Slinging Mud at Clean Energy and other short notes

For years, the worst thing you’d hear about wind, solar, and biofuels was that they were impractical; fun to dream about, but when you got serious about energy you’d come back to fossil fuels. Now, though, as more and more farmers plow around the windmills in their fields and businesses and homeowners see real savings from the solar panels on their roofs, the dirty-energy industries realize they’re going to have to get nastier.

The Guardian recently published an internal memo from the American Traditions Institute (a shadowy non-profit apparently funded by the fossil-fuel industry) planning (as the Checks and Balances Project put it) “a coordinated national disinformation campaign against wind energy”.

Among its main recommendations, the proposal calls for a national PR campaign aimed at causing “subversion in message of industry so that it effectively becomes so bad that no one wants to admit in public they are for it.”

ATI denies that the memo is official — no conspiracy, just an ATI senior fellow acting as a lone gunman — but adds “we would be pleased to be part of any education campaign to inform the public about the problems with expensive, unreliable wind energy”.

Put this together with the efforts to manufacture a scandal out of the Solyndra bankruptcy, the twisting of research to claim that windmills actually cause global warming, and congressional Republicans’ attempt to end the Pentagon’s bio-fuels projects. (Some Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee must have sided with Republicans in a closed-session 13-12 vote agreeing with the House.) It’s looking like alternative energy is about to join global warming in the culture wars: If you believe that clean energy is actually clean and provides energy, you must be one of those radical Marxists.

This Memorial Day, I’m proud of Vice President Biden. Speaking to a group of family members of fallen American troops, Biden recalled the day he heard that his wife and daughter had been killed in a car accident.

For the first time in my life I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, but because they’d been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart that they’d never get there again. …

There really is hope. … I promise you (and you parents as well) when the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye — it will happen. … The only thing I have more experience than you in is this: I’m telling you, it will come.

On the surface, it looked like President Obama was doing nothing substantial for same-sex marriage: He said he favors it personally, but that it should be a state issue rather than an action item for his administration.

Sometimes, though, that bully-pulpit thing really works. It’s not obvious how much influence Obama’s statement had on the NAACP passing a resolution framing marriage equality as an “equal protection under the law” issue, but between the two of them, they seem to have dramatically shifted the opinion of the African-American community.

Middle Class Economist observes: “Romney to Replace Obamacare with…Essentially Nothing

Mitt Romney seems to think that criticizing his record as a vulture capitalist is the same as criticizing the free enterprise system.

Grist calls attention to the way the fossil-fuel industry games the academic system. A fracking-is-getting-safer report from the University of Buffalo actually came from somewhere else:

Large chunks of the report appear to be lifted verbatim from a document previously published by three of the report’s four authors for a conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute. This matters because the university study fails to cite the think tank. In this case, it’s very relevant: The Manhattan Institute receives financial support from oil and gas companies heavily invested in fracking, like ExxonMobil. Instead, the study released this month is stamped only with the University of Buffalo’s academic imprimatur.

Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, put it bluntly:

The report’s inaccurate and biased analysis and the authors’ conflicts of interest suggest that the University at Buffalo is being used as an academic front for gas industry misinformation, rather than as a venue for independent, informative analysis.

I’ve talked about this kind of thing in more detail before. There needs to be a name for it, preferably something related to money laundering: information laundering? research laundering? I’m still working on it.

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  • melissa warner  On May 28, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    See if both the Manhatten Institute and the U of Buffalo both receive Koch brothers funding… Kochs fund four conservative think tanks and endow several University Chairs…

  • Kenneth Thomas  On May 29, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Thanks for the link! Kenneth Thomas (Middle Class Political Economist)


  • By Enemies of Capitalism « The Weekly Sift on May 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    […] Slinging Mud at Clean Energy and other short notes. As wind and solar power become more feasible, attacks from dirty-energy industries become more aggressive. Biden’s moving Memorial Day message. Obama moves black opinion on same-sex marriage. How the fracking industry puts a university imprimatur on its propaganda. And more. […]

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