Written by Alex Kotch
In 1992, billionaire industrialist David Koch was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and given just a few years to live. Thanks to his enormous wealth, he was able to purchase the best treatment in the world, and he survived 27 more years until his death last week.
For all his adult life, he’d led Koch Industries, a diversified manufacturing conglomerate, with his older brother Charles. Now taking in around $110bn per year, the company creates chemicals and fertilizers; it produces synthetic materials such as Lycra; it sells lumber and churns out paper and glass products; it makes electronics components used in weapons systems. But first and foremost, Koch Industries mines and refines petroleum and operates pipelines to spread it throughout North America.
Koch Industries, a private company, is the United States’ 17th-largest producer of greenhouse gases and the 13th-biggest water polluter, according to research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst – ahead of oil giants Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum and Phillips 66. The conglomerate has committed hundreds of environmental, workplace safety, labor and other violations. It allegedly stole oil from Indian reservations, won business in foreign countries with bribery, and one of its crumbling butane pipelines killed two teenagers, resulting in a nearly $300m wrongful death settlement. The dangerous methane leakage, carbon emissions, chemical spills and other environmental injustices enacted by Koch’s companies have imperiled the planet and allegedly brought cancer to many people. But it took Koch’s own struggle with the disease for him to care about cancer and fund research to combat it. Continue Reading