Popular Mechanics — Inside the Koch Brothers’ Industrial Empire

October 22, 2015 4:09 am

The Koch brothers are famous (or infamous) for their political affiliations but most of us don’t know what their company actually does. I had no clue that the average American uses a Koch Industries-manufactured product 2 to 8 times per day. Even Barack Obama, at his 2009 presidential inauguration, took his oath of office standing on a carpet made by Invista, a company that’s just one of the seemingly endless subsidiaries of the Koch conglomerate. In August I was sent by Popular Mechanics to photograph the factories and workers of five manufacturers that each make completely different things. From a toilet paper factory in the bayous of Louisiana to a biodiesel plant surrounded by corn fields in Nebraska, I got a firsthand look inside one of America’s biggest and most controversial corporations. Below I’ve included images from all five plants, and I also recommend reading Michael Mooney’s fascinating article in the November issue of Popular Mechanics.

Many thanks to Photo Editor Allyson Torrisi and Popular Mechanics.

A combustion research engineer observes the flames produced by two different flare tips during a flare test. As the flame pushes past 1,400 degrees, the rocks on the ground start jumping around like popcorn. Many flare tests are performed at night so engineers can easily observe the characteristics of the flame to ensure optimal performance in the field.

Toilet Paper Factory - Georgia Pacific plant in Port Hudson, Louisiana

Pipes for Gas & Oil - Invista vinyl pipe factory in McPherson, Kansas

Biodiesel - Duonix plant in Beatrice, Nebraska This plant turns a mix of feedstocks including recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats into around 50 million gallons of biodiesel each year.

Electronic Components - Molex factory in Lincoln, Nebraska Molex produces a range of electronics products like fiber optic cables, antennas, sockets, connectors, and other computer & electronics hardware.

Fire - John Zink Hamworthy plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma John Zink is a combustion company that produces custom mad industrial burners and flares that can shoot flames eighty to a hundred feet into the air.

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