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Theo Spencer’s Blog

Climate Denial's Biggest Hypocrites?

Theo Spencer

Posted February 12, 2009 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming, The Media and the Environment

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If you spent most of your time swanning around on the New York socialite circuit ... got featured on MSNBC.com for having one of the most extravagent beachfront homes among the world's "filthy rich" ... and smiled for cameras all the time looking like someone who grew up idolizing Thurston Howell III ...

Would you then have the gall to go into Virginia and spend $140,000 on a TV ad campaign that points the finger of blame at wealthy environmentalists (!?) as the problem when it comes to global warming?  Here's the text of the ad:

"Hey there, I'm Carlton, the wealthy eco-hypocrite. I inherited my money and attended fancy schools. I own three homes and five cars, but always talk with my rich friends about saving the planet. And I want Congress to spend billions on programs in the name of global warming and green energy. Even if it causes massive unemployment, higher energy costs, and digs people like you even deeper into the recession. Who knows, maybe I'll even make money off of it!"

With all due respect to the Ritz cracker–eating Carlton, the real hypocrite here is ad underwriter David Koch, head of Koch Industries, the mega-energy company that bankrolled a right-wing advocacy group known as "Americans for Prosperity."    

Faithful Switchboard readers may recall that as we reported last year:

"The group isn't just funded by an industry CEO, it was planted by one. David Koch, Executive Vice-President of family-founded multi-national conglomerate Koch Industries, is a founder of AFP and a financial supporter through the family-controlled and company-financed Claude R. Lambe Foundation.  Koch Industries, Inc. and its sister company, Koch Holdings, LLC, own a group of companies invested in refineries, chemicals, minerals and so on.

The Koch companies have an atrocious record of sloppy operations. According to the EPA, Koch Industries is responsible for over 300 oil spills in the US and has leaked three million gallons of crude oil into fisheries and drinking waters.  They were fined a record $35 million dollars and an additional $8 million in Minnesota for discharging into streams.  In Texas - a state not usually known for rigid enforcement of environmental laws - the company was held liable for allowing large amounts of carcinogenic benzene to leak from a Texas refinery.

One example of Koch's sloppy operations led to a tragic loss of life. In 1996, a rusty Koch pipeline leaked flammable butane near a Texas residential neighborhood. Warned by the smell of gas, two teenagers drove their truck toward the nearest payphone to call for help, but they never made it.  Sparks from their truck ignited the gas cloud and the two burned alive. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that 'the probable cause of this accident was the failure of Koch to adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion' and the ineffectiveness of Koch's program to educate local residents about how to respond during a pipeline leak." 

If that suggests to you that David Koch isn't about to let a few rules, the truth, compassion for humankind or  other "minor nuisances" get in his way, you've got it right.   The latest AFP ads clearly suggest that global warming science is a scam, which is an extremist, know-nothing position that Americans For Prosperity has always strived to avoid taking before.  For example, AFP campaigners against climate legislation were quoted last summer as follows:

Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette:   "Annie Patanaude, the organization's communications director, said the group does not disagree with the science behind global warming, but that people should look at the policies behind bills such as the Lieberman-Warner bill."

WSBTV - South Bend, Indiana:   "... the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Prosperity doesn't want to discuss the science behind climate change, communications director Annie Patnaude said. It simply wants people to take a more critical look at policies and regulations being developed to address climate change.  'We're not global warming deniers by any means,' she said prior to a rally at St. Patrick's County Park in South Bend. 'What we think is we need to have a real debate about the issue and that includes a real look at the costs of some of the policies being promoted.'"

So much for looking reasonable!   With the new ads, it appears AFP has decided that the time for pretending to accept the scientific reality of climate change has now passed.  But hypocrisy is still very much in fashion.

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Comments

Marc GuntherFeb 13 2009 03:06 PM

This is a great post, Theo, you are putting your old reporting skills to work. It's absurd that a billionaire would try to tap into class resentment.

Having said that, I'm not sure it's fair to make this personal.Does a 1996 accident really demonstrate that David Koch lacks "compassion for humankind"?

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