A couple of days ago, I wrote about my discovery that Robert O. Anderson, a long time leader in the global petroleum business, had provided the seed money that David Brower used to fund Friends of the Earth, an organization that has been fighting against nuclear energy for more than 40 years.
I pointed out how Friends of the Earth managed to promote the work of a nearly unknown college dropout named Amory Lovins and to place his 10,000 word essay titled “The Soft Energy Path” in the October 1976 edition of Foreign Affairs, just in time to influence the outcome of the 1976 US presidential election. I noted that there is an historical connection between the Council on Foreign Relations, the group that continues to publish Foreign Affairs, and the global petroleum business.
Yesterday, a more detailed article about Robert Anderson’s involvement in Friends of the Earth was published on ANS Nuclear Cafe.
Not surprisingly, this information has generated a rather defensive reaction by people in the antinuclear movement, including Peter Bradford and Michael Marriott (At least I think Michael is the person who posts on Twitter as @nirsnet. As he frequently points out, NIRS runs a lean organization.)
Here is Peter’s initial comment:
Three cautions, all from memory so pehaps incorrect. Not too hard to check though:
1) The Robert Anderson whom Eisenhower dispatched to Saudi Arabia was not Arco’s Robert Anderson and therefore not the person who gave money to Freinds of the Earth. He also served for a time as Eisenhower’s Treasury Secretary.
2) ARCO had substantial investments in the nuclear fuel cycle – not much beside its oil investments, but enough so that Anderson may have been indulging his well-known penchant for contrarian philanthropy rather than pursuing a pro-oil agenda in financing both FOE and the Aspen Institute.
3) Lovins’ 1976 Foreign Affairs article was as negative toward oil and coal as it was toward nuclear. Entitled “The Road Not Taken”, it advocated “soft energy paths”, i.e. efficiency and renewables over hard paths, i.e. oil, coal and nuclear. It was not a piece likely to have been promoted by fossil fuel interests for business reasons.
I was glad that Peter pointed out that there is another Robert Anderson with a close association with President Eisenhower. Robert B. Anderson served in Eisenhower’s cabinet and even made a trip to Egypt (see section headed Travels of Anderson) to talk with Nasser in early 1956 as part of the effort to diffuse the conflicts arising over access to the Suez Canal.
It is not likely that he was the person that Yergin described as a “wealthy Texas oil man” sent to visit with King Saud in September 1956. Unlike Robert O. Anderson, Robert B. Anderson was a lawyer and politician who later had a rather unfortunate career as a banker. He was not an oil man and would not have been an appropriate envoy to King Saud. However, if anyone can provide definitive information about which Anderson threatened to disrupt oil markets by sharing nuclear technology with the Europeans, I would love to have it.
Update: (August 7, 2013 9:09 PM) Peter Bradford pointed out a letter from King Saud to President Eisenhower dated August 24, 1956 that indicates that Robert B. Anderson was sent to Saudi Arabia as a special envoy during August 1956. Since Robert B. Anderson was a Texan and is documented to have been in Saudi Arabia within one month of the episode documented in Yergin’s The Prize, he was most likely the Robert Anderson who threatened to disrupt oil markets in 1956 by sharing nuclear energy technology with the Europeans.
However, the man who gave $200,000 to David Brower to found Friends of the Earth in 1970 was definitely Robert O. Anderson, CEO of Atlantic Richfield, President of the Aspen Institute and founder of the John Muir Foundation. He is still (figuratively, speaking, since he passed away in 2007) holding a smoking gun as a well-placed member of the international petroleum industry who helped to establish the antinuclear movement with money and a political push. End Update.
The Twitter stream between @Atomicrod (me) and @nirsnet yesterday illustrates how sensitive the antinuclear industry has been taught to be about any implication that their actions may be influenced by the oil industry. Here is an example:
@Atomicrod Maybe this will help you: we don't seek or take corporate money–never have (nor federal money) nor $ from anyone in fossil fuels
— NIRS (@nirsnet) August 6, 2013
Quite a few commenters have offered additional supportive information and links, both on the Atomic Insights post and on the one on ANS Nuclear Cafe. The comment and twitter streams will be interesting to continue following. Perhaps they might even attract enough information to fill a quickie ebook on the topic. I’ll keep you posted here as well.
Not surprisingly, several people have already dismissed me as a “conspiracy theorist”, including @nirsnet. I expected that reaction, after all, powerful people NEVER plan, NEVER get together to create strategies, NEVER take mutually beneficial action, and ALWAYS play by the rules in a completely open and transparent manner. Listen to thoughts on the topic by the ever observant George Carlin.