Analysts say that Koch Industries, alongside ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Total and other industry titans, stands to profit handsomely as pipelines that connect Alberta's landlocked oil to global markets come online, either through new construction or flow reversals. Plans have been floated to build more than 10,000 miles of pipeline over the next five years to carry more than 3.1 million additional barrels a day out of Alberta. That includes the Keystone XL pipeline, which has become a political flashpoint in America.
"The winners will be the companies upstream in the production end in Canada, the pipeline builders, and the mid-continent refiners all the way down to the Gulf coast," said Jan Stuart, head of energy research at Credit Suisse. "It will grow at a measured pace and remain an important part of the oil landscape."
Kochs are Silent
Koch Industries has always placed great value on its ability to do its business in private.
"We do not publish figures and bare our souls regularly through filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange, and other public bodies," J. Howard Marshall, the late company director and family loyalist wrote in his autobiography. "Most of the major oil companies court publicity, but all Koch worries about is serving its customers and reinvesting the proceeds, which is the way the capitalistic system is supposed to work."
The company has been especially tight lipped about its substantial achievements in developing Canada's heavy oil resources, even with its own employees.
The phrase "oil sands" appears nowhere in Charles Koch's 2007 book, The Science of Success. Koch corporate publications, facts sheets and websites are similarly silent. Although many smaller tentacles of the company's sprawling interests are detailed in the employee newsletter Discovery, the issues available online (2007-2012) don't contain a single overt mention of the company's oil sands activities.
The names of the two subsidiaries currently at the heart of the company's Canadian oil sands development activities—Koch Exploration Canada L.P. and Koch Oil Sands Operating G.P.—are also absent from Discovery's pages.
Only once is there a hint that Canadian oil might be of importance to the company. A map in the January 2008 issue of Discovery shows "highlights of recent international acquisitions, expansions and investments" of the company's global operations. A small purple dot marks a spot in Western Canada, annotated in small type with the words: "One million acres of property, mostly in Alberta."
Last year, during Congressional hearings on the Keystone XL pipeline, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) tried to persuade the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to invite the Koch brothers to testify to learn more.
"This pipeline and the legislation that supports it will enable the oil companies to charge American consumers more for their gasoline, while increasing carbon pollution and endangering precious water supplies," Waxman said during an Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing. "We know who will lose. We also need to find out who will benefit."
Waxman's request was turned down by Fred Upton (R-MI), the committee chairman, and Ed Whitfield (R- KY), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power.
According to an article last year in the Los Angeles Times, Koch Industries and its employees were the largest oil and gas industry donors to the committee's members, contributing $279,500 to 22 of 31 Republicans, including Upton and Whitfield, and $32,000 to five Democrats. The paper also reported that nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded and funded advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, to oppose regulation of greenhouse gases.
Koch Industries has repeatedly denied any connection to the Keystone XL.
“Koch Industries has no financial stake in the Keystone pipeline and we are not party to its design or construction,” Phillip Ellender, the company’s head of government affairs, said last year, after InsideClimate News reported that the company was well-positioned to benefit financially from the pipeline. “We are not a proposed shipper or customer of oil delivered by this pipeline.“
Heavy Oil Heritage
Heavy oil is part of the Koch family heritage. The career of the company's patriarch, Fred Koch, was defined by a discovery he made in 1927, five years after graduating as a chemical engineer from MIT: an improved thermal cracking process for converting heavy oil into gasoline.
A consortium of larger oil companies sued Koch for patent infringement and blocked him from selling his process in the United States. He then turned to the Soviet Union, where he helped Joseph Stalin build 15 refineries. David Koch has said that his father had no idea who the Bolsheviks were when they arrived at his west Texas office asking for his help.
After some of Fred Koch's Russian associates died at the hands of Stalin, Koch became a lifelong opponent of communism. In 1958 he helped found the John Birch Society, and in 1960 he self-published a 40-page anti-communist screed called A Businessman Looks at Communism that he sold for 25 cents a copy.