By Tim Montgomerie
For once it wasn't BP that was making the headlines but the US "oil giant", Exxon;
This morning's Times (£) led on a report that "ExxonMobil, parent company of Esso, gave almost £1 million last year to organisations that campaign against controls on greenhouse gas emissions."
I kept looking for the 'news' in Ben Webster's report that justified the front page splash. I couldn't find it.
It's perfectly legitimate for businesses to fund friendly think tanks if (a) those think tanks/ campaign organisations are transparent about their funding and (b) those think tank/ campaign organisations have not altered their worldview in order to get the funding. Overall it's a very good thing that businesses are helping to fight the seemingly remorseless rise of the interventionist state. The deregulation, low tax side of the economic debate needs to be stronger.
There is an argument for the French belief that truth is found primarily via one Olympian investigator. It's also the BBC's approach to impartiality. I prefer the Anglo-Saxon model that is inherent in our legal and political systems - of prosecution and defence; of goverment and opposition. I think it's healthy that important issues - like climate change with its far-reaching economic and other implications - are properly debated.
Ahead of last year's Copenhagen summit, politicians across the world - led by Australia's Kevin Rudd - were ready to rush the world into action on climate change, using what Bill Gates has correctly called immature technologies. Think tanks, supported by Exxon but by many, many other sources of income, stopped that rush into economic ruin. They painstakingly asked the tough questions about the economic cost of developed nations trying to stop developing nations from having the same access to low cost electricity and transportation. The Times' attack on Exxon should not blind us to the important role of those think tanks.