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The moral decay of the American Petroleum Institute


The American Petroleum Institute (API) just got caught astroturfing.   The biggest fossil fuel trade organization now wants to stage events to undermine the climate bill.


They want to further prop up carbon fuel usage prior to the climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December.   API President Jack Gerard sent out a memo to their members - oil, gas and coal companies - that was so blatant that one member leaked it to Greenpeace. API said they will provide API the up-front resources to contract “a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups.”  

API is acting parallel to the work of American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) who forged letters to Congress and has started teabagger efforts to disrupt Town Hall meetings   We do not know how long or how deep this goes or whether they share the services of the DC lobbying firm Bonner & Associates.   After a long and effective history of astroturfing, Bonner has been caught falsifying lobbying letters using the name and stationery of others - in this case the NAACP.

Not content to just deliver energy products, the fossil fuel industry has tasked trade organizations and PR firms with funding deceptive scams to fraudulently lobby against the pending energy bill.

These domestic oil, gas and coal companies deserve blame, having delivered most of the CO2 emissions responsible for our catastrophic global warming.   For decades they have intentionally cultivated scientific ignorance and now the latest fraudulent public relations deception demonstrates a treasonous disregard for the future of all humans.


The carbon fuel industry has been lying, cheating, defrauding Congress. deceitfully manipulating public opinion - and now appears to be in an active conspiracy.  Now ethical discussions seriously address reducing green house gas emissions.   The carbon fuel industry - as represented by API - is morally bankrupt.   Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, should resign immediately.

The carbon fuel industry continues to poison our future, yet seeks to increase our carbon consumption, and worse - now runs an AstroTurf scam to oppose energy reform.   At no other time in history has one industry so blatantly and dangerously traded the future of all humans for a short term commercial gain of a few.   This is worse than any industrial mass murder, this is global genocide.   All the globe will suffer for their actions, including the fossil fuel industry leaders themselves - making their action both evil and stupid.

By their actions, they have lost their right to do any future business.


The only course now is for all carbon fuel industries to be immediately nationalized.   Henceforth, carbon fuels should be used only for the manufacture and deployment of non-polluting energy systems.   Any other use of carbon fuels should be severely regulated, restricted and heavily taxed.   Only this scientifically ruthless action can address the pressing emergency need.

For decades, the fossil fuel industry has run a deceptive campaign of disinformation and delay.   The problem is far, far worse because of their contemptible duplicity, misinformation and secret manipulation.   The fossil fuel industry, as represented by API has lost the privilege of doing business-as-usual.   They have corrupted our will and stolen the future of the planet.

With worsening climate changes looming - despite CO2 curbs, API should listen to its own members and stop promoting a carbon-caused doom.

Addendum 9-2010 This is the subject of serious ethical discussion.

Let science set global warming policy

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Science defines global warming so well, and science can tell us how to best mitigate the problem

What is the optimal global warming public policy?

Any sane and sober scientist can tell you what to do about global warming: immediately stop carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.   That’s the optimal choice.   Anything else is sub-optimal.  You may define optimal any way you like.

We need to minimize CO2 emissions - the lowest minimum is zero - or in a better world it is less than zero - where we actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere - to sequester it.  Our policy must act to move CO2 levels down fast.   The fact that it takes about 40 years to begin to see the climate effects from a change in CO2 emissions, gives the problem a special dimension.   So minimize CO2 today and see the levels begin to fall in 40 years.   And tragically, the last 40 years of CO2 emissions have been the heaviest ever.   Even with our best effort, things will be a mess until about 2050.

And the second parameter best describes when we should act: right now is the perfect time.   Any other time is less than perfect.  The further we drift from immediately, the further we move from good.  The longer we wait, the worse the consequences.   So right now is perfectly good, to act later is less so, and much later is catastrophically bad.   It is troubling that we don’t really know much about the interim choices in-between the best time of now and the worst time -of way-off or never.   Those in-between areas are the messy crap-shoot areas, the zones of confusion and bickering.  Delay and procrastination makes things worse.   Except for the doom of total inaction - no one can know the physical consequences of acting at any politically convenient time in the future.   If we spend a lot of time arguing about the best time between now and never to take action, then we are moving farther away from our goal.

“Avoiding dangerous climate change” is impossible - dangerous climate change is already here. The question is, can we avoid catastrophic climate change?    — David King, UK Chief Scientist, 2007

So atmospheric sciences calls upon us to act fast, act completely.   Now we just need a science-driven policy designed to respect these rules and optimize our actions.  Of course, because it will be difficult and painful, humans will not like to face the tasks ahead.   So after squirming uncomfortably for a while, you may realize what must happen.

We should immediately minimize, control, and stop carbon dioxide emissions and shut down CO2 sources.  Most CO2 comes from the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels.   That would be coal, oil, gas, alcohol and even the combusion from firewood, trash and wild fires. These are all carbon based fuels that release carbon dioxide.   Because it combusts with oxygen, every pound of carbon fuel will make more carbon dioxide than the beginning carbon fuel before combustion. For instance a pound of gasoline makes almost 3 pounds of CO2. Each fuel is figured differently, but for all the carbon fuels, expect more carbon dioxide - multiply the weight by 2 or 3.   So a trainload of coal, gives us 3 trainloads of carbon dioxide.

Only when we make a huge and complex effort can we stop emitting CO2.   Governments, as they move to protect citizens and secure our posterity, can act with force or with taxation.  They can use taxes to change behavior - like taxing alcohol or taxing tobacco heavily.   Rarely do governments tax so severely as to force a business out of existence.   Or governments can use force to smash and destroy bad things - like busting meth labs, moonshine stills or foreign poppy fields.

That’s one way to handle the CO2 emitters - just blow them all up.   The problem is just about everybody uses them and enjoys the cheap energy of hydrocarbon fuels.  Not just cars, much of our electricity for homes and industry is made from burning coal or oil. The energy is good, the carbon source is not.   We are getting skilled at translating one form of energy into another.   The usual process starts with heat to make steam which drives turbine generators that makes electricity.   Burning coal is a big source of heat for making electricity; nuclear energy makes steam for the same reason but without CO2.   But wind and solar make electricity directly from a solar panel or generator.   There are plenty of clean energy sources.

So we have to act quickly, very quickly - the optimal time is right now - to change rapidly to non-carbon fuel sources - called clean energy: wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, tidal, etc.   We need to make energy without making carbon dioxide.   Most important is that we have to do away with many of the carbon fuels that we use today - oil, gas and coal.   They should all go away - completely, and the sooner the better.

OK.   From a science prospective, public policy - defining what governments should do - all this is pretty straightforward.   If we want to design a process that drives change as soon as possible then governments can use force, or they can tax.   Later they can spend the money from the taxes in smart ways like health insurance and building railroads.

Here is a simple - two part proposal that nicely fits the science requirements:

Make clean energy sources
All carbon based fuels should be tax free when used for the explicit purpose of manufacturing and establishing clean fuel systems… this might include wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, tidal and the supporting industries for them.   Build clean energy as soon as possible.

Eliminate dirty energy sources
ALL other, ANY other carbon fuels usage should be taxed, heavily taxed, and taxed so heavily that it puts carbon fuel companies out of existence in the fastest way possible.   Eliminate CO2 emissions immediately and completely.

That’s it.   All done.

That’s the simple solution.  I know it is hard to enact.   People can do it themselves or can ask governments to help make it happen.

Other solutions such as allowing partial emissions or permitting gradual change over a few decades while gambling with carbon credits - all of those options are wild cards, hard to control, hard to evaluate, require too much time, are easily derailed and have poor chances of success.  We are stepping into areas with no historical precedent.   People will clamor for less-than-optimal change, but anything less is dangerously unknown, unproven and unaccepted by science.

As we wrangle with the colossal changes necessary to adapt and mitigate, the best way to boldly step into the future is armed with optimal solutions.

Governments can know this too.

Richard Pauli
Feb 2009