The Trojan Horses of Climate Advocacy: Over 1,500 Big Oil Lobbyists Unmasked

In what could be likened to a spy thriller plot, the fossil fuel industry has seemingly been deploying undercover agents to infiltrate the very organizations meant to be combatting the climate crisis. According to a shocking new report released by divestment advocacy group F Minus, a staggering number of lobbyists seem to be leading double lives as representatives for both fossil fuel companies and progressive climate advocacy groups.

The group’s database has revealed an alarming network of over 1,500 lobbyists at the state level who, while employed by governments, universities, and supposed climate champions, are also advocating for the interests of fossil fuel companies.

Notably, some 150 universities – even those who have pledged to divest from fossil fuels like California State University, Syracuse University, and the University of Washington – are connected to this network of “compromised” lobbyists. This shocking revelation doesn’t stop at academia either. Even tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Google, known for their progressive stances, have hired lobbyists who maintain links to the Koch network and various fossil fuel entities like Exxon.

Cities lauded for their commitment to combat climate change – Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia – have also been caught in the act, employing these dual-role lobbyists. The expose also uncovers that lobbyists working for companies like Exxon and Phillips are representing interests in Montana, which is currently entangled in a landmark case filed by 16 youth residents who argue that the government’s inaction on climate change violates the state’s constitution.

But perhaps the most bewildering discovery is that even major environmental groups, who have dedicated their missions to climate advocacy, have these double agents on their payrolls. The Environmental Defense Action Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) political fund both employ lobbyists who simultaneously advocate for fossil fuel giants like Exxon, Calpine, Duke Energy, and BHP.

To quote Brown University environmental sociologist Timmons Roberts, hiring these lobbyists is akin to “working with double agents.” Indeed, this covert operation by the fossil fuel industry not only illustrates the extent of its influence over the national energy sphere but also underscores the extraordinary challenges climate advocates face in their mission to curb fossil fuel use as the climate crisis escalates.

As James Browning, a former lobbyist for Common Cause who aided F Minus in compiling the database, poignantly put it: “It’s incredible that this has gone under the radar for so long… Many of these cities and counties face severe costs from climate change and yet elected officials are selling their residents out. It’s extraordinary.”

In the face of such infiltration, it seems that the fight against climate change is not just a battle against time, but also against the Trojan horses within our own ranks. Only with full transparency and accountability can we hope to reclaim the integrity of climate advocacy and achieve real progress.