Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Climate Change Astroturf Group To Hold Nashville Forum

Yesterday I blogged about the Consumer Energy Alliance, an astroturf organization connected to the oil industry-funded Institute for Energy Research.

Today I was forwarded an invite to a forum they’re hosting next Wednesday at the downtown Sheraton (as always, click on the pic to make it larger):

The CEA promises an “in depth discussion” on the impact of pending Federal climate change legislation. Since the CEA aren’t exactly honest brokers, presenting themselves as some kind of consumer organization when in fact they are part of the oil industry lobby, I think it’s safe to say they plan to spread a lot of half truths and misinformation.

Just a guess. I could be wrong!

They’ve been extremely aggressive in trying to get folks to attend this meeting, making lots of phone calls and personal visits to drum up attendance. In particular I hear they want public officials to attend, even (I hear) inviting Mayor Dean. So I thought we should all know what we're getting into.

Their featured speaker is Tom Mullikin, whom they list as a “nationally recognized environmental attorney” and indeed his bio is impressive. What it doesn’t say is that Mr. Mullikin has made a name for himself speaking at Chamber of Commerce events around the country and spreading misinformation about climate change in the process.

To wit:
”I just try to lay out the facts.”

Those were the words of Tom Mullikin (lawyer and nationally known speaker) at a talk he gave sponsored by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to a “crowded hall full of business and political leaders from across the state,” as printed in the Wichita Eagle. Mr. Mullikin went on to talk about how local efforts to curb the effects of coal plants on the environment are useless, listing “facts” about how man-made emissions only comprise 5.5 percent of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that “Kansas homes, factories, cars, livestock and power plants… contribute just 0.013 percent of all greenhouse gases floating in the world’s atmosphere.”

This is not the first time I’ve heard these statements about percentages, and they are irrelevant. It is not the overall percentage of greenhouse gases represented by human activity that matters – what matters is how much the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases, and 5.5% is a significant amount. Just think of blood alcohol levels, or a glass of water filled to the brim – one more drop will make it overflow.

The other glaring piece of misinformation provided by Mullikin is the idea that changes and efforts on a local scale to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is futile. This notion is not only totally incorrect, it is irresponsible, and Mr. Mullikin should be ashamed for touting such nonsense.
According to this writer, Mullikin even claims that because China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, there’s no point in Americans trying to reduce their carbon emissions. Which is the most twisted piece of logic I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, I suspect the CEA is hosting these events with the help of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the Nashville Chamber, which is separate from the U.S. Chamber, knew nothing about it). Call it a gut instinct.

The Chamber is a little red-faced these days when it comes to the climate change issue. There was yesterday's faux-press conference prank, and there have been a steady stream of businesses and utilities dumping their membership over the Chamber's opposition to federal climate change legislation (Mohawk Paper joined the mass exodus today.)

Earlier this week, the U.S. Chamber was busted for hyper-inflating their membership. They seem now to concede that they represent 300,000, not 3 million, businesses, though no one seems to have let the Consumer Energy Alliance know: their bio for board member Bill Kovics, the U.S. Chamber's VP of Energy, Technology & Regulatory affairs, still lists the higher membership number.

Anyway, it’s all very interesting and a little bit sleazy to me. You have an industry group pretending to be a consumer group holding a forum to spread misinformation about federal climate change legislation. They've been aggressive in trying to get public officials to attend, and I just want to say that if Mayor Dean or other public officials attend an anti-climate change event it would be a little embarassing, seeing as how Tennessee is trying to fashion itself as a regional leader in clean energy.

So, just a heads up, foks. But there IS a free lunch. I wonder if we can get some of downtown's homeless through the door? I'd hate to see all that food go to waste.