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CFACT: Your local (anti-)environmental group, brought to you by Exxon - The Walloper
CFACT: Your local (anti-)environmental group, brought to you by Exxon
UNC CFACT is a student organization at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, that was founded about one year ago. While the group claims to be an "environmental" organization, many campus environmentalists regard it with skepticism.

The group acts strangely, for one thing. Its activities during the past year have consisted not of working to protect the environment, as one might expect. Instead, the organization focuses all of its energy on attacking the work of established campus environmental organizations. Tellingly, the title of the organization's first public event was "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death."

But before we get into all that, let's define our terms. CFACT stands for "Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow". The national affiliate of the organization is also called CFACT, which stands for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. To prevent confusion, the local chapter will be called "UNC CFACT," and the national affiliate will be referred to as "National CFACT."

UNC CFACT's stated agenda is rather bizarre. The Carolina Review, the conservative campus journal, described the organization's mission thusly:
Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow is a new campus organization that advocates free market solutions to common environmental problems. Unlike the leftist environmental movement, which focuses on heavy government regulation and intervention, [UNC] CFACT believes environmental problems are best overcome by harnessing the power of free enterprise [1].
Kris Wampler, UNC CFACT's founder and president, has repeatedly emphasized that "science and technology" are the sources of appropriate environmental policy [2]. For instance, in an email describing the group, he wrote, "[CFACT is] a pro-market environmental and consumer group, advocating the use of science, technology, and the market as substitutes for government action in these areas" [3].

Of course, framing the organization's mission in this manner sets up some interesting (and false) dichotomies. CFACT's mission suggests that the organization promotes environmental solutions based in science and technology; "leftist" environmentalists do not. CFACT advocates the use of the free market, while "leftist" environmentalists want more regulation. These oppositions distort crucial facts about traditional environmentalism, including:
  1. The environmental movement that began in the 1960s and 1970s grew out of strong scientific evidence that humans were having deleterious effects on the environment. (Think Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson.) The scientific fields of biology, physics, chemistry, and ecology continue to inform the policy proposals of today's environmental groups.
  2. Most environmental groups love technology - like solar panels, wind turbines, and low-emission paints.
  3. Environmental groups sometimes support free market solutions, such as emissions trading!
Who funds CFACT?
A group dedicated to attacking environmentalists might seem to have more in common with industry than with traditional environmental groups. Indeed, simple Internet searches reveal that National CFACT’s financial backing comes from the dirty energy industry, the automobile industry, and conservative foundations.

The organization’s funders include:
  • The ExxonMobil Corporation, which has given $257,000 to the organization since 1998. In 2003, Exxon gave $25,000 (pdf) specifically to support research on "Climate Change Issues."
  • Chevron: $60,500 between 1994 and 1998.
  • The DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund: $25,000 in 1997 [14]
  • The U.S. Council on Energy Awareness, which is funded by nuclear power and
    uranium companies.
  • The conservative Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations. Both foundations are controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, whose personal net worth has been estimated at $800 million. The Sarah Scaife Foundation is financed by the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune [4].
Perhaps not coincidentally, the National CFACT website contains articles that closely resemble energy industry opinion. The website’s section on "Energy Production" contains articles that support drilling in the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the development of oil and natural gas resources in California. And in a moment of (hilarious) near-paranoia, one article criticizes energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs as "big and cumbersome" and warns that the bulbs create "a harsh white glare".

There is no evidence that UNC CFACT receives funds from National CFACT. As a recognized student organization, it takes advantage of campus resources including budget appropriations from student fees.

Part II : CFACT spreads corporate propaganda across the nation's college campuses.

[Update: I've made some major edits to make this post more interesting.]

Non-Internet Sources:
1. Meagan Griffin, "I’m Conservative! Now What? Conservative Clubs Are on the Rise at UNC," Carolina Review, Summer 2004:
2. Wampler, Kris, President, UNC CFACT, Public remarks, 11 Oct. 2004.
3. Wampler, 7 Oct. 2004, Personal correspondence.
4. IRS Form 990-PF for the Carthage Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Inc. 990-PF forms may be obtained online at http://www.guidestar.org. Registration is free but required.
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