Wednesday, May 24
Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit funded by several large foundations and corporations such as Coca-Cola and ExxonMobil, announced on its website that it “has produced two 60-second television spots focusing on the alleged global warming crisis and the calls by some environmental groups and politicians for reduced energy use.”
Myron Ebell, the Institute’s Director of Global Warming, also chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition which “comprises over two dozen non-profit groups in this country and abroad that question global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies” – and snagged the URL, globalwarming.org.
Says Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI): “Although global warming has been described as the greatest threat facing mankind, the policies designed to address global warming actually pose a greater threat. The Kyoto Protocol and similar domestic schemes to ration carbon-based energy use would do little to slow carbon dioxide emissions, but would have enormous costs. These costs would eventually fall most heavily on the poorest nations in the world. Luckily, predictions of the extent of future warming are based on implausible scientific and economic assumptions, and the negative impacts of predicted warming have been vastly exaggerated. In the unlikely event that global warming turns out to be a problem, the correct approach is not energy rationing, but rather long-term technological transformation and building resiliency in societies by increasing wealth. CEI has been a leader in the fight against the global warming scare.”
The ads are airing in 14 U.S. cities from May 18 to May 28, 2006: Albany, NY; Albuquerque, NM; Anchorage, AK; Austin, TX; Charleston, WVA; Dallas, TX; Dayton, OH; Denver, CO; Harrisburg, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Sacramento and Santa Barbara, CA; Springfield, IL, and Washington D.C.
CEI has trotted out this aging tactic of dis’ing the science of climate change with the intent of provoking public uncertainty – and counts on an American revulsion to “rationing.” (Note, CEI does not use the term, energy efficiency, or even the other “C” word, conservation.) Yet, climate change isn’t the real issue at hand; the issue is any science, belief, fact, fiction, or new technology that threatens, or appears to threaten, the system by which CEI’s members make money. Calling themselves ‘free marketers,’ they are, more accurately, pro-big business. (‘Free marketers’ chirped the virtues of free markets at high-profile sustainability meetings in Washington, DC in the ’90s. They were, almost all, hefty white males, easily identified in their dark suits, and for whose benefit I would quote Amory Lovins: “Markets are meant to be efficient, not sufficient; greedy, not fair.”) The free market ought to compete on a level playing field. CEI’s members have lots of advantages on an uneven field and lots of reasons to oppose a disruptive grazing – like government policies around climate change. Therefore, global warming is bunk. And, energy-efficient cleantech might as well be, too…
Were it not for the likes of CEI, we might have enjoyed an English Isles’ placidity in the face of climate change, bereft of icons, idolatry, aspersions against scientists, and the Jaws-like music of An Inconvenient Truth. But this is America where critical concerns about our way of life must erupt volcanic before they can be heard above the fat cats of growth and consumption (and a decibel higher again above the MP3 players and game stations). It’s clear who has engaged the entertainers, produced the fanfare, evoked an enteric scare, and elicited the laughs, and who is more likely heard by younger generations. Take Al Gore on Saturday Night Live. (Now imagine CEI’s Myron Ebell on SNL. Can’t!) Gore dishes up facetious and humble humor to a savvy audience. The message about climate change and the state of the nation is clear even when dripping with irony. In contrast, we have CEI with its video stream of beautiful blue-skied sunny days and its “long-term technological transformation” and “resiliency in societies by increasing wealth.”
What do those words mean, exactly? To an ExxonMobil or a Coca-Cola when it comes to a new technology, what constitutes technological transformation, and who’s getting resiliently wealthy? I thought I’d apply their words to ethanol…next week.