It is an article of faith among environmentalists, conventional wisdom in the media and academia, and a massive delusion afflicting California’s voters, that the climate skeptic community receives massive backing from oil companies and other corporate “polluters.” But when you start to look at who stands to gain from climate “mitigation” policies, and really examine the money trail behind legislative lobbying and political campaigns, the notion that the money is on the side of the deniers doesn’t hold up.
Where the money really is in the global warming debate, as well as reasons why anthropogenic CO2 may not be pollution after all, has been explored at length already here in previous posts including Investigating Climate Alarmism, Credible Climate Skeptics, The Hijacked Public Interest in California, Public Sector Deficits & Global Warming “Mitigation”, California’s Proposition 23, Who Are The Carbon Criminals?, Implementing California’s Global Warming Act, The Climate Money Trail, and The Climate Alarm Industry. In this post, the intent is to take a closer look at who was behind the annihilation of California’s Prop. 23 last November, a citizens initiative that would have suspended implementation of California’s “Global Warming Act,” tepidly backed by a handful of oil companies (most oil companies sat on the sidelines), that was outspent by three to one by members of what might be termed a green plutocracy. What killed Prop. 23 was money, in particular, individual donors who wrote checks for $1,000,000 or more. To view all of the major donors to the No on 23 campaign, ref. Ballotpedia. In this analysis, the photos and most of the biographical information is from Wikipedia. Who are these green plutocrats, what are their motives, and why are they well intentioned but misguided?
THE GREEN GODFATHERS
The Financier – Thomas Steyer, est. net worth $1.2 billion – is the founder and Co-Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management, LLC, managing $20 billion in capital for institutions and high net worth individuals. Since 1986, Steyer has been a partner and member of the Executive Committee at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based $8 billion private equity firm. Steyer is a leading Democratic activist and fundraiser. An early supporter of Hillary Clinton for President, Steyer became one of Barack Obama’s most prolific fundraisers. In 2010, Steyer and his wife, along with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, signed the Giving Pledge to donate half their fortune to charity.
Steyer’s contribution to defeat Prop. 23 – $5,000,000. To put this in perspective, Steyer’s estimated net worth is $1.2 billion. If someone who had paid off their home and managed to save several hundred thousand dollars in a 401K plan, i.e., if they had accumulated a net worth of $1.2 million, a donation of $5,000 would make the same minor dent in their fortune as the $5,000,000 made in Steyer’s. As for Steyer’s decision to donate half his fortune to charity – to digress – isn’t Steyer a Democrat? Doesn’t he want to support government spending? Don’t Democrats base much of their economic philosophy on higher taxes for the rich? When people like Tom Steyer, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and other unbelievably wealthy individuals transfer 50% of their assets to private non-profit charities of their choosing, the rest of us pay higher taxes (ref. The Billionaire Givers Club“). So what does Steyer hope to gain by spending Prop. 23’s proponents into the ground? First of all, he probably actually believes that anthropogenic CO2 causes catastrophic climate change, a misconception that is possibly forgivable. But Steyer also apparently labors under a less justifiable misconception, given his formal training and extensive experience in finance and economics, which is that by making energy cost more – along with water, land, and other basic resources; climate mitigation policies make everything cost more – this will somehow stimulate economic growth. One can only hope Mr. Steyer will reexamine both of these premises before he writes his next big check.
Before moving on, it is important to at least wonder how Steyer’s financial concerns will benefit from CO2 emissions trading schemes. If the capital investments funded through emissions trading schemes actually yielded positive economic and environmental benefits, such as massive nuclear powered desalination plants on the southern California coast, one might be tempted to embrace the noble lies that justify them. But cramming down anthropogenic CO2 emissions will do NOTHING to alleviate pollution. What they will do is fund costly alternative energy technologies that will be obsolete before they’re deployed. And the financial commissions on CO2 emissions trading will transfer billions into Wall Street. For nothing.
The Venture Capitalist – John Doerr, est. net worth $1.7 billion – is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in California’s Silicon Valley. Kleiner Perkins has made investing in “green” technology a major focus of their private equity funds, recently adding as partner the global warming crusader Al Gore. It has to be said that nothing is wrong with green technology – the idea of discovering methods to refine liquid fuel from biomass, either from a waste-stream or specialized crops is a terrific opportunity. That we may eventually harness electricity from the sun in a cost-effective manner is also a tantalizing possibility. Fascinating developments in water filtration for wastewater treatment or seawater desalination promise to eventually eliminate water scarcity. Advanced materials sciences promise to deliver building materials and manufactured goods that no longer require scarce resources or materials extracted in a ecologically disruptive manner. Research needs to continue along all of these vital fronts. But John Doerr, well-intentioned though he may be, has forgotten what made Silicon Valley great.
Doerr’s contribution to defeat Prop. 23 – $2,100,000. California’s Global Warming Act, which Prop. 23 would have derailed, would have done nothing to improve California’s environment. What it will do, however, is force consumers to consume products that cost far more than they should cost, in order to deliver billions of dollars of revenues to “green” technology companies whose products are not ready to compete against conventional solutions. There is no doubt that John Doerr actually believes that CO2 causes global warming – just watch his closing remarks at a recent TED Conference, where he has to fight off tears as he describes his commitment to deliver a better world to his children. Despite his sincerity, Mr. Doerr may wish to consider what happens when the entire world, starting with California, is impoverished because immature solar and impractical wind technologies are deployed in a futile and expensive attempt to satisfy global energy demand, instead of using abundant reserves of coal, gas and oil that can be developed and deployed at a fraction of the cost. Clean fossil fuel, emitting nothing but CO2, will create prosperity, which will enable the human population to stablize at 8.0 billion or less, instead of 10.0 billion or more. As the reserves of fossil fuel become somewhat more difficult to extract cost-effectively, the ability of ever-more-competitive alternatives to be voluntarily purchased by consumers is enhanced. There never has to be an energy shortage. Environmentalists, because they think CO2 is pollution, risk condemning the world to an unnecessary future of poverty, war, and overpopulation. Silicon Valley companies, and the venture capitalists who fund them, need to go back to earning money the old fashioned way, by building things that are better, faster, cheaper, and provide genuine solutions to genuine problems.
The Movie Mogul – James Cameron, est. net worth $650 million (ref. Celebrity Net Worth) – is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, with mega-hits to his credit including The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), True Lies (1994), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009). In total, Cameron’s directorial efforts have grossed approximately $2 billion in North America and $6 billion worldwide.
Cameron’s contribution to defeat Prop. 23 – $1,000,000. Cameron’s most recent blockbuster, Avatar, depicted a planet inhabited by sentient beings who lived in harmony with their environment, threatened by humans who wanted to extract the valuable mineral resources on the planet. This movie, which, like all of Cameron’s movies, is terrific entertainment, belies a contradiction that Mr. Cameron may wish to ponder: The amount of land destructively disrupted by mines and wells is considerably less than the amount of land destructively disrupted by biofuel plantations, solar farms, wind farms, and the many roads and transmission lines necessary to connect them to markets. James Cameron is a complex, creative, inventive man, with not only a fascination, but an aptitude for science and technology. He has been a strong advocate for a robust program of space exploration and development. Cameron may want to read the work of Burt Rutan, an aerospace pioneer, who has published a comprehensive study on what he terms the “Global Warming Science Fraud.” Cameron is also, presumably, someone who cares deeply about human rights. One has to wonder if he would still support subsidizing the high tech industry’s enabling of total surveillance of citizens via “smart meters” and GPS-based mileage trackers, etc., and the denial of aspiring nations to develop cheap conventional energy in order to more rapidly lift their citizens out of poverty, if he didn’t truly believe in the alleged science of catastrophic climate change caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
There is a version of environmentalism that is entirely legitimate – eliminating toxic discharges on land, or in the water or air, preserving wilderness and wildlife, and moving systematically towards sustainable consumption – that has been eclipsed completely by the goals of CO2 mitigation. There is also a school of economics, ignored by the goals of CO2 mitigation, that encourages policies to channel innovation and competition towards lowering the costs for energy, water and land in order to create prosperity. And there is a school of demographics that claims prosperity is the principle cause of negative population growth – perhaps the most compelling environmentalist goal of all. Do California’s Green Godfathers understand this? Do they care? At the least, they might stop attacking “deniers” as bad people, and reopen the debate as to whether or not CO2 mitigation yields any genuine benefit to the environment. Because on that answer hangs the fate of the world today.
What California’s Green Godfathers represent are interest groups – big finance, big technology, and the entertainment/media complex, who have the financial wherewithal to control the debate over climate change. These interest groups include individuals and coporations (from PG&E to GE) who can spend as much as they wish to advance the agenda of CO2 mitigation, and who in most cases stand to make billions, if not trillions, as a result of CO2 mitigation policies. The idea that the “deniers” hold a financial advantage, or have a hidden financial agenda that eclipses the agenda of the climate alarm interests is absolutely false. The defeat of California’s Prop. 23 is just one recent example of this reality.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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