Here’s a fascinating look inside the energy industry. This is an excerpt of a transcript of the Bill Moyers NOW show from January 23, 2004. It reveals the behind the scenes maneuvers that the energy industry is doing to try to influence policy.
Here are a couple of choice quotes:
“…what industry is really afraid of is losing profits and that it has a coordinated plan to prevent the treaty’s passage.”
“America’s policy on global warming is being set by a limited set of energy companies. Mainly ones whose approach to global warming is to deny, and delay, and debunk.”
SENATOR JAMES INHOFE [July 28, 2003]: With all the hysteria,
all the fear, all the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is
the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? I believe it is.
BASKIN: Not surprisingly, Inhofe’s number one industry source of
campaign contributions is the oil and gas business.”
Read it and weep. And rethink whether you want your country run by a president and a cabinet who are (almost) all former energy industry execs, while global warming is undisputed by neutral scientific minds, and global supplies of oil and gas are shrinking.
One of the
items on the agenda tomorrow at that conservative conference is a discussion
entitled: “Globaloney and Global Warming.” “Globaloney.” That’s a good one.
Big energy companies are working to debunk the science of global
warming, despite what is now a consensus within the mainstream scientific
community that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are changing our climate.
According to a new computer analysis by a team of international
scientists, in 50 years, a quarter of the world’s plants and animals could be
pushed to extinction. But for big American energy companies, it all comes down
to dollars and cents. They say caps on carbon dioxide emissions will have a
devastating impact on their bottom line and the rest of the economy.
Their lobbyists were front and center last month in Milan, Italy at an
International Conference on Global Warming. Senior Washington correspondent
Roberta Baskin and producer Bryan Myers have our report.
It wouldn’t be Milan without a fashion show.
But this isn’t the House of Versace. It’s a United Nations conference on
global warming — this one just last month. And a party is a good way to keep the
But don’t be misled. What’s going on in Milan is of
vital importance to the world.
Mainstream scientists point to rapid
melting of polar ice caps as one of many signs that greenhouse gases are causing
an unnatural and potentially dangerous warming of the earth’s atmosphere. As a
result, they predict, temperatures will rise more rapidly in the next hundred
years than in the past ten thousand.
Extremes in weather like severe
droughts and flash floods are expected to become more common and more intense.
Radical weather patterns could threaten our food supply and water systems. What
should be done about global warming is at the core of the climate change debate.
The focus has been on “greenhouse gases” created by burning oil and coal.
Six years ago, world leaders signed the Kyoto Protocol, agreeing in
principle to limit production of greenhouse gases. Most of the world’s nations
support the treaty…and sent representatives to Milan to move forward on the
But guess who else turned up at the global warming
conference? Swarms of energy industry executives and lobbyists, with a very
different agenda. There is a concerted effort by the industry to derail adoption
of the Kyoto Protocol… a well-heeled, well-organized lobbying effort bent on
stopping it from ever becoming a reality.
Meet Dale Heydlauff, senior
vice president of American Electric Power, the largest electric company in
America. His reasons for opposing Kyoto are economic. BASKIN:
Most of the world supports the Kyoto Protocol. The energy industry is opposed to
it. Why? HEYDLAUFF:
Primarily because of the fact that the energy
industry is predominantly fossil fuels. And there will be significant economic
impacts to American industry in particular. BASKIN:
says the Kyoto treaty would be costly to American consumers, by making energy
more expensive. And, he argues that the treaty’s language discriminates against
America and other developed countries. HEYDLAUFF:
Kyoto Protocol only imposes legally binding obligations on the 38 industrial
nations of the world and exempts the 132 plus developing countries.
Annie Petsonk has been following the global warming
debate for the mainstream environmental organization, Environmental Sefense. She
says what industry is really afraid of is losing profits and that it has a
coordinated plan to prevent the treaty’s passage. PETSONK:
America’s policy on global warming is being set by a limited set of energy
companies. Mainly ones whose approach to global warming is to deny, and delay,
and debunk. BASKIN:
Petsonk, an attorney, helped develop climate
policy for two presidents who supported limits on greenhouse gasses: Bill
Clinton and the first George Bush. Now she’s here trying to convince delegates
to ratify Kyoto.
She’s up against some powerful opponents.
If you’re a large oil company and you’re concerned that
a treaty on climate change, to limit greenhouse pollution might encourage
consumers to drive more efficient cars, use more efficient light bulbs, maybe
use a little less electricity you’d have an incentive to spend a fair amount of
money trying to stop that treaty. BASKIN:
Oil companies won’t
reveal just how much they are spending, but it runs into tens of millions of
Representatives of the oil, coal, and electric industries are
all in Milan to spread their gospel. But there’s one person here who’s credited
with doing more to advance industry’s agenda than any other. His name is Don
Pearlman, and he’s been called “the high priest of the carbon club.”
Pearlman heads an organization with a name that makes it seem a neutral
party — The Climate Council. The group won’t say who funds it. Critics say it’s
a secretive front group for the energy industry. We tried to talk with Pearlman
about The Climate Council, but he would only say that it’s “a coalition of U.S.
energy companies.” Pearlman’s a fixture at these annual meetings, ostensibly as
an observer. But in Washington, he’s a registered lobbyist and acts like one
here. He’s constantly working the floor. PETSONK:
saw an event a couple of years ago where Mr. Pearlman actually put written
instructions under the nose of an OPEC delegate who was actually snoozing. And
Mr. Pearlman went in and woke him up and said, “You’ve got to read this. It’s
time to read it now in a meeting.” BASKIN:
UN officials were
concerned enough over that episode that afterwards, they took action to prevent
it from happening again, instituting a policy to prevent lobbyists from
approaching delegates on the floor during negotiating sessions.
It’s like the unofficial Pearlman rule?
Yes, there are many people who actually speak of it as
the Pearlman rule. BASKIN:
Here’s Pearlman in deep conversation
with a member of the Saudi delegation. Pearlman spends a lot of his time with
OPEC countries, none of whom have ratified the treaty. Since the Kyoto Protocol
is all about fossil fuels, they’re key players here. Later, the Saudi delegate
told us he and Pearlman were simply “exchanging pleasantries.”
Considered an expert at manipulating the rules to stall the talks,
Pearlman seems to be everywhere at once. PETSONK:
Both today and
yesterday I talked to negotiators who told me that in the meetings they were in,
countries were trying to reach agreement on a subject and Saudi Arabia
consistently was objecting. In some instances, it was China that was
consistently objecting. And basically, if you want to see who the objectors are,
sort of look at who was Don Pearlman talking with today, and sure enough that
seems to be the country that’s leading the objections. BASKIN:
Here’s another industry man in Milan. Ray Harry is an executive with the
Southern Company, America’s second largest electric utility. In recent years,
the company has emerged as one of the most influential industry voices in
Washington. During the last election cycle, no other electric utility spent more
on federal campaign contributions than Southern. BASKIN:
your title first with Southern? HARRY:
I’m Director of
Environmental Affairs. BASKIN:
Director of Environmental Affairs
for Southern. But your badge says that you’re with The Climate Council. So what
does that mean? HARRY:
Individuals companies cannot register for
these conferences. So you register under an organization. BASKIN:
This practice of industry executives attending these conferences as members of
groups like The Climate Council is commonplace. BASKIN:
would you like to see the outcome of the meeting be? HARRY:
really don’t have a desire here. We’re just watching the scene…what the
discussions are and where parties are and what ultimately might come out as some
sort of agreement. BASKIN:
Maybe, but according to THE ATLANTA
JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, at one recent meeting the Southern Company, worked
hand-in-hand with Don Pearlman to help engineer the ouster of a high-ranking UN
official, a climate expert concerned about global warming. It’s worth noting
that Southern operates some of the dirtiest power plants in the United States,
cited some sixteen times in the last two years for Clean Air Act violations
Here’s Pearlman again in Milan. The woman on the left is a coal
industry representative. And the man in the middle? That’s Harlan Watson, the
chief U.S. negotiator at the convention, a snapshot of the cozy relationship
between industry and the U.S. government.
ExxonMobil suggested the White
House add Harlan Watson to the negotiating team. And it was Watson — as a
Republican congressional aide in the early ’90s — who urged the coal industry to
hire Pearlman as a lobbyist. FLANNERY:
I think the key
Like most of the industry, ExxonMobil has a man
in Milan, Brian Flannery. BASKIN:
Exxon has been one of the most
vocal opponents of having caps. FLANNERY:
Of having caps and
targets and timetables. BASKIN:
And why is that? Why are you so
opposed to it? FLANNERY:
We’re not convinced the science
justifies such a step at this time. BASKIN:
In fact, the industry
insists that the jury is still out on the science of global warming, even though
an overwhelming majority of America’s mainstream scientific community, including
the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration, substantiate the science that proves global warming
is occurring, accelerating, and a threat to the planet.
Environmentalists accuse the energy industry of fueling a stealth
campaign to confuse the public. They say even though mainstream scientists agree
about the dangers of global warming, energy companies funnel money to think
tanks and front groups who publish slick reports challenging the scientific
One example: take a look at ExxonMobil’s Web site, showing
millions of dollars going to organizations who raise doubts about global
warming. The goal is to mold public opinion. PETSONK:
extent, the mainstream press suffers from what others have called “the curse of
evenhandedness.” That is, if these scientists were to announce tomorrow that the
earth is flat, it would be published under the headline that says, “Shape of
Earth: Views Differ.” BASKIN:
This strategy was laid out six
years ago in this oil industry memo, prepared with the help of Exxon. It’s
called “A Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan.” It says, quote,
“Victory will be achieved when uncertainties in climate science become part of
the conventional wisdom.” SMITH:
Global warming, as it’s
generally presented, is a simplistic world. Evil modern man is burning up
energy, leaving destruction for the only planet we have. Mea culpa, mea culpa,
mea culpa, we must expiate for our evil ways. BASKIN:
is president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.
That oil industry memo about “achieving victory” specifically mentions the
Competitive Enterprise Institute as one of the groups that can be used to create
doubt about global warming. CEI is currently one of the most influential
Washington think tanks. SMITH:
Energy use, remember, is what
distinguishes us really from primitive societies. We have lights. We have air
conditioning. We have heat. We have mobility.
And, energy use in the
modern world means carbon based energy. Which means greenhouse gases and
whatever attendant risks that may be there. There are risks of using energy. But
there are risks of energy deprivation also. And they’re far more serious in our
After campaign contributions and lobbying expenses,
corporate funding of groups like CEI has been called the “third river” of money
in American politics. That’s led to charges that CEI and others are middlemen,
simply putting out propaganda for big industry. In 2002 alone, ExxonMobil gave
CEI more than $400,000. BASKIN:
How does that influence what you
have to say on something like global warming? SMITH:
We were in
this issue well before any companies wanted to stick their necks out. And we’ll
be in it if they all retreat next year. We make good dance partners. We’re
wonderful dance partners. But we’re dancing, we’re not getting married. We are
independent. And we stand for things we believe in and we always have and always
CEI’s endeavors have paid off for its “dance
partner.” So have years of effort by industry-funded lobbyists and front groups.
Lawmakers are using studies by industry-funded scientists to frame American
environmental policy. This group of U.S. Senators who’ve come to the UN
conference echo the industry line. PETSONK:
You know, the
Senators come here and they are absolutely determined that they do not believe
the overwhelming majority of scientists on global warming.
They’re saying it is psuedoscience. PETSONK:
That’s right, that’s right. And what they listen to is exclusively the quote
unquote “scientists” who are funded by leading companies in the fossil fuel
The Senate delegation is lead by republican
James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Senator Inhofe once compared the Environmental
Protection Agency to a “Gestapo bureaucracy.” And as chairman of the Senate
Environment and Public Works committee, he’s one of the most powerful players in
the global warming debate. Inhofe came to Milan with a blunt message for the
world — the U.S. will never limit the use of oil and coal. It’s a view he also
made clear in a speech to the Senate last year. SENATOR JAMES INHOFE
[July 28, 2003]:
With all the hysteria, all the fear, all the phony science,
could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on
the American people? I believe it is. BASKIN:
Inhofe’s number one industry source of campaign contributions is the oil and gas
You have been probably the most outspoken
critic, skeptic, of global warming, in fact, saying that you believe that global
warming is a hoax. Do you believe that? SENATOR INHOFE:
No, no. I
think the science and the way it came about, it really approaches that level.
But it’s not just Senators like Inhofe who have embraced
industry’s position on global warming. The White House is on board, too.
It wasn’t always that way. In 2000, candidate George Bush supported
restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions. GEORGE W. BUSH [September
We will require all power plants to meet clean air standards in
order to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon
dioxide within a reasonable period of time. BASKIN:
Then, about a
month into his presidency, Bush got this memo, warning “a moment of truth is
arriving” on the regulation of greenhouse gases. It was written by Haley
Barbour, who was working as a lobbyist for the giant utility, Southern Company.
He’d also been chairman of Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign advisory committee.
Two weeks after Barbour’s memo, the industry got its wish: the President
announced the U.S. would not support Kyoto. PRESIDENT BUSH [June 11,
Climate change, with its potential to impact every corner of the
world, is an issue that must be addressed by the world. The Kyoto Protocol was
fatally flawed in fundamental ways. BASKIN:
But not every
Republican has signed on to the industry position. In Milan we spoke with
moderate Republicans Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania and Christopher Shays of
Are you concerned about the world’s
perception of America as not being very serious about doing something about
global warming? REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT):
about the world’s perception. I’m also concerned about the United States doing
something in real terms. I don’t think we’re going to have a world to live in if
we continue our neglectful ways. REP. JIM GREENWOOD (R-PA):
administration and many of the conservative members of Congress believe that
because we still have unanswered questions, that that is an argument for moving
more slowly. We think that because there’s much we don’t know, the stakes being
extraordinarily high, the prudent thing to do is to act more expeditiously.
But these moderate Republicans and their allies are being
outgunned. And last month, Russia joined the U.S. in officially opposing Kyoto.
Now the treaty appears to be dead. Some fear that industry is, indeed, close to
achieving its “victory,” and that protecting the environment will no longer be
President Bush made no mention of global
warming — or anything else about the environment, for that matter — in his State
of the Union address.
And don’t look to any of the Democratic
presidential frontrunners to breathe life back into the Kyoto Protocol as it
Howard Dean says he would renegotiate the treaty because it
exempts developing nations. Wesley Clark and John Edwards say we need to rethink
it. And John Kerry, the winner of this week’s contest in Iowa, says he would not
sign the treaty at all because it’s already too late for the U.S. to meet the
binding targets set back in 1997.