Right! And toxic sludge is good for you. And coal is clean. And unicorns are real. And cigarettes don’t cause cancer. And pigs can fly.
We’ve heard it before. Denying climate science has been a tactic all along to stall action on climate and energy. But now there seems to be some muscle—or at least some money—behind a campaign called “CO2 is Green,” which has launched an advertising push attempting to undermine not only the US Environmental Protection Agency’s recent ruling that CO2 should now be classified as a pollutant, but, also—and more immediately dangerous—to derail the forthcoming vote in the Senate on the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.
According to Guardian.co.uk, a former oil industry executive has stumped up some of his cash to pay for television advertisements to be shown in Montana and New Mexico. Here’s the transcript of the ad (see it on YouTube):
Congress is considering a law that would classify carbon dioxide as pollution. This will cost us jobs. There is no scientific evidence that CO2 is a pollutant. In fact, higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the earth’s ecosystems and would support more plant and animal life. Please take action. Contact your senator and congressman today and remind them CO2 is not pollution and more CO2 results in a greener earth. Go to CO2isgreen.com, because we all need CO2.
We all need CO2. It’s true. It’s the quantities that matter.
So, why Montana and New Mexico? The ads urge voters to contact Montana’s Senator Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman and the second-most-senior Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee. Baucus is in a uniquely powerful position on climate issues and in past has backed bills to cap emissions and allow companies to trade pollution allowances. New Mexico is home to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D). A half-page ad by CO2 is Green ran in Monday’s Washington Post.
The group’s founder, H. Leighton Steward, says that higher carbon dioxide levels would spur more growth of plants and trees. But he’s no biologist. He’s the former vice chairman of Burlington Resources, a Houston-based oil and gas company bought by ConocoPhillips in 2006, received more than $600,000 in fees, stock and options for being a director of another oil firm, EOG Resources. He received the American Petroleum Institute’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in 2001 and remains an honorary director of the oil industry lobby group. “I’m not getting a penny for this,” said Steward, who has reported he owned oil company stocks but no coal stocks. “It’s just something I thought people should know.”
According to the Washington Post, Steward (the name itself is rife with irony) has joined forces with Corbin J. Robertson Jr., chief executive of and leading shareholder in Natural Resource Partners, a Houston-based owner of coal resources that lets other companies mine in return for royalties. Its revenues were $291 million in 2008. They have formed two groups—CO2 Is Green designated for advocacy and Plants Need CO2 for “education”—with about $1 million. (They are trying to establish legal charity status for Plants Need CO2.)
The Guardian’s Leo Hickman, points out that the ads are ripe for spoofing, but there’s a catch :
It’s certainly tempting to laugh it off. (For extra merriment, visit the “CO2 is green” website and read the “Why do people believe these myths?” section: “They have been misinformed by people that benefit financially from propagating the myth.” Oh, the irony.) But the advert is also a juddering reminder there are still powerful, influential forces straining every last sinew and dollar they possess to deny that rising CO2 levels are a problem. That such efforts should so easily be traced back to oil industry operatives is not wholly surprising, but sobering nonetheless.
It is funny—in that depressing kind of way. So, if you laughed at first but now you’re choking on all this like I am, here’s some medicine to help you feel better…
Earlier this month, Duke Energy, Alcoa and Alstom all pulled out of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group whose ads have asserted that the House climate bill would make energy unaffordable. “We thought [the bill] had evolved in ways to be affordable for our customers,” said Duke spokesman Tom Williams.
And, as I wrote late last week, a group of large corporations—including New Mexico utility PNM Resources, California utility PG&E, power generator Exelon and Nike—have all denounced the US Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to climate legislation.
So, there is true green out there in the corporate world. Bright green, in fact. The oil lobby ads just remind us that some “green” looks a lot like slime.
Let’s just hope voters in New Mexico, Montana, and elsewhere can smell the difference.