Are major “environmental” groups paid to help oil and gas interests make more money?

I deliberately chose a provocative title to discuss a theory that surprises nearly everyone. Though full of many sincere and hard working people who are trying to make the world a cleaner and more human friendly place, I believe that most of the really big and well-funded non-profit organizations that claim to be working for the environment are really cleverly conceived profit centers for the establishment.

There is a near unanimity of official positions among those groups – they are adamantly opposed to safe, emission-free nuclear energy and they vigorously advocate wind, solar and geothermal.

That is especially true for those groups that claim energy production as one of their main “issues”. There is a near unanimity of official positions among those groups – they are adamantly opposed to safe, emission-free nuclear energy and they vigorously advocate wind, solar and geothermal. Most admit that those sources are inherently less abundant, less reliable and cost more than traditional fuels. Their answer for overcoming those obstacles is to encourage people to do without certain popular products and services in an effort to use less energy to avoid the need to increase total energy supplies by building modern new facilities using “non-renewable” fuel sources. (Sarcastic Aside: Unless, of course, they are designed to burn ONLY “clean natural gas”. End sarcasm.)

Last weekend, I engaged in a fairly rapid fire email exchange on this very topic with a friend who shares some of my strong feelings against the use of industrial scale wind energy. He came at the shared issue from a different angle, blaming what he considers to be an illogical effort to support wind on the political strength of “clueless” Environmentalists. I thought it was an opportunity to share my theory one more time. My own situation during the exchange was appropriate – it was a gorgeous spring day here foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, so my wife and I were out for an exploratory drive in our new home region. We keep a “toy” in the garage for such occasions.



In other words, while writing brief comments about “Environmentalism” I was out thoroughly enjoying the beauties of an amazing slice of the environment (which, for me, includes the contributions of creative humans) with my best friend. I thought you might enjoy reading our conversation. At his request, I have decided to call my correspondent “J”; his comments are in blue while mine are in black. I made a few editorial changed to my part of the thread – after all, I was originally using my thumbs to type.

J: Rod:

One of my key beliefs about the wind business is that it is being artificially propped up by the support of major environmental groups.

The fact is that none of these groups has any genuine scientific information to prove that wind is a good cost-benefit option.

Despite this profound deficiency, they are all holding the line, as none want to speak the truth as they will be targeted as being “anti-green”. Think the Emperor’s New Clothes http://deoxy.org/emperors.htm.

My hope is to eventually get one major environmental group to break ranks. That in turn may have a cascading effect and the whole house of cards might come down.

I’m writing today to tell you that there is now a distinct possibility that this might happen with a major environmental group.
(Name removed upon request.)

Rod: I’ll go you one better. In my opinion, major environmental groups are relatively powerless. I believe that the wind and solar industry would not exist with political pressure from the oil and gas business and without the financial support of those businesses to invest in them as a distraction.

Oil and gas interests KNOW that those technologies will never replace their products, so their strategy is to encourage other people to believe enough in the mirage that they waste time and money that could be spent developing a competitive nuclear energy industry.

Nuclear fission has proven already that it is fully capable of permanently taking market share away from petroleum pushers. The increase in energy supply introduced by fission power plants during the period from 1956-1986 is responsible for the 15 years worth of low energy prices that followed while the world’s demand caught up to the excess supply. The prices would have continued, but by 1986, the decades long effort to knee-cap their competition had started to pay off.

J: As usual I can’t disagree with your logic. Those companies do make substantial profits off of wind largesse.

As such there is very little chance that they are going to kick this gift horse in the mouth.

In my view there is a very strong political element going on here (as well as the economic one).

All major environmental groups are in lockstep supporting all things renewable. If that unison broke down there would be profoundly beneficial consequences, as many more legislators would be open to reassessing the situation.

Rod: My point is that the major environmental groups are merely pawns doing the bidding of their paymasters in the fossil fuel industry. The fossil fuel suppliers are not simply taking advantage of the situation; they are creating it.

J: That major environmental organizations are the lackeys of the fossil fuel industry — a key industry that they are publicly castigating — is an interesting perspective.

Sounds like material for one of your insightful op-eds. Go for it.

Rod: When OPEC wants to make the price of oil increase, they restrict production. Why is it surprising to consider that groups that call themselves “environmental”, but always seem focused on restricting production are working for the same goal – higher prices and profitability for established energy producers?

J: Because mainstream environmental groups are adamantly anti-fossil fuels — due to their AGW position.

Rod: They say they are against fossil fuels, but they work hard to sell natural gas – which is the primary growth opportunity for the multinational petroleum companies. They also work hard to promote wind and solar energy, which REQUIRE fast responding diesel or natural gas power plants. They fight hard against nuclear energy – the only alternative to fossil fuels that can provide reliable power.

The only fossil fuel that they actually seem to be against is coal – though some accept coal as long as it includes carbon capture and storage (CCS). That technology, if it worked, would require buying 30-40% more coal to produce the same amount of electricity.

They may SAY they are against fossil fuel, but they sure seem to take ACTIONS that are very profitable for fossil fuel producers. I judge people and organizations by what they do, not by what they say.

J: That was my point: to write an article spelling out the hypocrisy.

Rod: I will be writing that article – again. I have been making the point for a number of years on Atomic Insights, but I will keep working to expose the logic to as many people as possible. My exchange with you is aimed at helping someone who is already communicating about energy to put on a new set of lenses when viewing actions and trying to understand why there is such seeming strength behind a push to wind and solar.

From an objective, practical perspective, neither of those sources makes sense. Support for them confused me for a long time, especially when it came from groups that were initially founded to preserve vistas and wild areas.

Then I figured out the money angle and it started to make more sense – in a sad sort of way.

J: I have had extensive dealings with environmental organizations for some thirty years now.

Although there is certainly merit in looking at the money, my belief is that these people are absolutely clueless about the actual technical and economic ramifications of wind (and solar) energy. Clueless.

Mainstream environmental organizations are primarily supporting all things “renewable” as:
—> it promotes their green agenda,
—> which is supposedly about “solving” AGW,
—> but is really about promoting a secular religion,
—> which is really about a redistribution of wealth and power,
—> which is really about bringing down the US.

That’s a brief summary of what I have learned in the last 30± years,

I am writing an article about this myself…

Rod: By the way – groups that seem to be acting on a socialist ideology based desire to destroy the US economy actually fits pretty well with my theory. The only product other than military equipment that the Soviets were ever able to sell in the West for real cash was fossil fuel. It is always more profitable to sell at a higher price in a supply constrained market.

It is quite common for our enemies to use profits from feeding our addictions in their fight against us.

J: In my view they are carefully sowing the seeds for us to self-destruct (e.g. by bankrupting ourselves). One way to do that is to get us to spend a trillion dollars (all borrowed and all going to China) to invest in a worthless 15th century technology (wind energy).

Rod: I know some turbine pushers from GE. They are pretty cynical, and quite interested in making lots of money, but I would never call them self destructive or clueless.

J: What I said was that mainstream environmental organizations are clueless about energy technology.

I was an employee of GE, so understand it quite well. GE is not clueless here and is simply taking maximum advantage of a lobbyists (their lobbyists) driven energy policy.

Rod: Chicken or egg? I maintain that the groups work for the companies, even if some of the rank and file are clueless. My wife worked for a major environmental group for a number of years. I attended many social gatherings with the leaders. They were quite prosperous and not clueless.

J: You certainly could be right.

Their energy positions are without merit, so the choice is:
1 – they are clueless regarding energy technology
2 – they are dishonest about energy realities.

I can’t speak for every key person, but 95% of the senior environmentalists I have interfaced with over the last 30± years are clueless regarding energy realities.

This isn’t really a big surprise, as energy matters are so highly complex that 99.9% of the general population is clueless.

I’m sure that there are some leading environmentalists who have more than a cursory understanding, and the are just being disingenuous when they support such fluff as wind energy.

Rod: Thanks for the interesting dialog. Do you have any objection to me using a nameless version of our back and forth as the basis for the requested essay explaining my theory that large non-profit organizations claiming the “environmental” label may be working to increase the profits of their claimed targets?

J: I’m sure that you’ll be charitable in your recounting, so no problem.

Our conversation continued after that for a few more messages, but this post is already longer than usual, so I will save the second part for a day when I am at a loss for what to write. I look forward to reading your comments.

About Rod Adams

52 Responses to “Are major “environmental” groups paid to help oil and gas interests make more money?”

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  1. Brian Mays says:

    For people who claim to be opposed to fossil fuels of all kinds, those who style themselves as “environmentalists” certainly spend a lot of time talking about natural gas. Observe this recent example by a couple of “environmental progressives” (including the notorious Joe Romm). They spend a lot of time and effort and words on their blog to make the case that, yes, “natural gas is indeed ‘cleaner’ than coal.”

    Am I the only cynic here who finds it amusing that they feel so readily compelled to rise to the challenge of defending natural gas from its critics?

  2. Brian Mays says:

    By the way, technically, Environmentalism is a quasi-religion.

    • Jason says:

      Wow, Brian, after reading a few of the comments on Joe Romm’s blog, I’ll have to take back what I said below. You’re right, it is a quasi-religion.

  3. Jason says:

    I wouldn’t say that the upper ranks of organizations like Greenpeace or the Sierra Club are completely clueless nor are they filled with ill intentions to bring down the USA. Rather, they’ve organized a belief system they are emotionally and socially comfortable with. Some might call that a quasi religion but their wholesale rejection of anything nuclear might have more to do with intellectual peer pressure. Their are some environmentalists who have been “excommunicated” from their groups because they changed their mind about nuclear.

    Since we don’t know the full extent to which fossil fuel companies contribute to these organizations (and they’re not telling), it sure seems like there is a tight relationship they’d rather not talk about.

  4. Jeff S says:

    Does anyone know if there are any laws, at least in the U.S., which require non-profits to disclose their sources of funding?

    I know Rod has made this argument about the oil industries basically controlling the environmental movements. While I definitely do agree that the pro-solar/wind movement does play to the benefit of the coal, oil, and gas industries, and I definitely know that oil companies have been, in their own advertising from time to time, trying to push wind and solar, is there any way to check the funding of any of these groups, to see what extent they are supported by fossil fuel companies?

    I’m no lawyer, but I will say that it seems to me that Rod perhaps comes close to the edges of libel laws with allegations which aren’t strongly supported by specific evidence (although, I think he’s probably safe as long as he doesn’t specifically name any companies or environmental groups – without anyone *specifically* named, it may be that no one in particular could claim to be libelled).

    In any case, does anyone know what the rules are wrt to financial transparency of non-profits in the U.S. and Canada?

    • Jason says:

      Jeff, the requirements for disclosure by non-profits isn’t so strict. Check out this link for some answers: http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96430,00.html

    • Brian Mays says:

      Does anyone know if there are any laws, at least in the U.S., which require non-profits to disclose their sources of funding?

      That doesn’t matter. Almost all of the money that ends up in the coffers of these environmental groups is laundered through an alphabet soup of foundations, trusts, and grants. The original source of this money is very well obfuscated.

      I’m sure that Rod will point out that many of these trusts and foundations were started back in the day from wealth that was obtained in the oil business (e.g., The Pew Charitable Trusts from Sunoco money and the Rockefeller Foundation from Standard Oil), and many of these money-giving organizations still have retired oil executives on their governing boards.

  5. John Englert says:

    Interesting story about Ted Turner’s view of coal and wind. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/24/ted-turner-wind-energy-coal_n_866438.html
    From the story,

    “So far, Turner hasn’t found it feasible to build large-scale wind operations on his own vast land holdings in the American West, but he hopes to change that soon.”

    Iteresting that someone who has spent so much to buy up land in the West and return it to its pre-expansion natural way, with natural grasses and roaming buffalo, would now look to install large windmills on his property.

  6. Mike Himes says:

    It is all about natural selection. The obfuscated money trail is of little consequence since the transfer is recorded on some ledger locked in an obscure safe in an offshore financial institution. Of more importance is what really happens where the money is going to perform work. In Washington State the Wind Farms are being shut this Spring by the BPA due to better than average available hydro capacity. What happens to the leveraged capital investment that built the Wind Farms. Natural Selection takes care of a great many things. How many “White Elephants” will bite the dust? An EQ here or there and aging nuclear takes a hit.

    A volcano or two in Iceland burys Europe and Natural Selection wipes out their real assets and leaves them with safes full of “Markers” for their Chinese venture capital investment.

    Natural Selection may make monkeys out of us all living in caves in a world covered by Ice which is the result of our addiction to oil.

  7. Bill Rodgers says:

    A prime example of GE PR machine cranking it up about solar so that the lobbying arm can go to DC and make sure the various “renewable energy” subsidies are extended or expanded:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-26/solar-may-be-cheaper-than-fossil-power-in-five-years-ge-says.html

    GE is now saying solar for HOME installation MAY be cheaper then fossil fuel or nuclear generation IF solar can reach 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    Mr. Little does not say if this involves subsidies of any kind to achieve the 15 cents figure. That was kinda missing from the article and apparently a question not asked by the reporter.

    So GE will be involved in all phases of supplying “green” technology:

    Solar
    Wind
    Metering devices
    Lighting
    and Gas Turbines to make sure the grid is kept stable.

    A Key Quote:

    “Utilities need to have incentives to put in place devices that save energy, and Congress needs to provide greater certainty on tax policy surrounding renewable energy, Little said.”

    In other words, it appears GE is going all-in on the bet that Congress will institute a national “renewable” energy standard AND a national efficiency standard of some kind as well as extending current tax subsidies.

    A prime example of GE playing the game of business driving politics and therefore the creation of new laws to ensure a nice profit at the end of the day.

    I would imagine the GE strategy also involves spreading the wealth around to various environmental groups to help push Congress from the “grassroots” level in conjunction GE’s own lobbying efforts.

    The problem with this is that I wouldn’t bet against GE on these issues given the current state of Congress. That just means we are in for higher priced electricity and more taxes resulting in a direct transfer of wealth with little to show for it 20-30 years from now.

  8. George Carty says:

    I don’t think that the “helping the Soviet Union to sell oil and gas” hypothesis completely explains leftist opposition to nuclear power.

    The British Socialist Workers’ Party is ardently anti-nuclear, but was also very hostile to the Soviet empire.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @George – the British Socialist Workers’ Party has a very large contingent of fuel industry workers. The UK built its empire on the back of coal mining and the off-shore oil and gas industry has also been extremely important for the past 40 years. Part of the Scottish aversion to nuclear and support for off-shore renewables like wind and wave energy comes as a result of the effort to repurpose some of the capital and labor associated with the North Sea oil and gas industry – since the North Sea is running low on productive new wells. Heck, they are even excited about some spending money to attempt to put some of the depleted reservoirs to use in carbon storage and sequestration.

      By the way, the Danish off-shore wind industry grew out of similar efforts to use core competencies developed in the off-shore oil and gas industry. Take a hard look at where that country makes a good bit of its income.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @George – By the way, thanks for the link to Socialist Worker. It has been fun reviewing the history of an event that was the subject of my first major college paper – the Russian Revolution and the failure of that revolution when Stalin brutally put it down.

      My paper was titled “American Intervention in the Russian Revolution”. Though I lost that paper during one of our many moves, I still remember my basic theme – the US picked the wrong side by supporting the monarchy instead of the people. Stalin was a brutal restoration of monarchy under a different name.

      • George Carty says:

        You’ve got a good point about Scottish anti-nuclearism (albeit one I was aware of), but where is your evidence that a significant component of SWP supporters work in the fossil fuel industries?

        I had assumed that the SWP’s anti-nuclearism might have been about protecting Middle Eastern oil and gas interests. In the last few UK elections, the SWP has run as part of the RESPECT Coalition — basically a scratch formation of the SWP and the Muslim Association of Britain (essentially the UK wing of the international Muslim Brotherhood movement) along with some other anti-war left-wing types. RESPECT’s leader George Galloway won in 2005 in the heavily-Muslim Bethnal Green and Bow consituency.

  9. donb says:

    @Bill Rodgers, while it may become possible for solar power (when available!) to compete with fossil fuel power, GE knows that solar power goes away every day with the sun, and wind power when the air becomes calm. So the company is ready, willing and able to make money on the fossil fuel side as well with a new gas turbine plant, improved to make up for the deficiencies of renewables: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110525/ap_on_bi_ge/us_general_electric_gas_turbine

    The whole mess reminds me of an arms merchant who sells to both sides in a war.

  10. Jerry says:

    Aside from pushing natural gas, everything the green organizations do is helping to create an energy shortage: Wind power and solar always, always, go hand in glove with the announced “need” for energy conservation. In fact even Japan’s PM has announced today he wants “energy conservation” to become a pillar of Japan’s energy “supply”. Replacing an energy supply with “conservation” is like replacing food with fasting.
    And once this energy shortage materializes in the years to come, we not only will have smart appliances and sky high power bills cracking down on our freedoms, but if we can’t even keep the lights on we will most certainly NOT end our dependence on crude oil as an energy source, and NOT have an alternative in electric cars. What better way for Big Oil to destroy the dream of oil independence than burdening us with a struggle to maintain our existing power supply with unreliable and expensive “politically correct” energy sources?

  11. Bill Rodgers says:

    @donb

    I had heard about this GE project since it is being cheered on by the renewables crowd. They believe this is their magic bullet to kill nuclear.

    GE will be able to sell a fossil fuel powered solution to mitigate the ramping issues. Ramping issues that are inherently created by using the weak technologies of wind and solar. Wind and solar are weak technologies since they are not an on-demand generation source and they require subsidies as well as legal mandates to force the use of their product onto the marketplace, which then creates a false market for generation and delivered power.

    What a racket. GE will be laughing all the way to the bank since they will sell to both sides of the equation. Moreover, it is legal. Wall Street is loving every minute of it since it is really taxpayer money put at risk not the financiers.

    How short sighted of the “environmental” groups. Their strategy is to burn all the fossil fuel we can now as quickly as we can in support of weak generation technologies to avoid talking about the real solution to our future power needs which is nuclear. The environmental groups’ solution will condemn future generations in 100-200 years from now to a life of unknown hardship since they will have been willing party to burning a resource that can be used for a variety of purposes such as feedstock for chemical processes or fuel for vehicles.

    • Brian Mays says:

      Their strategy is to burn all the fossil fuel we can now as quickly as we can in support of weak generation technologies to avoid talking about the real solution to our future power needs …

      But if they don’t burn up all of the fossil fuels, how will they realize their dream of a “post-fossil-fuel world” that includes farming with oxen?

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Brian – you are still paying attention to what they SAY, not what they do. The chances of convincing most people who have lived with modern conveniences to give them up are slim and none. I think that the leaders of the pressure groups are quite aware of that fact. By reducing energy supply options to continued fossil fuel burning and unreliable sources like wind and solar, they KNOW that the vast majority of the market will opt to continue burning fossil fuel – and continue providing revenue to the people who have various interests in the fossil fuel supply chain.

        For the establishment, nuclear energy is the only technology that can disrupt their income stream and they know it.

      • Brian Mays says:

        What they do? What they’re doing is trying to bring back the hippie commune, which I find hilarious. I wonder where they’re growing the pot.

        Surely, you must realize that this little group of deluded souls is serious. They really want to play primitive farmer (with solar panels) for a while.

        I understand that not everyone scores this highly on the patchouli-meter. I never said that they are the majority, and I know that most people in the Green movement would rather drive a Prius than a microbus. (Do they even make hybrid microbuses?) But the people who want to make money off of “Green”-branded schemes depend on the True Believers, like these folks, to provide a ready market for their ideas, products, and services.

      • Bill Rodgers says:

        @Brian

        If there is one thing I do not want to do in this life it would be living off the land in a commune.

        Growing up in Montana I hold no romantic notions about what it is like to be farmer or rancher. All it takes is one bad winter or a rainy summer and there goes the crop yield leading to lean eating for a year (more commonly called food rationing and going hungry). And with only 127 acres to use, they will not have much margin for handling bad years.

        However, they already have their donation plan in place on their website. So once they have sufficient donated money for the land they can conveinently move to asking for donations to maintain their back-to-the-land lifestyle which will come from people who are living in the 21st century.

        I am curious though since their plan seems to be a copy of the Amish way of living. So how is this unique?

        And they went on and on about their plan for energy efficienct buildings but I didn’t see anything about the use of fertilizers and pesticides manufactured and delivered by our grid and transportation system that relies on 24/7/365 electric power. The natural fertilizer from their oxen will only go so far.

      • Brian Mays says:

        And with only 127 acres to use, they will not have much margin for handling bad years.

        Well, don’t worry about them them too much. I can assure you that there’s a Whole Foods in nearby Charlottesville. ;-)

        I am curious though since their plan seems to be a copy of the Amish way of living. So how is this unique?

        It has been a while since I kept up with the Amish, but do they have solar panels these days?

        I think that they want to be like the Amish, but with solar panels and (hopefully) without the inbreeding.

    • George Carty says:

      I can understand why Big Oil pushes wind and solar to divert attention away from nuclear, but I can’t understand why the government goes along with the scam by introducing subsidies and mandates for wind and solar power.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @George – Have you noticed that our democratically elected government officials spend a good portion of their time trying to raise funds for their next election?

        It is a sad, but true fact right now in our history – our government policy makers tend to produce policies that improve the ROI (Return on Investment) of corporate and special interest campaign contributions. That situation did not get any better with the recent Supreme Court decision that gave corporations even more free speech rights by allowing them an almost unlimited ability to invest in efforts to elect certain people. (I am all for free or paid speech, but a corporation should not have the rights of a person unless they also have the responsibility of a person. If a corporation cannot be sent to jail for violating the law, then a corporation should not be able to influence elections without limitations. If a corporation cannot be drafted into public service, then they should not be able to influence elections without limitations.)

        In my opinion, the public now has the tools required to work to reduce the influence of money in politics. To a very large degree, the main recipient of big money in politics is the media for advertising designed to increase the chances that voters will push the “right” button in the booth. With modern communications tools, we do not have to depend on the advertiser supported media for our information about the candidates.

      • George Carty says:

        @Rod Adams

        Oops, I should have said not “the government” (which you would no doubt parse as “the US government”, when I’m not even American) but rather “Western governments”, plural.

        Not all Western governments are as under the corporate heel as the US government when it comes to campaign expenses. Here in Britain for example, there are strict limits on campaign spending, and politicians who exceed those limits can face jail time.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @George – It is always good to get a different perspective on issues from across the Atlantic. From my perspective as a “British-American” whose grandparents both emigrated in search of greater opportunity, the UK government seems even more concerned with protecting the rights and privileges of “the establishment” than the corporate dominated government in the US.

        It still seems a bit easier to make it up from the bottom into the ranks of “the establishment” in one or two generations in America than in the UK. Of course, my perception is from 3,000 miles away and through the histories and current events that I have read. When it comes to prospering from energy fuels, there are few who did it better than the British over a period of about 200 years (1740-1940)- and even the past 60 years, the fossil fuel folks have done right nicely with their North Sea, Middle Eastern, and North Africa investments.

      • George Carty says:

        @Rod Adams

        Was the higher standard of living in the 19th century United States (which encouraged Europeans to emigrate there) a product of a better political system, or simply that of a lower population density? (Or perhaps, was America’s better political system made possible by its lower population density?)

        It’s no coincidence in my view that the US Robber Baron era was right about the time when the frontier closed.

  12. Suzy Hobbs says:

    @ Jerry Can I quote you?

    “Replacing an energy supply with “conservation” is like replacing food with fasting.”

    Best. Quote. Ever.

  13. Jason says:

    Sometime after I read this post, I came across this video on youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxIjygRPpmk

    Lord Monckton does his version of Jay Leno’s “street walking” on Greenpeace protesters. Clips like this certainly reinforce the clueless label. A series of scenes like these could be edited together to make a very compelling ad against Greenpeace if that was a goal.

    • John ONeill says:

      Monckton is not a credible source, and not all the climate demonstrators he accosted in Copenhagen were so easily flummoxed by his dodgy ‘facts’. For example, on another clip, a young lady pointed out that the last decade was the warmest on record.( The second and third warmest were the previous two).Note Monckton says there was no ‘statistically significant’ warming- it was a hair’s breadth below that level, as conceded by Phil Jones of the Hadley Center, and a good thing too or we’d really be in trouble.
      For a debate between Monckton and a more formidable opponent, google his appearance against Tim Lambert of Sydney University. And for an example of his misuse of data, he often states that in the past, carbon dioxide levels have been a thousand times higher than at present at the same time as there were ice sheets at the equator, proving that CO2 has negligible influence on Earth’s temperature. This is the exact opposite of the facts; during the ‘Snowball Earth’ episodes, at a time when the sun was considerably less bright than now, ice built up, refecting progressively more sunlight away and covering over the newly eroded rock which normally releases CO2 as a slow negative feedback to cooling. Once the ice sheets reached the equator, the climate was locked into a cold state for millions of years, until eventually volcanic CO2 accumulated to the point that its positive climate forcing overwhelmed the high albedo, the huge ice sheets melted, and the climate swung to the other extreme. This story is written in the rocks in several continents- glacier gouging overlain by thick layers of carbonate deposits, formed under hot oceans.

      • Brian Mays says:

        So you’re recommending a debate between a classics major and a computer technician as a good medium to get a better grasp on the important issues in contemporary climate science? Really?

        Why don’t you recommend the opinions of someone who is actually technically knowledgeable about the subject, such as Lindzen, Pielke, Curry, Jones, Hansen, etc., etc.? You’ll get far more bang for your buck from them than from listening to the back and forth of a couple of demagogues (Monckton on the right, Lambert on the left). (Lambert is at the University of New South Wales, by the way, not “Sydney University.”)

        The only technically competent opinion you mention is that of Jones, and you managed to misunderstand that.

        The term “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” naturally implies some sort of rate of change in global temperatures, presumably in the positive direction. Thus, it’s quite irrelevant to mention that “the last decade was the warmest on record.” That’s as if I’ve noticed that I earned more money last year than any other year in my life, but unless I get a raise this year, I’m not getting any richer.

        Thus, demonstrating a statistically significant increase is essential, or otherwise you can’t distinguish your signal from red noise — i.e., what would be expected from blind chance. The “warmest decade on record” mantra is simply a trick used by unscrupulous propagandists to hoodwink the technically unsophisticated and the mathematically illiterate. Greenpeace protesters come to mind.

      • Jason says:

        My intent in sharing this was not to endorse Monckton, but rather show how relatively uninformed the protesters were regarding his questions. He demonstrated they are just “going with the flow” rather than doing any investigative research for themselves. I imagine they would be similarly disarmed had he asked them a few questions about nuclear energy.

      • Rod Adams says:

        Brian – One can get richer without getting raises. All it takes is saving some of what you make every year.

        Invested in the right places, those savings can really add up. They can even make rather sudden changes in the overall wealth of a person – I have owned stocks that have taken off after long periods of languishing (my 1999 purchase of Apple at $17 comes to mind as does my purchases of Uranium Resources at $0.10 – $0.20 in the 1990s).

        The analogy is that the temperature measurements may not be telling the whole story – there is little doubt that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is inexorably rising over time as natural removal mechanisms are not quite enough to remove all that is produces every year. Are you really sure that it is a good idea to conduct an experiment on what the long term effects of that chemistry change are going to be?

        If we did not have nuclear as an alternative, I might agree to keep on keeping on and let the future take care of itself. Since we have a ready alternative and since talking vigorously and repeatedly about the ready alternative can cause some heads to spin and some minds to change, I think it is worth calling attention to the fact that nuclear energy can stop the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in a reasonable period of time.

      • Brian Mays says:

        Brian – One can get richer without getting raises. All it takes is saving some of what you make every year.

        Well, I’ll admit that my analogy is not the best, but are you claiming that the planet has some sort of effective 401(k) that is hiding all of the last decade’s warming in some place that our thermometers can’t find it?

        My little comment was trying to emphasize a rather technical point (i.e., red noise, Brownian motion, a random walk — take your pick of terminology) and explain it so that the lay person can understand it. (One of Einstein’s celebrated 1905 papers was devoted to this topic, you know.) Anyone who has any experience with this phenomenon understands that claims of the “largest” or “smallest” in a limited period mean almost nothing, since they are what would be expected from a completely random process.

        Yes, my comment was technical, but there has been too much sloppy science being slung around (including in your own blog and comments, I’m sorry to say). A little rigor might do the discussion some good, don’t you think?

        I think it is worth calling attention to the fact that nuclear energy can stop the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in a reasonable period of time.

        I never disagreed with that. Now, the trick is to get the folks who think that CO2 concentrations are a problem to realize this instead of insisting on fantasies. Didn’t you read the latest report from the IPCC?

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Brian who wrote:

          “Well, I’ll admit that my analogy is not the best, but are you claiming that the planet has some sort of effective 401(k) that is hiding all of the last decade’s warming in some place that our thermometers can’t find it?”

          I think you have missed my point. I am not sure what the end result of adding more CO2 to the global atmospheric inventory will be. “Warming” is simply one of the predicted consequences. I am pretty sure, however, that the consequences of adding more CO2 every year than natural processes remove is increasing the global inventory and I am pretty sure that it is a bad idea to conduct large scale experimentation and model validation with the only atmosphere that we have.

          With regard to the fantasies proposed by the IPCC (which is inherently a part of the “establishment” that I rail about) to use wind, solar, and geothermal energy (with “clean natural gas” to fill in the gaps) I can only say that they have been influenced by their friends and associates who depend on the fossil fuel industry for information.

          I have never claimed to be any kind of scientist, so I guess I will accept your accusation that my version of your field is “sloppy”. However, you keep focusing on the inaccuracy of the predictions of the effects of increasing CO2 instead of recognizing that they are occurring and that the end results are unknown. Though there is a possibility that the world would be better off with more CO2 in the atmosphere, I tend to believe that the probability of that result is lower than the alternative of us being worse off. Since we do not yet know for sure, isn’t the prudent course to work to halt the rise by emphasizing our knowledge of a CO2 free alternative that is actually more capable and potentially less costly than the fossil fuels we are burning?

          Nukes keep letting people paint a transition away from fossil fuels as incredibly expensive – it does not have to as long as we allow the markets to work and get rid of obstacles to progress named Jaczko, Reid and Markey. (among others)

      • Brian Mays says:

        Rod – Let’s put some numbers on those concerns.

        Currently, we’ve added, say, 40% to preindustrial CO2 levels. I don’t think many people dispute this. This is if you assume that all of this increase is due to man’s influence rather than natural variations.

        Now, we know that man-made sources result in about 15% of “natural” background radiation (my numbers from the WNA). Only a small part of this is from nuclear power (~1%); the majority is from medical procedures. Thus, man’s activities have added roughly 18% to the average first-world person’s background radiation, and that amount has been steadily increasing over the years.

        Are you concerned about that?

        Unlike the effect of atmospheric CO2, we have a clear-cut, academically pedigreed model that describes the consequences of the additional radiation exposure. This model states that we’re killing 15% more people than nature does because of this additional radiation. And yet, both you and I know that industry will never be able to eliminate all radiation exposure from the use of nuclear technology.

        Are you concerned about that?

        If your answer is “no,” then why are you so concerned about a 40% increase in CO2 to the point where you feel that you don’t need solid evidence to back up your worries.

        Could you be the victim of a campaign of FUD?

      • George Carty says:

        AFAIK even a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would only lead to a direct temperature increase of less than 1 C. Claims of man-made climate catastrophe are predicated on this small temperature increase increasing CO2 concentrations still further (mainly due to increased evaporation of CO2 from the oceans IIRC) which leads to a much large increase in global temperatures.

  14. Rich says:

    Why do I keep hearing “this is the warmest (decade, year, etc. etc.) since 1850?” What does that prove?
    Of course it is. 1850 is the end of the Little Ice Age, that period of time that the AGW believers insist never happened or spend millions trying to prove never happened, or only happened in the northern hemisphere, etc., etc., etc. And yes, it has been getting warmer since 1850. However none of the AGW propagandists explain what the “Normal” temperature should be, if we have reached the “Normal” temperature, or even if we have exceeded the “Normal” temperature. (What is the Normal – If you average all temperature over the last 50 million years it is at least 10 degrees F warmer than now. The average for 100 million years is about 15 degrees warmer.) They do spend a lot of time trying to prove that the Medieval Warming Period did not exist though – because that would, again, blow their theory to shreds as it was much warmer with less CO2.

    Here is a problem for you. You are in small ship at sea and you discover a fire on board. You have two five gallon containers on board. One has five gallons of water, the other has five gallons of 50% Alcohol and 50% water. You also have a drinking water kit that will make salt water drinkable, but very slowly and good enough to keep you alive until rescued if you chose to use the water. All of your other fire extinguishers are empty and you do not have a bucket to scoop water from the sea to put out the fire. However, either of the two five gallon containers could be used to scoop sea water once emptied. You only have seconds to get the fire under control. It is progressing rapidly and you will not survive if it is not quickly extinguished.

    Given the choice of the two five gallon containers. Which will you pour on the fire?

    If you picked the 50/50 water/alcohol solution – you are dead. A 50% alcohol solution burns. I have just now gone outside and proved this with 50/50 water/alcohol and it burns. Not rapidly, but enough that buy the time you get pure (or salt) water on the fire the fire can no longer be controlled.

    The point of this is, If we are to believe that CO2 will cause all of the problems that all/any of the AGW believers claim, then why are we using “renewables” that produce CO2? They do not reduce CO2. Why are we burning corn instead of eating it? Ethanol and any other “bio-fuel” does not reduce CO2. Why are we building wind turbines and SVPs? By the best of predictions they will only reduce the CO2 per MWH (at the customers meter, not the wind mill meter) by 50%. If they are telling the truth – that CO2 will cause global “whatever” (they change it to fit the problem, it will be global cooling after a few years of cooling) then a reduction does not fix the problem. As an engineer, the correct solution to the root cause of the problem is to eliminate the CO2 (assuming it is going to cause global whatever). Study after study has shown that Nuclear power has the least production of CO2, essentially ZERO, per MWH at the customers meter.
    Why are we literally throwing gas on the fire?

    • Rod Adams says:

      Rich – please read my post one more time and then think about the human beings that you know personally or that you read about in news articles and novels.

      There are some scientists and engineers who are truly worried about the long term effects of continuing to dump 20 billion tons per year of a stable and slightly reactive gas into the atmosphere. They know that the gas in general is a part of nature and has natural sources, but they also know that, like manure and feces that are also natural and useful fertilizers in certain concentrations, there is a limit to the ability of the natural system to handle the extra load produced by intensive human development and use. Some of us are not sure exactly what the limit is or what the effects might be, but we are not willing to keep experimenting when we have a readily available option that can reduce the production rate considerably.

      However, there are also greedy bastards in the world who will do anything – including sacrificing the future prosperity of their neighbors’ grandchildren – in order to make themselves rich. If there really was a dramatic reduction in the production rate of CO2, it would come with a dramatic reduction in the annual sales of coal, oil and natural gas.

      Since the people who have the most to lose are powerful establishment folks, they are fighting hard against their inevitable loss of stature, wealth and control of the world’s economy. They make up stuff to distract the rest of us and they support their mythology with lots of cash for advertising and political bribes that masquerade as campaign contributions. They convince many people that they are fine, upstanding citizens who only care about jobs and supplying reliable, low cost, lightly taxed fuel to meet our addictions. In the meantime, they work hard to scare the pants off of people with regard to the incredible gift represented by fissionable materials.

      I do not like to get too involved in religious discussions, but it is miraculous and marvelous to me that we discovered the fission chain reaction in the nick of time – just decades before pushing up against real limitations to human prosperity if we continue to depend only on hydrocarbon (and carbohydrate) combustion. It is almost a deus ex machina plot device when seen on the big scheme of human history. (It might also be part of a divine plan that includes a real struggle to overcome the evil that has built up gradually as a result of the inequities associated with burning hydrocarbons.)

      • Brian Mays says:

        There are some scientists and engineers who will do anything including sacrificing the future prosperity of their neighbors or grandchildren in order to promote their particular special interests. For some, it is to push a particular public policy agenda — most notoriously, the “Green” agenda, but other “wealth redistribution” schemes often appear as motivating factors. For others, it is to make themselves rich selling such worthless devices as wind turbines, solar panels, and less worthless devices like “more-carbon-friendly” gas turbines.

        If there really was a dramatic reduction in the production rate of CO2, it would come with a dramatic reduction in the annual sales and subsidies of such fixes as solar panels, wind turbines, carbon credits, … and even nuclear power. Since the people who have the most to lose are powerful establishment folks, they are fighting hard against their inevitable loss of stature, wealth, and control of the world’s economy. Thus, we see such influential bodies as the National Academy of Sciences and the United Nations working hard to develop scenarios to scare the pants off of people with regard to hypothetical, catastrophic climate-related events.

        Their choice of weapons to support their mythology is lots of cash for advertising and political bribes that masquerade as campaign contributions. Other weapons include endorsements from scientifically illiterate celebrities and theatrics by government scientists who, decades ago, devoted their careers to promoting the mythology of global warming. These make for fine headlines; Greenpeace loves this stuff.

        These establishment folks convince many people that they are fine, upstanding citizens who only care about the environment, sustainable development, and (green) jobs. Supplying reliable, low-cost energy is mostly an afterthought (perhaps in nighttime dreams of a “Solartopia”), but this goal is mostly to be discouraged, because as a pioneer of this line of thinking once noted:

        “Giving society cheap, abundant energy … would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

        Yes, this person was talking about nuclear power when he said this, and yes, this person still believes in catastrophic “Climate Change,” and yes, this person is still an influential member of the establishment.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Brian – 20 years ago, I would have mainly agreed that companies like GE, Siemens and Exelon were mainly run by people with science and engineering backgrounds who worked their way up into the executive ranks. These days, I am not so sure.

          There seem to be a heck of a lot of lawyers, accountants, and marketing types at the top of the heap in the companies who are profiting by talking about the mirage of warm and fuzzy “renewable” energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal while selling fossil fuel and damning nuclear (at the very best, damning nuclear with faint praise by saying it is fine to keep making money operating existing plants or supplying them with spare parts, service and fuel but not investing anything in making it possible to build new plants.)

      • Brian Mays says:

        I forgot to add that the establishment also make themselves rich by selling the fuel for those “more-carbon-friendly” gas turbines.

        • Rod Adams says:

          Agreed. Please do not forget that the revenue generated by selling fuel is about an order of magnitude larger than the money made in selling the gas turbine itself. For even highly efficient gas turbines, about 85-90% of the total cost of owning and operating the machines is the cost of fuel. The other 10-15% covers capital equipment return on investment, spare parts, and the personnel costs for the people who operate and maintain the systems.

  15. DV82XL says:

    More than 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets in 20 cities across Germany on Saturday to call for a rapid end to nuclear power, even as a government-sponsored national commission is expected to recommend that Berlin abolish nuclear energy within a decade.

    You don’t put that many people in the streets, on schedule, without a very slick, professorial organisation, and that doesn’t come cheap. Nor is it one that could have grown up overnight.

    Meanwhile, Economic Minister and Vice Chancellor Philipp Rösler expressed concern that completely abolishing nuclear energy too quickly could lead to electricity blackouts across Germany. Other business leaders are worrying out loud that the move to close the nuclear plants could harm German competitiveness.

    There is no doubt in my mind, at least, that this has been orchestrated by Russian gas interests, that would see an economically weakened Germany, dependent on them for energy as an advantage.

    • George Carty says:

      Do you think the Russian gas angle is difficult to bring up in Germany because Germans feel too much guilt over Barbarossa to criticize government policy for being “pro-Russian”?

    • Jerry says:

      To become immune to this madness of green organizations obstructing certain types of power generation, we would need a market based system, in which the consumer, who pays for all of it, decides what power generation he or she prefers (like the green energy option many utilities offer now). It used to be that the consumer didn’t care about the details, and all he knew was that power came out of the socket. But now, with all the debate and subsidies/taxes, we need to put him or her in charge as the key decisionmaker.
      Then all the demonstrators could do is try to convince cash-strapped people to spend their hard earned money on more expensive energy.

  16. Andrew Jaremko says:

    Rod – this post has certainly generated comment. @Jerry – I found out that my local ‘energy options’ provider Bullfrog Power, doesn’t have the option I want – nuclear.

    Bullfrog’s green electricity option
    Across Canada, our electricity comes exclusively from wind and hydro facilities that have been certified as low impact by Environment Canada under its EcoLogoM program—instead of from polluting sources like coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear.

    I’d have to get pretty deep into the Environment Canada EcoLogo site to find out why nuclear energy isn’t on the list. And what level of political action it would take to get nuclear considered properly.

    Rod – You may have seen this already. I’ve just started reading George Monbiot’s 2006 book Heat. He devotes chapter 2 to The Denial Industry. In the chapter he documents one branch of the denial industry as being started in 1993 by Philip Morris in response to the EPA’s report on Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking. Through industry memos that came to light as a result of the tobacco class action suit of 1998, Monbiot shows that the tobacco industry targeted doubt creation in global warming, nuclear waste disposal and biotechnology as well as tobacco science for the purpose of increased ‘legitimacy’ in the public perception. The carbon industries jumped aboard, and we now have a whole doubt industry. Or make that a FUD industry. A tobacco industry memo he quotes makes it clear:

    Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of evidence’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.

    This absolutely supports your carbon conspiracy position, and it makes ‘the carbon conspiracy’ possibly the only real conspiracy in the world. I guess conspiracy theorists prefer the irrational.

    As a related item – I think you should add the ‘smoking gun’ tag to your Robert F. Kennedy Jr. tells the Colorado Oil and Gas Association that Wind and Solar Plants are Gas Plants post. The Power Politics – RFK Jr. Explains How Pressure From Activists to Enforce Restrictions on Coal Benefits Natural Gas also shows that there’s not much honor among fossil fuelers, and may merit the ‘smoking gun’ tag as well.

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