The infamous Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries, Inc., the second largest privately held company in the United States, have reportedly donated more than $196 million to dozens of free-market advocates, deniers of human-caused global warming, and lobbyists for oil, gas, and chemical industries. Los Angeles Times reporter Margot Roosevelt states, “The Koch brothers are the nation’s most prominent funders of efforts to prevent curbs on fossil fuel burning.”

The brothers are probably as mad as hornets at Professor Richard Muller for deserting the ranks of the deniers. Muller, until his recent “turn around,” as he describes his conversion, was a long-standing critic of prevailing climate science, and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, to which the Koch brothers were major contributors. He has recently released the following statement, “Humans are almost entirely the cause of global warming . . . The increase in greenhouse gases can be closely linked to the rise in the earth’s temperatures.”

Muller’s truth telling will doubtless encourage many of the few remaining climate change scientists who deny that human activities are causing global warming, if there are any, to renounce their positions before their reputations are indelibly tarnished.

Some other facts about the Koch brothers are as follows. Koch Industries is one of the nation’s top ten polluters. The Kochs are the biggest oil and gas contributors to the congressional committee with oversight over the proposed hazardous Keystone XL pipeline. The Kochs have sued to take over the Cato Institute, which has accused the Kochs of attempting to destroy the group’s identity as an independent libertarian organization and align it more closely with a partisan agenda.

Since 2000, the Kochs have collected almost $100 million in government contracts, mostly from the Defense Department. The Koch brothers’ combined fortune of roughly $50 billion is exceeded only by that of Bill Gates in the United States. The Koch brothers have pledged to donate $60 million to defeat President Obama. Not widely advertised is that, despite their current support of the Tea Party movement, the Koch brothers donated $20 million to the ACLU to fight the Bush administration over the Patriot Act, and brother David ran for Vice President on the Libertarian ticket in 1980 on a platform advocating legalizing drugs and prostitution and abolishing the FBI and the CIA. All of which makes one wonder if the Koch brothers are suspected of having latent libertarian leanings on social issues, and such a suspicion may be the reason the liberal media and talking heads are not aiming more of their slings and arrows in their direction.

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The proposal that a northern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands bitumen from mines in Alberta to Oklahoma, be permitted has encountered another obstacle. Nebraska’s top environmental officials are pressing TransCanada for sensitive information including details of the specific chemicals used to dilute the dirty, heavy bitumen the pipeline would carry across their state, and how toxic the additives are. They are also asking for other so-far undisclosed data the company says are “proprietary competitive information.” The Nebraska officials obviously have serious concerns about the safety of the proposed pipeline and the potentially harmful impacts of leakages if they should occur. Leakages from petroleum pipelines are not uncommon.

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Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney should do more homework on energy related issues than he has done thus far.

He says he will insist that we become energy independent. Would he order oil companies to stop exporting gasoline and other petroleum products produced from domestic sources?

He says he would authorize the Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver petroleum to Texas coast refineries that will produce gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel destined for export to Europe and South America.

President Obama is being blamed for the high price of gasoline, and although it is not entirely his fault, he could act to reduce the price.

The law requires that ethanol be added to most of the gasoline that service stations provide. The ethanol is produced from corn, the price of which has soared as a result of the devastation of the midwestern corn crop.

The rising cost of adding ethanol to gasoline is doubtless contributing to the increase in the price of fuel motorists must pay.

The law requiring the ethanol additive is the result of lobbying by corn-farming interests, especially powerful agribusinesses such as Archer Daniel Midland. The law provides for a waiver of the requirement during times of crisis, but the Obama administration has thus far refused to apply the waiver. Gov. Romney should take a stand on the issue.

Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.