In 1969, Robert O. Anderson, an oil man whose long career included a stint as the Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) (now part of BP, the company formerly known as British Petroleum), gave David Brower $200,000 to start Friends of the Earth (FOE). Here is a quote from that organization’s page about nuclear reactors:
For 40 years, Friends of the Earth has been a leading voice in the U.S. in opposing nuclear reactors. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, it is clear that there can and must be a thorough debate on our energy future and the need to move beyond this dangerous and dirty technology to the clean renewable energy and efficiency technologies of the 21st century.
Funding FOE is only a part of the financial and political support that Anderson provided to help establish the global antinuclear energy movement. His decision to fund Friends of the Earth came after Brower was involved in an internal struggle in the Sierra Club; he was fired after being accused of reckless spending and insubordination.
Brower had originally supported the “Atoms, Not Dams” campaign waged by the Sierra Club in the late 1950s. However, before he was ousted from his job as Executive Director in 1969, Brower had changed his position on nuclear energy. During the tumultuous 1960s, he was instrumental in establishing the Sierra Club as a leading member of the antinuclear movement.
He was often ahead of his time in the environmental battles he waged (in his early opposition to nuclear power, for example), a precociousness that sometimes brought enmity even from his friends.
Friends of the Earth established its initial branch in the UK. Amory Lovins, then a student at Oxford, was one of the group’s first campaigners. In 1971, Lovins dropped out of college for the second time to become a full time employee of FOE.
In October 1976, Foreign Affairs, a publication owned by the oil industry-linked Council on Foreign Relations, published Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?, which is described as a landmark essay that introduced Lovins to the world as an energy strategy guru.
Last November, when Friends of the Earth president David Brower nominated 29-year-old Amory Lovins for the Nobel Peace Prize, darn few people outside the energy policy community had ever heard of Lovins before. But that was a year ago. Since then, Amory Lovins’s name has appeared repeatedly in a bafflingly diverse array of publications, ranging from FOE’s Not Man Apart to The New York Times, CoEvolution Quarterly, and such staid journals as Science and New Scientist. Amory Lovins, in short, is now a widely read and widely admired man.
The sudden rise in Lovins’s popularity began shortly after the publication of his landmark essay, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken? “, in the October 1976 issue of Foreign Affairs ($12 per year—four issues—from 58 E. 68th St., New York, N.Y. 10021). Seldom has a single 10,000-word article been the object of so much controversy … and so little apathy. Science magazine heralded the piece as “easily the most comprehensive and technically sophisticated attempt to put together an energy program compatible with the environment”.
(The Plowboy Interview with Amory Lovins: Plowboy interviews Amory Lovins the author of the 1976 essay, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” By the Mother Earth News editors November/December 1977.)
That quote provides support for the deduction that Lovins’s reputation profited from a well-orchestrated public relations campaign. It takes money and skilled PR talent to use a 10,000 word essay from a 28-year old college dropout to establish the man as a visionary influencer of a major component of the world’s economy. Here is another quote that helps to paint the picture of how Robert Anderson played a supportive role in the establishment of the antinuclear energy movement.
Aspen’s (Aspen Institute) Chairman, Robert O. Anderson, also Chairman of Atlantic Richfield, helped to finance the 1970 Earth Day and provided seed money for the creation of Friends of the Earth. He also financed the organization in 1970 of the International Institute for Environmental Affairs, later renamed the International Institute for Environment and Development. In addition, Aspen conducted international workshops entitled ‘Environment and the Quality of Life’ and it had direct and indirect influence on United Nations conferences on food and population.
In 1967, England succeeded in getting the Council of Europe to declare 1970s a European Conservation Year. This would give a global character to the emerging cause. In the U.S. another environmental group was created in 1967 — the Environmental Defense Fund. This was part of a rapid build-up in the organizational structure. The following organizations were created between 1968 and 1971: Zero Population Growth, Club of Rome, Friends of the Earth, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, International Institute for Environmental Affairs, Greenpeace. A supporter of Friends of the Earth, Atlantic Richfield’s board chairman Robert O. Anderson, helped to finance the creation of the John Muir Institute in 1969. David Brower was the leading conservationist in this organization and in the internationally oriented Friends of the Earth, based initially in England, Switzerland and the United States. Brower also was the founder of Earth Island Institute. It is Brower who asked Paul Ehrlich to write the best-selling book, The Population Bomb. Ehrlich and others in the Sierra Club started Zero Population Growth in 1968.
(Gibson, Donald. Environmentalism: Ideology and Power. 2003 Available on Google Books. pg 64-66)
Aside: Coincidentally, a different man named Robert Anderson served as a special envoy to President Dwight Eisenhower during the Suez Crisis in 1956. During that trip he passed a message from Ike to King Saud in which he threatened to disrupt the world’s oil markets by sharing nuclear energy technology with the Europeans, one of the world’s most lucrative oil markets. End Aside.
That same month (September 1956), with the Suez crisis still brewing, Robert Anderson, a wealthy Texas oil man who was much admired by Eisenhower, made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia as the President’s personal emissary. The objective was to get the Saudis to apply pressure on Nasser to compromise. In Riyadh, Anderson warned King Saud and Prince Faisal, the Foreign Minister, that the United States had made great technical advances that would lead to sources of energy much cheaper and more efficient than oil, potentially rendering Saudi and all Middle Eastern petroleum reserves worthless. The United States might feel constrained to make this technology available to the Europeans if the canal were to be a tool of blackmail.
And what might this substitute be, asked King Saud.
“Nuclear energy,” replied Anderson.
Neither King Saud nor Prince Faisal, who had done some reading on nuclear power, seemed impressed, nor did they show any worry about the ability of Saudi oil to compete in world energy markets. They dismissed Anderson’s warning.
(Yergin, Daniel. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, a Touchstone book published by Simon and Schuster, 1991. p. 488)
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.
King Saud may not have taken Anderson’s threat very seriously in 1956, because at that time there were no commercial nuclear plants in operation. It might also have been that he recognized that if the American government had helped nuclear energy to become “much cheaper and more efficient than oil”, it would have been harming the economic interests of some of its most powerful people, especially if it rendered “petroleum reserves worthless.” At the time, the world’s oil industry was dominated by the Seven Sisters, five of which were American-based oil companies with ties to the Rockefeller trusts.
It is perfectly logical for a man like Robert O. Anderson, with his extensive ties to oil, coal and gas, to provide financial support to promote the energy strategies of a man like Amory Lovins, who has built his entire career on promoting virtually all energy sources other than nuclear energy. End Update.
I hope you agree that this is one of the clearest ‘smoking guns’ that directly links money and influence from the oil and gas industry to the effort to discourage the use of nuclear energy. Sometimes it pays to keep reading, searching, highlighting and dog earing books. Connections like this one are not easy to find, especially since there is plenty of motive to obscure the relationships that matter.