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Weaponizing economics: Big Oil, economic consultants, and climate policy delay

September 1, 2021

A new study by CSSN Scholar Benjamin Franta shows how the fossil fuel industry funded biased economic analyses to oppose climate policy for nearly 3 decades.


The role of particular scientists in opposing policies to slow and halt global warming has been extensively documented. The role of economists, however, has received less attention. Here, I trace the history of an influential group of economic consultants hired by the petroleum industry from the 1990s to the 2010s to estimate the costs of various proposed climate policies. The economists used models that inflated predicted costs while ignoring policy benefits, and their results were often portrayed to the public as independent rather than industry-sponsored. Their work played a key role in undermining numerous major climate policy initiatives in the US over a span of decades, including carbon pricing and participation in international climate agreements. This study illustrates how the fossil fuel industry has funded biased economic analyses to oppose climate policy and highlights the need for greater attention on the role of economists and economic paradigms, doctrines, and models in climate policy delay.

Link Image Credit: Babette Plana, CC BY-NC 2.0, image scaled and cropped