RealClimate received a copy of a letter from the General Manager of the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA, an energy cooperative in Colorado), Stanley R. Lewandowski (Jr), to other utilities (G&T’s in the jargon) in the US discussing fundraising and tactics for a new disinformation campaign on climate change (see Seth Borenstein’s piece yesterday).
This is enlightening on a number of levels. Firstly, though we knew that this stuff goes on, it’s rare that we get such a close look at how it happens. Secondly, who is to be the lead on this new campaign? None other than our old friend Patrick Michaels. Additionally, it is useful to see the reasons why some utilties are fighting against the idea of climate change set out more clearly than in their more carefully manicured press briefings. It might actually help people engage on the substance of their concerns rather than simply arguing about the science – which, as we are by now well aware, – is simply a path to gridlock.
We’ll highlight some of the best bits, and discuss what this all might imply below.
After introducing the looming problem of global warming and potential emission caps, the letter states:
We here at IREA believe that it is necessary to support the scientific community that is willing to stand up against the alarmists and bring a balance to the discussion. Many scientists have an opinion, but only a few have any involvment in climatology.
Indeed. It goes on:
We decided to support Dr. Patrick Michaels. … In February of this year, IREA alone contributed $100,000 to Dr. Michaels. In addition, we have contacted all the G&T’s in the United States … and obtained additional contributions and pledges for Dr. Michaels’ group. We will be following up the remaining G&T’s over the next several weeks.
Nice work if you can get it! Interestingly, the letter drops some hints on the funding for the CEI ads last month:
[CEI] has been running two ads in ten states that were financed by General Motors and the Ford Motor Company. …. We have met with Koch [Industries], CEI and Dr. Michaels and they meet among themselves periodically to discuss their activities.
Hmm…. Later on the letter concedes that the ‘issue is not going to go away’, but apparently without a hint of irony, blames that on the ‘special interests’ (you know, that powerful lobby of climate scientists that control the administration).
The ‘science’, such as it is, appears to be sourced from a Mike Rosen column in Rocky Mountain News (or from an extremely similarly phrased common source) and an egregious Canada Free Press article by Tom Harris. There is an odd preponderance of quotes from Russian academicians which gives it away. Most of it has been dealt with here before, for instance Shaidurov’s opinion about water vapour. We will do a more detailed rebuttal in a couple of days.
While interesting, the letter is also a little disappointing. Many utilities, companies, and even politicians, have actually started to think about how to deal with the climate change challenge in a serious manner. This kind of retrograde ostrich-like behaviour seems so… 90’s. However, in among the distortions there are statements that reflect the real (and valid) concerns of the utilities – that their reliance on coal-powered generation renders them vulnerable to any carbon emission tax or cap and trade system. Bringing these groups around will require support for diversification of energy sources, forward thinking on future possibilities for carbon sequestration, and assurances that they won’t be uniquely burdened. They will probably never like this, but it may be possible make them accept it.
It is also worth stating that the existence of this kind of campaign does not in and of itself imply that the arguments used by Michaels and co. are bunk (they mostly are, but that can be shown with reference to the literature). But it does imply that one needs to be sure of ones sources. To paraphrase John Betjeman, any quote from Michaels should probably be followed with ‘So spake the industry’s P.R.O, A man who really ought to know, For he is paid for saying so’.
Update: Ford has denied directly funding the CEI ads (see comments below). Maybe IREA got this information from the same place they got their science?…