efforts of the petroleum industry and its allies, it appears unlikely that the export ban will be lifted by President Obama. Upon the House’s passage of the export bill, the White House issued a formal statement of policy signaling that Obama would veto it. The President has, however, loosened restrictions on exports during his administration, including permitting exports of US crude to Mexico in exchange for imported heavy Mexican oil better suited for US refineries.
- Nine of the most influential US think tanks support oil exports. Pro-export think tanks include the Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Atlantic Council, Aspen Institute, and Bipartisan Policy Center.
- Extensive oil and gas funding. Of the 9 think tanks examined, 6 identify their donors in their annual reports; Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell donated to all 6. BP and Pioneer Natural Resources donated to 4 of the 6 think tanks that disclose their donors and Hess Corporation and Statoil donated to 3 of the 6. In addition to corporate donations, think tanks have received funding from oil and gas companies’ philanthropic foundations as well as from individuals in the oil and gas industry.
- Research authored by industry-tied experts. Several of the reports endorsing crude oil exports released by prominent think tanks were authored by fellows or experts with ties to the oil and gas industry.
- A pro-export echo chamber. While think tanks from the across the mainstream political spectrum endorse lifting the ban on crude oil exports, giving the appearance of a diverse consensus on the issue, these organizations are extremely interconnected, sharing many of the same board members, experts, and funders.
Who wrote the reports
- David Goldwyn, a senior associate at CSIS from 2001 until 2009, and a member of a 2007 Council on Foreign Relations task force on National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency. Goldwyn was a co-director of the Atlantic Council’s July 2015 pro-export report “Empowering America” and was a member of the Brookings Institution’s natural gas task force, which endorsed liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports in 2014. Goldwyn also runs a consultancy that advises energy industry clients and was key to the US State Department’s strategy of encouraging eastern European countries to embrace fracking and lease land to US oil companies, including major think tank donor Chevron.
- Charles Ebinger, a senior fellow and former director of the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security and Climate Initiative, was lead on that think tank’s 2014 report “Economic Benefits of Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban.” Ebinger was also a member of the task force behind the Atlantic Council’s 2015 export-endorsing report “Empowering America.” Ebinger is a former advisor to the National Petroleum Council, which advises the US Department of Energy on behalf of the petroleum industry, and is a current member of the US Energy Association, a nonprofit that “represents the broad interests of the U.S. energy sector.”
- Daniel Yergin, a trustee of the Brookings Institution, a director of the Council on Foreign Relations, and chairman of the consulting firm IHS CERA, was the project chair on an IHS report endorsing crude oil exports. That report, “U.S. Crude Oil Export Decision: Assessing the Impact of the Export Ban and Free Trade on the U.S. Economy,” was funded by 20 oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, and was cited in a number of the pro-export reports published by nonprofit think tanks. IHS is a frequent consultant to major oil and gas corporations.
- ExxonMobil, a massive US oil producer and the second largest company in the world, donated $1.32 million in 2014 to seven of the nine pro-export think tanks examined in this report – all but the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. However, the corporation has been a major donor to all nine think tanks in the past, donating to the Heritage Foundation as recently as 2013. Further, ExxonMobil’s chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson sits on the board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and board member Henrietta Holsman Fore sits on the boards of CSIS and the Aspen Institute.
- Chevron, another “supermajor” oil producer, donated to at least six of the nine pro-export think tanks in this report – all of those that disclosed their funding – in the past year. Of the groups analyzed in this report, Chevron has the strongest ties to the Atlantic Council, to which the corporation donated between $250,000 and $1 million in 2014. Chevron director Jon Huntsman is the Atlantic Council’s chairman and Chevron lobbyist Maria Pica Karp and former Chevron director Retired General James L Jones both sit on the Council’s board. Jones, the former National Security Advisor to Barack Obama, preceded Huntsman as Atlantic Council’s chairman and is also a trustee of CSIS and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center – all recipients of Chevron funding. Another former Chevron director, Carla Hills, is co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations board.
- David Rubenstein is co-CEO of the private equity firm Carlyle Group, which is invested in a number of oil and gas projects. Rubenstein is also a major donor to the Brookings Institution where he sits on the board of trustees. In addition to his position at Brookings, Rubenstein is the vice chair of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a former trustee of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
- David Koch, the executive Vice President of Koch Industries, is a major donor and trustee at the Aspen Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, and is a donor (with his brother, Charles Koch, and associated Koch organizations) of over $1 million to Brookings. Koch Industries, the source of the brothers’ wealth, began as an oil refining business and today includes oilfield services.
PAI analyzed reports touting oil and gas exports from think tanks ranked among the most influential in reports by University of Pennsylvania and the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). We chose think tanks that both produced pro-export research and were highly ranked by each group. FAIR ranked think tanks by how frequently their research and experts were cited in the media, while Penn’s influence ranking took number of citations into account as well as the think tanks’ access to experts and funding, reputation, and impact.
In addition to think tanks with high scores on FAIR and Penn’s metrics, we also included the Aspen Institute, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Atlantic Council, which have produced pro-export research and have significant interlocks with the other think tanks profiled.
|Think Tank||Penn Ranking (2015)||FAIR Ranking (2013)|
|Center for Strategic & International Studies||3||9|
|Council on Foreign Relations||4||5|
|American Enterprise Institute||12||3|
|Bipartisan Policy Center||52||unranked|
The Think Tanks
Report: “Economic Benefits of Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban” (September 2014)
Brookings’ report was led by Charles Ebinger, a senior fellow at Brookings with a long history of advising energy companies and governments on energy issues. Ebinger recently served as an advisor to the National Petroleum Council, an advisory board that represents the oil and gas industry’s views to the Department of Energy, on a white paper recommending the expansion of oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Ebinger is also a member of the United States Energy Association, “an association of public and private energy-related organizations, corporations, and government agencies” that “represents the broad interests of the U.S. energy sector” according to Ebinger’s Brookings biography and USEA’s website.
Ebinger was also a member of an Atlantic Council task force (co-chaired by Brookings senior fellow David Goldwyn) that produced an export-endorsing report in July 2015. (See “Atlantic Council” below for more.)
NERA, an economic consulting company that worked on the report, has produced research for other organizations with conclusions friendly to the industry funding it. The Union of Concerned Scientists has criticized several studies attacking the proposed Clean Power Plan produced by NERA for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a trade group funded by major coal interests.
This Brookings and NERA report has been cited in numerous news media reports on the push to repeal the export ban and opinion columns advocating the same.
Further, around the time Brookings published his report, Ebinger gave testimony before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power advocating a repeal of the crude oil export ban with the Brookings report as evidence. Ebinger also co-authored a public memorandum addressed to President Obama in January 2014 with Brookings fellow Tim Boersma calling for a repeal of the ban.
Board and funding ties
Brookings’ ties to the petroleum industry extend to its board of trustees and major funders. Of the institution’s 74 trustees, at least 15 are current or former directors, executives, or lobbyists of oil and gas companies. Those 15 trustees donated between $1.3 and $3.1 million to Brookings in 2014, according to the group’s most recent annual report.
Another major Brookings donor is the network of nonprofit organizations controlled by David and Charles Koch, of Koch Industries, which has lobbied to lift the export ban. In 2014, Mother Jones estimated that the Koch brothers had funded Brookings to the tune of $2,389,400. The brothers are notorious for spending hundreds of millions influencing US politics through their various nonprofit organizations and political action committees.
Further, nine major companies engaged in oil and gas drilling in the United States contributed between $1.7 and $3.6 million to Brookings in 2014. Brookings’ annual report claims between $500,000 and $999,999 in funding from ExxonMobil; however the company only declared $430,000 in donations to Brookings in its 2014 list of contributions to public information and policy research groups.
Another 16 trustees are executives or directors of firms that supply the oil and gas industry, either with materials or financing. One of those trustees, David Rubenstein, is co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, an asset management firm with oil and gas investments including a 48% stake in Natural Gas Partners. Rubenstein alone donated at least $2 million to Brookings in 2014 when he joined the think tank’s board of trustees as co-chair.
Another Brookings trustee, Daniel Yergin, is also a director of the Council on Foreign Relations as well as a National Petroleum Council member and chairman of a oil and gas industry consulting firm, IHS CERA. At IHS, Yergin chaired a research project that also called for repealing the export ban. That report, sponsored by 20 oil and gas firms, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, was cited by many of the think tanks examined in this report, including Brookings. IHS has produced a wealth of research, both independent and on contract for industry clients, that endorses increased oil and gas drilling and is critical of government regulation of the industry.
Map: Brookings trustees’ and donors’ oil and gas ties
Map: Brookings ties to US State Department efforts to promote fracking in Europe
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Report: “Delivering the Goods: Making the Most of North America’s Evolving Oil Infrastructure” (February 2015)
The CSIS report was authored by Frank Verrastro, Michelle Melton, Sarah Ladislaw, Lisa Hyland, and Kevin Book. Hyland and Ladislaw are the associate director and director, respectively, of CSIS’s Energy and National Security Program, Melton is a research associate at the Energy and National Security Program, and Kevin Book is a nonresident senior associate. Frank Verrastro is a former director of the Energy and National Security Program and holds the James R Schlesinger Chair for Energy and Geopolitics at CSIS.
Kevin Book is also the head of the research team at ClearView Energy Partners, which advises investors and corporate strategists, and was a member of the Brookings Institution’s natural gas task force, which recommended increasing exports of liquefied natural gas in several reports beginning in 2013. Sarah Ladislaw was also a member of Brookings’ natural gas task force.
Frank Verrastro held a number of positions energy policy positions in the White House, and worked in the private sector as the director for refinery policy and crude oil planning at TOSCO and as a senior vice president at Pennzoil.
Book and Ladislaw are also both members of Brookings’ natural gas task force.
Board and funding ties
CSIS received at least $1 million in corporate donations from oil and gas drillers according to its website, including donations of at least $200,000 each from ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Statoil.
The chairmen and CEOs of three major oil companies, John B Hess of Hess Corporation, Ray L Hunt of Hunt Consolidated, and Rex W Tillerson of ExxonMobil, sit on the CSIS board of trustees. All three CEOs donate to CSIS; Hess and Hunt contributed at least $50,000 each, while the amount of Tillerson’s lesser donation is not disclosed. Also on the board of trustees is J Tomilson Hill, Vice Chairman of the Blackstone Group, which earlier this year created a private equity fund with $4.5 billion for energy investments. It is said to be focusing on the debt of distressed oil companies.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is also a member of the CSIS board of trustees. Albright is the chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a corporate consulting firm, and of Albright Capital Partners, a hedge fund. Albright Capital Partners has at least one investment in the oil industry; it owns a 10% stake in Eco-Stim Energy Solutions, an oilfield services company.
Map: CSIS trustee’s and donors’ oil and gas ties
Council on Foreign Relations
Report: “The Case for Allowing U.S. Crude Oil Exports” (2013)
Blake Clayton, an adjunct fellow for energy at CFR and author of the 2013 report “The Case for Allowing U.S. Crude Oil Exports,” is an equity analyst at Citibank covering oil and gas companies. Citibank is a significant creditor to the oil and gas industry, signed on to numerous credit facilities that have financed the activities of major US petroleum producers. In CFR’s report, Clayton argues that the primary beneficiaries of the export ban are “a few fortunate oil refineries in the central United States – not U.S. consumers – that are able to buy crude oil at depressed prices before selling it at prevailing market rates,” and that lifting the ban would generate “upward[s] of $15 billion a year in revenue by 2017 at today’s prices, according to industry estimates.”
Notably, CFR has also published research skeptical of some arguments about the benefits of oil exports. In 2014, Michael A Levi, CFR’s David M Rubenstein Fellow for Energy and the Environment, authored a CFR blog post titled “The impact of oil exports is being greatly exaggerated.” In the post, Levi takes the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman to task for exaggerating the impact the repeal would have on oil prices. But he does conclude by saying that “liberalizing U.S. oil exports would be a good thing to do for both economic and geopolitical reasons.”
Board and funding ties
According to CFR’s website, the organization received at least $550,000 in corporate donations from oil and gas companies, including donations of $100,000 or more from Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, and Shell.
Carla Hills, co-chair of CFR’s board, is a past board member at Chevron. She launched the consulting firm Hill & Company in 1993 and their clients have included multinationals like Chevron, Bechtel, and Coca-Cola.
Vice chair David Rubenstein is co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, an asset management firm with more than $258 million in energy investments that includes holdings in natural gas – particularly a 48% stake in Natural Gas Partners. He has ties to numerous other think tanks (see above under “Brookings” and below under “Bipartisan Policy Center”).
Several CFR directors also have ties to the oil and gas drillers and consultants:
- Shirley Ann Jackson is a director of Marathon Oil Corporation
- Susan Hockfield is a director of General Electric, whose GE Oil & Gas division provides a wide range of goods and services to the drilling industry
- Daniel Yergin is chairman of IHS CERA, a frequent contractor to the oil and gas industry, and is a member of the National Petroleum Council
- Christine Todd Whitman was a member of an external advisory council to BP America and sits on the board of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, an industry-dominated certification group
As mentioned above under “Brookings,” at IHS Yergin chaired a research project, sponsored by 20 oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, that endorsed crude oil exports and was cited by a number of the think tanks examined in this report.
Another 12 CFR directors are drawn from various private equity, asset management, and investment firms, some of which have massive oil and gas investments.
CFR’s oil and gas donors and most notable petroleum-tied directors can be seen in the below map.
Map: CFR directors’ and donors’ oil and gas ties
Reports: “License to Drill: The Case for Modernizing America’s Crude Oil and Natural Gas Export Licensing Systems” (February 21, 2013); “Boom to Bust? How Export Restrictions Imperil America’s Oil and Gas Bonanza” (forum) (February 10, 2014); “Drop America’s Energy Export Ban” (February 11, 2014); “Why Lifting Oil Export Ban Can Help US Foreign Policy” (October 6, 2015)
Cato’s collection of op-eds and reports argue that lifting the ban would create a new “manufacturing renaissance” in terms of domestic employment and fossil fuel export competitiveness. The think tank also suggests that the ban on exports may violate various free trade agreements, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
Board and funding ties
The Cato Institute has been regarded as a vessel for the Koch Brother’s political influence. Charles Koch founded the institute in 1974, and he and his brother David Koch explicitly controlled the foundation as its largest shareholders for decades. It wasn’t until after a 2011 lawsuit that the Cato Institute began to be governed by a Board of Directors rather than stockholders, but the Koch family still maintains significant influence: David Koch is on the board of directors, and Koch family foundations are still top donors to the Institute.
Another major funder of Cato are Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which, according to a 2013 analysis by Drexel University environmental biologist Robert Bruelle, was the largest funder of the “climate countermovement,” a network of think tanks and academic circles that sow doubt about climate change.
Director Preston Marshall is the son of Elaine Tettemer Marshall, who has a 15% in Koch Industries bequeathed to her by her late husband E Pierce Marshall, who himself inherited the wealth from his father J Howard Marshall’s stake in Koch Industries.
Reports: “Time to Lift the Ban on Crude Oil Exports” (May 2014) and “The Economic and Geopolitical Benefits of Free Trade in Energy Resources” (October 2015)
Nicolas Loris is a fellow at the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He has testified against the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, which subsidizes the production of fuel efficient vehicles, and writes climate change-doubting, pro-fossil fuel pieces for outlets like the Washington Times, Daily Signal, and National Review. Before he came to Heritage, Loris was an Associate at the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation while completing a masters in Economics at George Mason University, according to Loris’s LinkedIn. Charles G Koch, for whom the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation is named, is CEO of Koch Industries, a conglomerate whose concerns include oil and gas exploration, pipeline, refining, and commodity trading companies, and which has advocated for lifting the export ban.
Board and funding ties
While most of the Heritage Foundation’s leadership does not have explicit ties to the oil and gas industry, it shares close associations with David Koch, the executive Vice President of Koch Industries. The president of the Heritage Foundation, James Demint, received substantial contributions from the Koch family when he was in Congress from 1999 to 2013. Demint received nearly $100,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry overall.
Phillip Truluck, executive vice president of the Heritage Foundation, also has ties to the oil and gas industry: He is a director at the the Center for International Private Investment, whose parent organization, the US Chamber of Commerce, is chaired by numerous trustees from the fossil fuel industry. Taken together, the salaries of Truluck and Demint make up 4.8% of total Heritage Fund expenditures on wages, an indication of their considerable influence.
Donors with strong oil and gas affiliations donated at least $2.16 million to the Heritage Foundation in 2014, according to the group’s annual report. Petroleum industry donors who gave over $1 million or more include South Korea’s Hanwha Group and Karen Buchwald Wright, CEO of natural gas compressor manufacturer Ariel Corp and member of the National Petroleum Council. Donors who gave between $100,000 and $1 million include the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which derives wealth inherited from Gulf Oil, and the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation. Chevron also gave between $10,000 and $25,000.
American Enterprise Institute
Report: “Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban” (Transcript from Benjamin Zycher’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, July 28 2015)
Benjamin Zycher, a resident scholar at AEI and a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, discusses the broader benefits of ending the ban, principally a strengthened dollar. He also claims that in the long term, refineries would benefit from oil exports because the ban on them has distorted the allocation of crude at global refineries, and left places like the US with refineries ill equipped to respond to current market realities. Lifting the ban, he claims, would reduce the cost of refining crude for US refiners generally, and thereby reduce the price of producing refined products.
Previously Zycher was an associate at the State Department’s Intelligence Community Associates Program. He also had stints at the RAND Corporation and the Manhattan Institute. In recent years he has written extensively against “green jobs” and subsidies for renewable energy.
Board and funding ties
AEI does not disclose its donors, so identifying fossil fuel industry donors is challenging; however, according to ExxonMobil’s list of contributions for public information and policy research, the company donated $310,000 to AEI in 2014.
Nine trustees have ties to the fossil fuel industry:
- Dick Cheney is currently an adviser of Genie Energy, which is drilling in the Golan Heights. He is also the former CEO of Halliburton, the oilfield services conglomerate
- Harvey Golub, former chairman and CEO of American Express, is on the board of Hess Corporation
- AEI’s board is stocked with hedge fund and private equity investors with ties to the fossil fuel industry:
- AEI’s Vice Chairman Daniel A D’Aniello is the co-founder and chairman of The Carlyle Group, an asset management firm with oil and gas investments including a 48% stake in Natural Gas Partners. D’Aniello is also one of AEI’s top benefactors: he gave AEI a $20 million gift in February 2014.
- Marc S Lipschultz is a former board member at Energy Future Holdings Corporation and a partner at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, where he is the head of the company’s Energy & Infrastructure division. At KKR, Lipschultz advises oil and gas companies including Samson Energy.
- Seth Klarman is the president and CEO of the hedge fund The Baupost Group, which has $113 million invested in energy, including large holdings in liquid natural gas company Cheniere Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources, PBF Energy, Antero Resources, and Sanchez Energy Corporation.
- Robert F Greenhill is the founder and chairman of Greenhill & Co., which has advised fossil fuel companies in transactions worth billions of dollars, including Kinder Morgan, Devon Energy Corporation, Berry Petroleum, Edge Oilfield Services, and others.
- Clifford S Asness is the manager and founding principal of AQR Capital Management, an investment management firm with $2.5 billion invested in energy, including large stakes in Valero, Marathon Petroleum Corp, Exxon, and ConocoPhillips. Asness is a climate change denier who drew criticism for a 2015 memo declaring that climate change was not a problem.
- Ravenel B Curry is the Chief Investment Officer at Eagle Capital Management, which has over $900 million in energy, including large holdings in Noble Energy, Inc (which drills in the Eagle Ford and Marcellus Shales) and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
Map: AEI directors’ and donors’ oil and gas ties
Report: “Empowering America: How Energy Abundance Can Strengthen US Global Leadership” (September 7, 2015)
The September 2015 report was conducted by the Atlantic Council’s Task Force on US Energy Boom and National Security, which is chaired by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Warner and directed by David Goldwyn (see above, under “Brookings”) and Richard Morningstar.
Board and funding ties
The Atlantic Council received contributions in 2014 of between $250,000 and $1 million from Chevron, and between $100,000 and $250,000 from Cheniere Energy. ExxonMobil donated $60,000.
Six members of the Council’s board of directors are also currently directors at major oil and gas companies, including chairman Jon Huntsman, who sits on the Chevron board. Other oil and gas directors who sit on the Atlantic Council board are Steve Nicandros, chairman & CEO of Frontera Resources; energy investor Thomas Edelman, a director of Noble Energy; Philip Lader, a director of Marathon Oil; Richard L Armitage, a director of ConocoPhillips; and retired general Wesley Clark, a director of the Canadian company Bankers Petroleum.
Beyond Huntsman, the Atlantic Council has two other Chevron connections on its board. Maria Pica Karp is a vice president and general manager of Chevron’s government affairs and Retired General James L Jones is a former Chevron board member.
Other oil-and-gas-tied Atlantic Council board members include Karl V Hopkins and Obie L Moore, both attorneys on the Houston law firm Dentons’ Energy, Transport, and Infrastructure team.
Carlos Pascual is a senior vice president at the consulting firm IHS, which is often employed by the oil and gas industry to develop research on the benefits of drilling.
Georgette Mosbacher, CEO of cosmetics manufacturer Borghese, was step-mother to Devon Energy director Robert Mosbacher Jr, the son of her husband of 13 years, Robert Mosbacher Sr, the founder of Mosbacher Energy Co. Though Georgette and Robert Mosbacher Sr divorced in 1998, they remained close friends according to Mosbacher Sr’s 2010 obituary.
US Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Myron Brilliant also sits on the Atlantic Council’s board. The Chamber is a pro-business lobbying group that is part of the current push to repeal the oil export ban.
Report: “Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban” (October 2014)
Aspen’s 2014 report was authored by Thomas Deusterberg, executive director of the Manufacturing and Society in the 21st Century Program at the Aspen Institute, Don Norman, director of economic studies at the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI), and Jeffrey Werling, executive director of the Interindustry Forecasting Project at the University of Maryland (Inforum).
The authors argue that lifting the export ban would not only be a boon to the oil and gas industries, but also the broader economy, especially the manufacturing sector. It characterizes new oil production in the US as stimulus on all sectors of the economy on par with a major war effort, and emphasizes that lower crude prices resulting from domestic production would good for individual, government, and corporate consumers.
All of the authors of the Aspen Institute report have ties to MAPI, a trade organization of some of the largest manufacturing companies in the United States, including Briggs & Stratton, Textron, and Ingersoll Rand, that produces research in furtherance of its members’ corporate interests. Thomas Deusterberg, the Aspen Institute’s contributor to the project, is MAPI’s former president & CEO, and Jeffrey Werling was formerly employed by MAPI as an economist.
Prior to his position at MAPI, report author Don Norman was a research director at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas lobbying organization in the country.
The authors acknowledge several specific funders from the oil and gas industry in the report itself, including the American Petroleum Institute, Continental Resources, Cheniere Energy, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Pioneer Resources, as well as the US Chamber of Commerce and several manufacturing firms and lobbying groups.
Board and funding ties
Aspen thanks a number of corporate donors from the oil and gas industry on its website, including Chevron and the Hess Corporation. Aspen’s funder list for 2014 discloses additional donations from ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Kosmos Energy, and Schlumberger in addition to $250,000 from the Mitchell Foundation (whose assets are nearly entirely derived from the family’s holdings in Devon Energy).
In 2013, a large percentage of the funding for Aspen’s Energy & Environment program came from the oil and gas industry. Including donations from the natural gas-reliant utility Duke Energy, the Chesapeake Energy-founded front group American Clean Skies Foundation, the energy lobbying firm Van Ness Feldman, and the Mitchell Foundation, 63% of the funding for the Aspen Institute’s environmental programs that year came from oil and gas industry players. Moreover, 100% of the funding for the 2013 Oil Forum came from oil and gas-related donors.
Senior mentor of the Aspen’s Institute’s Leadership Program Lester Crown gave Aspen a $10 million gift in 2013. Crown is Chairman of Henry Crown and Company, which owns company Crown Oil Corporation, currently a heating services and oil delivery firm. However, Crown’s biggest money maker is the company’s stake in defense contractor General Dynamics.
David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries, sits on the Aspen Institute’s board of trustees. Koch’s ties to the oil and gas industry are detailed in the sections above.
Trustee James E Rogers was President and CEO of the gas and electric utility Duke Energy from April 2006 until July 2013.
Donors with strong oil and gas affiliations donated at least $14 million to the Aspen Institute, and likely much more. This includes donations of $5 million or more from Lester Crown and family; David Rubenstein, co-founder and CEO of the Carlyle Group; between $1 million and $4,999,999 from Bloomberg Philanthropies; James Rogers and his wife Mary Anne; and the Laurie M Tisch Illumination Fund, whose family’s holdings, which are concentrated in the Loews Corporation, include $3.7 billion in energy. The Loews Corporation is itself involved in the oil and gas industry; its Diamond Offshore Drilling and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners subsidiaries provide upstream (drilling) and midstream (transportation, storage, and gathering) services, respectively, to energy industry clients.
Bipartisan Policy Center
Report: “Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban” (September 24, 2015)
The Bipartisan Policy Center released three explainers on lifting the export ban. The first was a broad overview of the oil and gas industry in the United States and explained why domestic refineries are ill equipped to handle oil produced in recent years. The second declared a lifted ban would be good for American consumers and workers, citing data from Aspen and Brookings. BPC argues in the third brief that a lifted ban would lead to increased world stability by enhancing American power.
BPC President Jason Grumet outlined his think tank’s position on crude oil exports in testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade in April 2015.
Board and funding ties
According to BPC’s annual report, corporate donors include Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dominion Resources, Energy Future Holdings Corporation, Exelon, ExxonMobil, GE, Laredo Petroleum, Pacific Gas and Electric, Pioneer Natural Resources, and Shell.
Co-Founder Bob Dole, former presidential candidate and Congressperson, has deep ties to the Koch Brothers: David Koch was a vice-chairman of Dole’s ’96 campaign, and the Koch family ranked as one of his biggest financiers. He collected tens of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry until he left politics after 1996. He’s also a lobbyist at Alston & Bird LLP, which counted America’s Natural Gas Alliance as one of its biggest clients between 2011 and 2012.
Co-founder Tom Daschle is a member for BP’s Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel, as well as a special public policy advisory to Alston & Bird LLP and a representative on General Electric’s Healthymagination Advisory Board.
Co-founder and former US Senate majority leader Howard Baker was a lobbyist and founder of the Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz lobbying firm, until his death in 2014. Baker’s firm represents “major, independent and state-owned oil and gas companies” and runs a pro-industry blog called “Oil and Gas Legal Blog.”
Senior fellow Trent Lott, formerly Senate majority leader, is now a lobbyist at Squire Patton Boggs LLP, where his current clients include Royal Dutch Shell, and from 2012 to 2014 included ExxonMobil.
BPC’s Strategic Energy Policy Initiative was governed by a board with strong ties to the oil and gas industry, including former Anadarko Petroleum CEO James Hackett, former Marathon Oil chairman and CEO Clarence Cazalot, ExxonMobil vice president William Colton, and former ConocoPhillips board member William Reilly and former Chevron board member James L Jones.
Map: BPC trustees’ and donors’ oil and gas ties
About the Public Accountability Initiative
The Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) is a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational organization focused on corporate and government accountability. In addition to publishing research on critical public accountability issues, PAI maintains LittleSis.org, an involuntary facebook of powerful people and tool for power research that was used to compile date for this report. PAI’s work is funded by a variety of non-profit sources. PAI’s research on the oil and gas industry and fracking is funded by the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation and the Park Foundation.