The lightning rod of this controversy is astrophysicist Willie Soon, whose work has been probed in a report by Greenpeace. In the last decade, Dr. Soon received more than $1 million in research grants from energy companies, including Exxon.
Leslie Kaufman of The New York Times writes:
"Dr. Soon, who works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has researched whether solar variance might be responsible for climate warming. He earned notoriety among climatologists when he attacked Michael Mann's so-called 'hockey stick' graph of warming temperatures in 2003 and when he wrote that polar bears were not threatened by a decline in Arctic ice in 2007."
Calling the issue a "distraction," Exxon's spokesman Alan Jeffers retorts, "I am not prepared to talk about the individual grant requirements, but if their positions are distracting to how we are going to meet the energy needs of the world, then we didn't want to fund them."