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Short-Sighted Energy Companies

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I have long had tremendous difficulty understanding the opposition of fossil fuel companies to new fuel technologies. For instance:

The oil and gas industry gave astrophysicist Willie Soon more than $1 million over the past decade to fund publications that challenge man-made climate change, according to a report released today by Greenpeace.

Soon is a popular figure among skeptics for his assertions that the sun, not greenhouse gases, affects global temperatures. He works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where energy companies have exclusively funded his research for the past five years, says the report. He could not be reached yesterday for comment on the report.

Among the companies that have provided grants to Soon is Exxon Mobil Corp., which pledged in 2007 to discontinue funding for groups questioning climate change. Greenpeace obtained documents from the Smithsonian observatory through a freedom of information request showing that Exxon gave four grants to Soon totaling $335,000 between 2005 and 2010.

The company said publicly in 2007 that it would stop funding groups “whose position on climate change could divert attention” from developing responsible energy sources.

There’s a huge amount of money to be made in clean energy. Why don’t the oil, natural gas, and coal companies follow the model of T. Boone Pickens and realize that they can also take the lead in developing these new sources of energy, potentially reaping enormous profits?

Their actions seem shockingly short-sighted to me and make me wonder about their long-term viability as powerful corporations. I suppose the strategy is to double-down on our dependence on fossil fuels, thus raising the prices over the long-term, but someone is going to come along and make some serious bucks on alternative energy. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be ExxonMobil. At least, that’s what I would tell their shareholders if I had the chance.

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