Policy Documents

Hot Air, Cold Cash

Alexander Cockburn –
May 12, 2007

No response is more predictable than the reflexive squawk of the Greenhouse fearmongers that anyone questioning their claims is in the pay of the energy companies. A second, equally predictable retort contrasts the ever-diminishing number of agnostics to the growing legions of scientists now born again to the "truth" that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the earth's warming trend, the melting of the icecaps, the rising of the seas, the increase in hurricanes, the decline in penguin fertility and other horrors too numerous for individual citation.

Actually the energy companies have long since adapted to prevailing fantasies, dutifully reciting the whole catechism about carbon-neutrality, sniggering jovially over Tom Friedman's rapturous endorsement of "clean coal", repositioning themselves as eager pioneers in the search for virtuous alternative fuels, settling comfortably into new homes, such as British Petroleum's "Energy Biosciences Institute" on the UC Berkeley Campus, first fruit of a $500 million deal between the oil company and a campus whose founding family - the Hearsts - did after all make its pile in the mining business.

In fact, when it comes to corporate sponsorship of crackpot theories about why the world is getting warmer, the best documented conspiracy of interest is between the Greenhouser fearmongers and the nuclear industry, now largely owned by oil companies, whose prospects twenty years ago looked dark, amid headlines about the fall-out from Chernobyl, aging plants and nuclear waste dumps leaking from here to eternity. The apex Greenhouse fearmongers are well aware that the only exit from the imaginary crisis they have been sponsoring is through a door marked "nuclear power", with a servant's sidedoor labeled "clean coal". James Lovelock, the Rasputin of Gaia-dom, has said that "Nuclear power has an important contribution to make." (I refer those who rear back at the words "imaginary crisis" to my last column on this topic, where I emphasize that there is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger mankind's sinful contribution.) The world's best known hysteric and self promoter on the topic of man's physical and moral responsibility for global warming is Al Gore, a shill for the nuclear industry and the coal barons from the first day he stepped into Congress entrusted with the sacred duty to protect the budgetary and regulatory interests of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Oakridge National Lab. White House "task forces" on climate change in the Clinton-Gore years were always well freighted by Gore and his adviser John Holdren with nukers like John Papay of Bechtel.