[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]
There was a time when the protection of our natural resources was a noble cause—a time when environmentalists, or conservationists as they were known then, were the good guys.
Today, conservation/environmentalism has devolved into a scam, a con game at a level that’s beyond the ability of the human mind to grasp. The Powerball jackpot and the grosses from the new Star Wars are nothing compared to the money that’s being made from Global Warming and related causes.
Those feeding from the trough include academics and journalists, “climate science” activists and bureaucrats, politicians and, increasingly, crony-capitalist business people who want to get their hands on some portion of the trillions of dollars that, if the “greens” have their way (and they probably will), is to be pickpocketed from the world’s poor and from the American working class/small business class.
Let’s take one small example of a “green” con, the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard in Oregon. [Keep in mind that, in Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber was recently forced to resign in a scandal involving his girlfriend/First Lady/environmental advisor Cylvia Hayes, who was mysteriously on the payroll of environmentalists. See Green Watch November 2015 at http://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/GW1511-final-for-posting-151116.pdf and December 2015 at http://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/GW1512-final-for-posting-151208.pdf , plus the January 2016 issue to be posted next week.]
The Low-Carbon fraud
Oregon has had an LCFS law since 2009, but it was set to expire in 2015 without reaching its long-term goals. Two attempts by Kitzhaber to eliminate the expiration date had failed. Then, in the aftermath of the Governor’s resignation, lawmakers extended the program. It passed the state senate on the governor’s last full day in office.
To no avail, Republicans called for a delay in considering the program, or for submitting it to the voters. The state Senate Majority Leader, Diane Rosenbaum (D), replied, “There is no link between Cylvia Hayes’ contracts and the Clean Fuels program.”
Extension was backed by Clean Fuels Work, a coalition that included environmentalists along with business people who hope to cash in on the program. Hillary Borrud, a state capital correspondent for Oregon newspapers, reported that the extension would effectuate regulations set to take effect in the new year.
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted in January  to adopt regulations that will require fuel importers and producers to reduce the carbon content of transportation fuels by 10 percent over the next decade, starting in January 2016.
Fuel importers and producers have at least two options to meet the standard: blend more low-carbon ethanol and biodiesel into transportation fuels, or by purchas[ing] carbon credits. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality plans to set up a system for entities such as electric vehicle charging stations to generate carbon credits. The agency expects the fuel standard will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by a total of 7.3 million tons over the next decade.
When spread over 10 years, that decrease is relatively small. In 2010, the latest year for which DEQ has data, vehicles in Oregon emitted 22.6 million tons of carbon dioxide. The average emissions decrease anticipated from the low-carbon fuels program would have translated to a 3 percent reduction in 2010.
State bureaucrats say that the program will add four to 19 cents’ cost to a gallon of gasoline, but more realistic estimates put the cost much higher.
Both options available to fuel importers and producers are problematic. Even many environmentalists recognize that biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are harmful to the environment and drive up the price of food, including food for the world’s poorest people. [See Green Watch, July 2015, http://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/GW1507-final-draft-for-posting-150721.pdf .] The other option, purchasing carbon credits, has its own negative effects, such as subsidizing the rich who can afford electric vehicles, and is highly susceptible to abuse.
Oregon officials are very much aware of the potential for abuse in such programs. An earlier program, the Business Energy Tax Credit, was so bad a disaster it was actually repealed. It allowed businesses to set up “green” projects and take huge tax breaks—50 percent, up to $10 million, in the final, 2007 version of the credit. Worse, in the manner of cap-and-trade systems, companies could sell their credits, creating even more potential for corruption.
For example, one paper mill earned energy credits by burning wood and using the heat to dry the paper. The company sold credits to Walmart for $2.3 million, which Walmart could then use to offset $3.3 million in state taxes over five years—which, it turned out, Walmart was able to use even though the plant itself had shut down. In addition—
- A Texas trucking company received 752 credits worth $4.5 million, even though less than one percent of its runs were on Oregon roads.
- A tire recycling plant received $3.4 million even though, after more than two years, it had yet to recycle tires.
- A New York company divided its wind farm into thirds, to qualify for three separate $10 million credits, despite a state analysis that should have disqualified the scheme.
- And backers of a $23.6 million project to install solar arrays at two colleges allegedly used forged documents to qualify for a $11.8 million credit—one document, an invoice from a nonexistent contractor, and the other document, a letter supposedly signed by the president of a “renewables” company that was dated five days after he had resigned.
The long-term cost to the state: some $1.3 billion, almost three-fourths of which accrued after the program was made more “generous” in 2007 and before it was repealed in 2010.
Tools for cover-ups
Because these kinds of disasters regularly result from “green” policies, their advocates must find ways to avoid being held accountable for policy failure? One way is to change the way we measure success—hence, the use of a vague, easily manipulated “happiness index” such as the Genuine Progress Indicator, rather than, say, a harder-to-falsify measure of economic growth based on Gross Domestic Product.
Another way is to create multiple layers of protection between the environmental/political elite and the voters—hence, the Pacific Coast Collaborative (California, Oregon, Washington state, British Columbia), the “Under 2 MOU” group (57 jurisdictions in nine countries, ranging from California to Bavaria), and other multijurisdictional pacts. (If it’s impossible to figure out who’s behind a government policy, no one can be responsible for the consequences of that policy. That’s why Leftists love the European Union bureaucracy and see it as a model for, as they put it, “world governance.”)
Yet another way to block accountability is to hide the effects of policies by making them very complicated and convoluted—hence, the use of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
To elitists, democracy is a problem. In a democracy, elitists must persuade a lot of voters to go along with them, which isn’t easy. Constitutional democracy, in which the government’s powers are strictly limited, is especially problematic. As we reported in the January 2015 Green Watch (http://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/2015/01/GW1501-final-draft-141222-150106.pdf ), elitists express great admiration for totalitarian governments like that of Communist China, where, according to Obama advisor Jeffrey Immelt, “state-run communism may not be your cup of tea—but their government works.”
“. . . cheap abundant energy . . . like giving an idiot child a machine gun”
Misdirection, as any magician or con man knows, is key to deception. Seen properly, the Kitzhaber-Hayes scandal reveals the intricate web of money and deceit that underlies the misleadingly named Clean Power movement. “Clean power” is not clean. It’s not clean even in “green” terms, if one considers the effect of wind turbines on birds, the water usage of solar power plants, the destruction of rainforest to accommodate the biofuels business, the effect of hydroelectric dams on submerged areas, and a hundred other ways in which the environment may be damaged by the use of alternatives to carbon-based fuels.
“Clean power” is especially dirty in terms of corruption. Most “alternative” energy is inherently inefficient—try running your solar panels at night or your wind turbines on a calm day—and requires, to be economically viable, the theft of countless billions of dollars from ratepayers and consumers in the forms of grants, loans, special-interest tax breaks, and worst of all, mandates that hide the costs and shift the blame. As electric utilities raise rates in order to do what the government requires—replace cheap electricity with expensive electricity—count on the politicians and bureaucrats and their media allies to blame the evil utilities. Conversely, if the climate fails to warm, that lack of warming will be credited to the actions taken bravely by leaders of the anti-Warming crusade.)
People who think they’re saving the planet easily become self-righteous. John Fund wrote in National Review Online (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/398648/kitzhaber-and-greedy-greens-john-fund ), “As the Kitzhaber scandal in Oregon has shown, green-energy interests can be the most brazen of all because they believe their perceived good intentions will block needed scrutiny.” In fact, the more money that goes into “Clean Power,” the dirtier politics becomes, as increasing numbers of businesspeople realize the road to riches is paved with political contributions and influence peddling in support of “green” politicians.
“Giving society cheap abundant energy is . . . like giving an idiot child a machine gun,” claimed the prominent scientist Paul “Population Bomb” Ehrlich, whose frequent collaborator, John Holdren, is currently the science advisor to President Obama. How do you get rid of “cheap abundant energy”? You outlaw the cheap kind, and force people to buy the expensive kind, directly or through their tax dollars.
The President, as a candidate in 2008, declared that, under his plan, “If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.” Under his plan, he said, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”
In 2009, referring to his favored forms of energy as “clean” and “renewable,” the President told Congress that “we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.” Later, he said his energy bill “will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.” He told the U.N., “We will move forward with investments to transform our energy economy, while providing incentives to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.”
So-called “clean” energy will be “the” profitable kind. Not “a” profitable kind, “the.” In other words, it will be the only profitable kind.
And when the government picks winners and losers, declaring that only certain businesses will be allowed to make a profit, the potential for corruption is virtually limitless.