Smoking Gun – Jan Lundberg antinuclear activist & heir to petroleum wealth

A ‘smoking gun’ article is one that reveals a direct connection between a fossil fuel or alternative energy system promoter and a strongly antinuclear attitude. One of my guiding theories about energy is that a great deal of the discussion about safety, cost, and waste disposal is really a cover for a normal business activity of competing for market share.

As is the case in many commodity businesses, there is also an underlying agenda to restrict the overall supply of the commodity. One of the quickest ways to turn profits into losses is to have an “overcapacity” situation that drives down prices. OPEC keeps prices up by limiting production through a quota system; the US government keeps farm prices up by buying up surplus production; doctors keep their fees up by limiting available seats in medical schools; natural gas companies organize with activist groups to reduce energy supplies by fighting “filthy coal” (their words, not mine).

I cringe every time I see a group that is actively opposed to nuclear energy being labeled as an “environmental” group; the real descriptor should be “antinuclear” group. As everyone should know, nuclear fission power plants do not release their waste into the environment; the process is clean enough to operate inside sealed buildings and on board submarines, so it is quite friendly to the environment.

This weekend, I came across a site called Culture Change that provides some strong support for my theory about the real source of strength for the antinuclear industry. According to the information at the bottom of the home page, Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit organization.

Jan Lundberg, who has led the organization and its predecessor organizations since 1988, grew up in a wealthy family with a father who was a popular and respected petroleum industry analyst.

As Oil Guru, Dan [Lundberg, my father] earned a regular Nightly Business Report commentary spot on the Public Broadcasting System television network in the early and mid-1980s. I helped edit or proof-read just about every one of those commentaries, and we delighted in the occasional opportunity to attack gasohol and ethanol for causing “agricultural strip mining” (as we did in the Lundberg Letter).

During his formative years, he sailed around the world’s oceans on the family yacht. His father also had some interesting friends among activist groups:

We had very special guests over for dinner, such as one night in perhaps 1962 when I was ten: peace activists had sailed their boat into an atomic-bomb test area to stop the aboveground blast. I thought what they did was important, and I didn’t see them as helping any enemy. Meeting such people can leave an impression on a boy that shapes him.

Aside: I have nothing against sailing around the world’s oceans. It is a great hobby and a great family activity. I also have nothing against introducing children to interesting people as a way to open their mind to the world and to think about their future. End Aside.

Before entering into the non-profit world, he entered into the family business of oil industry analysis and claims to have achieved a fair amount of financial success. As Lundberg tells the tale, he stopped “punching the corporate time clock” in 1988 to found Fossil Fuels Policy Action.

I had just learned about peak oil. Upon my press conference announcing the formation of Fossil Fuels Policy Action, USA Today’s headline was “Lundberg Lines up with Nature.” My picture with the story looked like I was a corporate fascist, not an acid-tripping hippie. The USA Today story led to an invitation to review Beyond Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades, for the quarterly Population and Environment journal. In learning for the first time about peak oil (although I had questioned long-term growth in petroleum supplies), I was awakened to the bigger picture as never before. Natural gas was no answer. And I already knew that the supply crisis to come — I had helped predict the 1970s oil shocks — was to be a liquid fuels crisis.

Lundberg tells an interesting story about his initial fundraising activities for his new non-profit group.

Setting out to become a clearinghouse for energy data and policy, we had a tendency to go along with the buzzword “natural gas as a bridge fuel” — especially when my previous clients serving the petroleum industry until 1988 included natural gas utilities. They were and are represented by the American Gas Association, where I knew a few friendly executives. Upon starting a nonprofit group for the environment with an energy focus, I met with the AGA right away. I was anticipating one of their generous grants they were giving large environmental groups who were trumpeting the “natural gas is a bridge fuel” mantra.

I slept on it and decided that I would not participate in this corrupt conspiracy. Instead, I had fun writing one of Fossil Fuels Policy Action’s first newsletters about this “bridge” argument and the background story that the gas industry was really competing with fuel oil for heating. I brought up the AGA’s funding for enviros and said I was rejecting it. I was crazy, I admit, for I was starting a new career with almost no savings and no guarantees. So I was not surprised when my main contact at AGA called me up and snarled, “Jan, are you on acid?!”

Lundberg’s connections with the fossil fuel industry were deep and inherited, and his father had introduced him at an early age to activists who were strongly opposed to nuclear weapons testing. He had rejected AGA funding but had just started a nonprofit group so that he could stop punching a corporate time clock, go sailing, and go camping as desired.

Where does a guy like that turn for the donations he needs? My so far unconfirmed, but reasoned guess is that he turned to family friends and former clients for donations. What does he do to attract those donations? Fight nuclear energy, of course.

Here is a quote from his July 10, 2011 post titled Nuclear Roulette: new book puts a nail in coffin of nukes

Culture Change went beyond studying the problem soon after its founding in 1988: action and advocacy must get to the root of the crises to assure a livable future. Also, information overload and a diet of bad news kills much activism. So it’s hard to find reading material to strongly recommend. But the new book Nuclear Roulette: The Case Against the “Nuclear Renaissance” is must-have if one is fighting nukes today.

Even for the experienced anti-nuclear campaigner, there is bound to be new material in this valuable book. It isn’t surprising, for the authors are veterans for the peace and environmental movements. Knowing them, I can vouch for their work and long term commitment: Gar Smith was the long time editor of the Earth Island Journal, and worked with the founder of Friends of the Earth, David Brower.

He goes to say the following:

The uneconomic nature of nuclear power, and the lack of energy gain compared to cheap oil, are two huge reasons for society to quit flirting with more nuclear power, never mind the catastrophic record and certainty of more to come. Somehow the evidence and true track record of dozens of accidents and perhaps 300,000 to nearly 1,000,000 deaths from just Chernobyl, are brushed aside by corporate media and most governments. So, imaginative means of helping to end nuclear proliferation are crucial, the most careful and reasonable-sounding ones being included in summary form in Nuclear Roulette.

The nuke industry lies continue, and President Obama is on the wrong side: against humanity and countless species. Consider: “Whenever a nuclear accident spews an unusual amount of radiation into the local air, industry spokespeople invariably assure the public that the release ‘poses no harm.’ But radioactive fallout, no matter how small, is not neutral and the industry knows this. There is no ‘safe-level’ of nuclear exposure: all exposure to ionizing radiation is potentially harmful.” (John Goffman, 1990, nuclear whistleblower, from the book)

I have ordered Lundberg’s autobiography, titled Songs of Petroleum. I look forward to finding more material in a book with this description:

In between the recounting of our 1960s’ world cruise and today’s family disgrace, laced with harrowing sailing adventures and 1970s’ Me Generation decadence, I pass along to readers of Songs of Petroleum my discoveries in the oil industry and in the environmental movement.

Now do you better understand why I believe that a major portion of the strength of antinuclear activism comes from the ability of groups that say “NO” to nuclear energy to raise funds from people who want to maintain the world’s addiction to fossil fuels?

About Rod Adams

6 Responses to “Smoking Gun – Jan Lundberg antinuclear activist & heir to petroleum wealth”

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  1. James Greenidge says:

    >>I cringe every time I see a group that is actively opposed to nuclear energy being labeled as an “environmental” group; the real descriptor should be “antinuclear” group. As everyone should know, nuclear fission power plants do not release their waste into the environment; the process is clean enough to operate inside sealed buildings and on board submarines, so it is quite friendly to the environment.<<

    Is it possible for you to devote an entire section — not just a topic, but a section on Public Atomic Education where means and methods could be discussed and actually launched into media and politician mailboxes or programs support? Yes, I chuckled of that "renewable" blog asserting how much money your blogs rakes in, but it's sobering to see just how much respect and recognition those anti nuclear blogs receive from the media, pols, schools and Hollywood. Here in NYC just forget the local news ever casting Indian Point or Millstone or Toms River plants in a neutrally favorable non-ominous light unclouded by impending doom, but there's absolutely no darkness nor drawback in gas/renewables-ville — and that view goes UNchallenged free and clear to the public. Ditto "science" programming. This weekend I glimpsed "Wonders of the Solar System" on Science/Discovery Channel, and be damned, the young turk "astronomer" host just couldn't bring himself to utter the words nuclear or atomic energy in how the stars formed, at most saying "the interstellar hydrogen and dust condensed and ignited into stars". It was unreal. I mean at least even greenie Carl Sagan did! Where are the balanced science shows that don't cast nuclear energy as the spawn of Darth Vader? Junior High/High School students in NYC metro are already discouraged and scorned on for just thinking of doing nuclear energy science fair exhibits while windmills and solar panels earn gold stars and white hats. Are students even currently being "penalized" with minus PC scores for an essay test favoring nuclear energy? I'm wondering where would such a piled-on pro nuclear student go for support for their cause. We BADLY need a pro-active pro-nuclear air support organ that will demand the media's equal time and demand correction of false or misleading reports and programming and support those in favor of nuclear energy from the green-besiged student on up. I'd like to know and list what pro-nuclear or nuclear neutral newscasters are around the country, get their station e-mails and request their ear to come aboard blogs like these or listen to nuclear's case for station balance, and to challenge the station's stand if no such balance appears. I'd like to invite and list all reports of instances of nuclear energy defamation and anti-bias slander in classrooms and PSAs and local periodicals to target due corrections on and support pro-nuclear individuals who might feel lost in the wilderness.
    I just feel time is overdue for action than just relating good but toothless nuclear facts.


    James Greenidge

  2. Rich says:

    It would be an impossible task. The anti-nukes have at least a 30 year head start. The falsehoods, propaganda and FUD is interwoven into essentially every activity a child, young adult, person does. It goes way beyond “The Simpsons,” for example, many years ago I was getting the kids for breakfast one Saturday morning, CBS had a kids news show in the middle of their cartoon hour. In this clip they explained how nuclear power works. They did not use the mouse-trap/ping-pong-ball analogy, they had a “better” example. First they showed the H-Bomb explosion on the Bikini Atoll (note that it was a H-Bomb not an A-bomb) they then took that film-clip and multiplied it and shrunk it down so that thousands of these explosions were visible and superimposed them on the reactor vessel. Then showed how the heat of these bombs heated the water, made steam, etc. etc. I have never watched a single CBS news program since then. Keep your eyes open – the FUD is most TV shows, sitcoms, etc. Goebbels would be proud!

  3. Daniel says:

    Speaking of ani-nukes, N.R.C. Chief Plans a quick response to Post-Fukushima Study.

    Nothing like keeping the focus away from Yucca and the certification of the AP1000.

    The oldest trick in the book.

  4. gerry says:

    I’m following your continuing argument on this theme but I’m not seeing much proof. There are a whole bunch of suppositions and inferences but nothing direct.

    My guess is you might be right but it’s all FUD at this point. If true, with proof of widespread practice, it is a great counter argument with emotional appeal. Who wants to do the bidding of big oil?

  5. Crisis Jones says:

    How’s about you all shut your deleted mouths.

    I am coming for you Rod, Fair warning.

    • Rod Adams says:


      Hmmm. Do I detect a threat? By the way, Mr. Jones, I am kind of a prude who adheres to the philosophy taught to me by a former mentor:

      “Profanity is the crutch of a crippled conversationalist.” If you use language here that would offend my mother, I delete it.