Tuned in politicos have been delighting in the Hindenburg-esque descent of hyper partisan Clinton-loyalist Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget. But another tense confirmation battle has been less commented upon. Congresswoman Deb Haaland was nominated by President Biden to serve as Secretary for the Interior. Haaland is a staunch environmentalist Green New Dealer and putting her in charge of that department would be bad news for the resource sector.
Haaland.... has taken radically anti-fossil-fuel positions throughout her political career. In 2016, prior to being elected to Congress, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to cook food for the protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She stayed in the camps for four days that September. In May 2019, [she] told The Guardian, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public land.”
As you can imagine, Republican senators haven't been enthusiastic about Haaland's nomination. During her confirmation hearing, she had a tense confrontation with senators John Barrasso and Bill Cassidy -- both of whom are doctors -- over a social media post in which she asserted that "Republicans don't believe in science." After hammering her about Biden's Keystone XL termination, Cassidy pointed to a State Department scientific survey which held that "building the pipeline lowers greenhouse gas emissions,” and voiced his concern that, under Haaland, the Interior department would “be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel [and not] guided by science.”
In any event, if Haaland's nomination goes the way of Tanden's, maybe Biden will start thinking more strategically about how to get through appointments with the senate we actually have. No more partisan bomb throwers perhaps. Maybe he could even cut out the middle man and just ask Manchin to make the appointment for him. Worse things could happen.
The Texas Blame Game
The finger-pointing is well under way in Texas. And understandably so, as the situation on the ground is such a disaster. Millions of people are without power and heat, water pipes are bursting, and thus far thirty deaths have been blamed on the weather and the attendant outages. In a recent interview, Gov. Greg Abbott argued that Green energy is a big part of the problem:
This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Texas is blessed with multiple sources of energy such as natural gas and nuclear as well as solar and wind. Our wind and our solar got shut down and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid. And that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the face of the Green New Deal, took to Twitter to hit back, saying that the governor has it exactly backwards:
The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal. Weak on sweeping next-gen public infrastructure investments, little focus on equity so communities are left behind, climate deniers in leadership so they don’t long prep for disaster. We need to help people now. Long-term we must realize these are the consequences of inaction.
Which sounds vaguely inspiring, but it doesn't rebut Abbott's charge. He claims that the failure of so-called renewable energy, upon which Texas's power grid relies, led to the whole system being overwhelmed. Ocasio-Cortez replied that it'd be nice if Texas had updated its infrastructure. That's probably true, but that doesn't mean it is "quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal." Why not update the existing infrastructure, reinforcing it against extreme weather, rather than replacing everything -- and with a less reliable power source -- as the GND mandates?
In response to the environmentalist fury at the suggestion that 'renewables' bear any responsibility for this disaster, the Wall Street Journal has a patient walk through of the part that they actually did play.
Last week wind generation plunged as demand surged. Fossil-fuel generation increased and covered the supply gap. Thus between the mornings of Feb. 7 and Feb. 11, wind as a share of the state’s electricity fell to 8 percent from 42 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Gas-fired plants produced 43,800 MW of power Sunday night and coal plants chipped in 10,800 MW—about two to three times what they usually generate at their peak on any given winter day—after wind power had largely vanished. In other words, gas and coal plants held up in the frosty conditions far better than wind turbines did.
By Monday the 15th, temperatures had dropped so low that conventional power plants (aided, yes, by infrastructure failures) began struggling to cover the surging demand. On Tuesday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas put out a statement saying it "appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system." The WSJ observes that wind's apologists "are citing this statement as exoneration. But note he used the word “today.” Most wind power had already dropped offline last week.... Gas power nearly made up for the shortfall in wind, though it wasn’t enough to cover surging demand."
So, to the Greenies working overtime to assign blame for the disaster in Texas, maybe take a look in the mirror.
The Green Covid 'Relief' Bill
On Sunday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer announced that they had come to an agreement on the details of a second Covid-19 relief package. There had been a lot of public wrangling over what the bill should look like, with senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calling for $1,200 payments to Americans to compensate them for the economic disruption of the government-imposed lockdowns, a provision which President Trump supported but which was ultimately thwarted by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).
There was debate about whether businesses should be granted immunity from Covid-related lawsuits (to which the Democrats objected), and whether state and local governments adversely effected by the pandemic should be bailed out (to which the Republicans objected). In the end, after a number of compromises, senators were left with a neat, tidy bill which they could all be happy with.
Or at least, that was what leadership expected them to say. In fact, the text of the bill was more than 5,000 pages long, and wasn't released until two hours before it was to be voted on. For once, AOC is right:
This is why Congress needs time to actually read this package before voting on it.
Members of Congress have not read this bill. It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours.
Not reading it didn't stop Congress from passing the $2.3 trillion legislation by huge margins on Monday. To echo AOC's leader on another massive bill, I guess they had to pass it for us to find out what's in it.
The huge pandemic relief and spending bill includes billions of dollars to promote clean energy such as wind and solar power while sharply reducing over time the use of potent coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators.... The energy and climate provisions, supported by lawmakers from both parties, were hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade. “Republicans and Democrats are working together to protect the environment through innovation,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The sprawling legislation also extends tax credits for solar and wind power that are a key part of President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to generate 100 percent “clean electricity” by 2035. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware... said the bill would cut pollution from school buses, air conditioners, refrigerators and more, while creating thousands of American jobs and helping “save our planet from the climate crisis.″ “Make no mistake,″ he said, the new legislation “will soon be some of the most significant climate solutions to pass out of Congress to date.″
For all of the hand wringing over this being the second largest bill in American history, as well as attempts by Johnson and others to trim down benefits to individual Americans, Republicans and Democrats conspired to shower taxpayer dollars on questionable and controversial green priorities which have nothing to do with the virus, without saying a word about it in public.
It's almost as if the pandemic is just an excuse to do whatever they already wanted to do to begin with.
Green Pen, Green Phone
On Wednesday I mentioned that Democrats were disappointed by the failure of their projected blue wave to materialize. Their congressional majority has been whittled down to almost nothing, the best they can hope for in the Senate is a draw, and in the presidential race, the decisive rejection of Donald Trump they were hoping for didn't happen.
What's more, less radical (or more pragmatic) office holders, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), have been arguing that the Green New Deal, along with other extremist proposals like Medicare for All and Defunding the Police, are the reason they fared so poorly.
But, of course, backing off on such proposals, which might make the party more attractive to actual voters, would alienate the leftist donor class. So what is the solution? Executive orders of course! Faced with a similarly divided government, Barack Obama proudly proclaimed that his administration was
[N]ot just going to be waiting for legislation.... I've got a pen and I've got a phone… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.
In various liberal publications right now, the details of a Biden administration's own climate-related "pen and phone" strategy are being hammered out.
To take just one example, in the Los Angeles Times, Anna M. Phillips has a list of five climate actions Biden can take immediately, "without Congress’ help." These include imposing California's onerous auto emissions standards nationwide; halting the issuance of new permits for fracking and oil drilling on federal land (a position Biden stumbled his way onto over the course of his campaign), as well as imposing new regulations on oil and gas companies operating on existing federal permits (decidedly not something he campaigned on); declaring a climate national emergency; and creating a "climate club" of countries who mutually agree to reduce carbon emission through carbon taxation.
On this last point, a club would have two uses. First, if all nations involved impose carbon taxes on themselves, none can reap the economic rewards of being a cheaper and easier place to live or do business. And second, each one can mutually agree to punish any other country that attempts to get a leg up on the others, "through trade measures such as tariffs" in Phillips' words. It is worth noting that leftists have already started making lists of countries they want to see punished in this way -- see thisVox article entitled "How Joe Biden could make Brazil his first “climate outlaw.”
By the way, if you're surprised to see Brazil as the highest climate priority, rather than mega-polluter China -- the world's second largest economy -- you'll be doubly so to read through article and see China mentioned as a potential ally against Brazil. This is as good a detail as any to demonstrate that this isn't really about the climate, it's about power.
So, while AOC's legislative Green New Deal might be D.O.A. in Congress, the Executive Green New Deal is rarin' to go. We will all suffer the consequences.
À la lanterne!
Maybe I’ve got the date wrong, but although the Biden presidency doesn’t actually start for another ten weeks on Inauguration Day, January the 20th, its more progressive supporters are already ordering guillotines and tumbrils for the following day. That’s a metaphor, of course, even though the noisy Portland wing of the quiet revolution did erect a guillotine in the suburbs and even guillotined a teddy bear (“Teddy” being the Mayor’s name) on it while in Seattle the social justice warrior crowd wrote “Guillotine Jenny” on the walls (Jenny being the name of Seattle’s Mayor.)
If that were the extent of the outrages, we might put it down to high spirits (though the Seattle and Portland mobs never seemed especially jolly, and they left real victims of their street theater injured and hospitalized after the curtain fell). But the theme of purging and punishing the pre-November criminals of “the Trump regime” (the Trump administration to the rest of us) is being taken up by outwardly more respectable people.
On the way to meet Le Rasoir National.
And it can’t be explained solely by the joy of “liberation” that has seemingly gripped the mass media and the political class since the networks proclaimed Biden president. It started well before the election campaign. Back in the summer a group of about 100 Democrats and Republican Never-Trumpers from politics, the media, and academia met over several days “to conduct simulations of the 2020 presidential election . . . out of concern that the Trump administration may seek to manipulate the results.” As I argued in National Review, it was largely an exercise in promoting the fear that Trump would unconstitutionally seize power while actually laying out a scenario as to how the Democrats could do so. So it was both an exercise in Freudian projection and a leftist wet dream.
But it became more sinister in an appendix when it discussed how a victorious Left in a Biden administration would deal with the remnants of the Trump administration after taking power. The gathering didn’t reach a decision on which actions to take against Trump family members or senior administration officials—understandably so since many of those sitting around the table might themselves be vulnerable to similar political reprisals one day.
What, though, about the broader Trump movement and the Republican party? Here the Transition Integrity Project was shockingly candid in that oddly impersonal language the Left likes to use when proposing its own crimes:
More broadly, there needs to be a robust, intentional, and specific strategy to challenge the white supremacist and extremist networks that enabled Trump’s rise to power and were in turn enabled by Trump’s administration. This base will not automatically demobilize if and when Trump leaves office, and it is inimical to the kind of pluralist democracy the founders intended.
“ . . .will not automatically demobilize.” So if the Trump movement won’t automatically demobilize, what then? Isn’t that obvious? It will have to be demobilized by a “robust, intentional, and specific strategy to challenge” what the Left has declared are its “white supremacist and extremist networks.” After all, it’s what “the founders intended.”
That was before the election, and it was written in the appendix to a document that few people were likely to see and which was designed to attack an administration rather than to urge it on to greater efforts. Since the election the sound has been turned up, and the message is clearer and less subtle. Here are a couple of examples in recent days:
“We have to burn down the Republican Party, we have to level them, because if there are survivors, they will do this again”
Media pundit & Biden supporter Jennifer Rubin on MSNBC
There’s even now a new website, titled the Trump Accountability Project, which has issued a statement of principles for holding Trump veterans to account as follows:
Those who took a paycheck from the Trump Administration should not profit from their efforts to tear our democracy apart. The world should never forget those who, when faced with a decision, chose to put their money, their time, and their reputations behind separating children from their families, encouraging racism and anti-Semitism, and negligently causing the unnecessary loss of life and economic devastation from our country's failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's slightly embarrassing, I suppose, that the very first example of Trump perfidy that the statement selects—putting children in cages—has already been exposed on Twitter (with the evidence of photographs) as a program launched and implemented by the Obama administration. And the group’s website suggests that it’s little more as yet than a bright idea. But it’s already spreading across the internet like Covid-19; it’s guaranteed to get generous funding via all the groups advertising it; and to judge from the Twitter responses to Rubin, Ocasio-Cortez, and others, there’s a large audience of Robespierres and Madame Defarges out there at the foot of the guillotine.
Le Glaive de la Liberté awaits.
My suspicion is that a new Southern Poverty Law Center has been launched with all that means for the criminalization of political differences, the destruction of innocent people’s reputations, the promotion of guilt by association . . . this time with the Republican party, and the making of large sums of money from the sins of calumny and detraction. All that’s in doubt is whether the Lincoln Project will be able to clamber aboard the bandwagon and, if it does, whether it will have to sit at the back of it.
Well, the Republican party can take good care of itself, and probably so can Donald Trump, though he won’t have the protective phalanx of media and Big Tech protesters that have surrounded Joe and Hunter Biden since their scandals broke. What should worry moderate liberals and Democrats, however, is that the crimes for which Trump veterans will be supposedly held accountable don’t seem to have been passed into law by Congress or state legislatures as yet. They cover a great many issues that until now have been treated as matters of legitimate political, scientific, and moral debate, including such rarefied offenses as being skeptical about climate change.
That’s a crime that would imprison a great many dedicated scientific researchers as well as destroying the big oil companies and maybe entire industries without any idea of how to keep the world warm or air-conditioned in the perhaps long interval before someone makes a series of vital technical breakthroughs. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has already notified Shell in a tweet that she will hold the oil company accountable for the production and consumption of fossil fuels in the last few decades.
I’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet 😇 https://t.co/ekj1Va1Cp0
The awkward fact is that the oil companies were going about their business with the support and legal protection of both American political parties. Moreover, governments of both parties not only gave subsidies to fossil fuel companies but also lived on their immoral earnings through taxation. Any prosecution of members of these criminal governments would have to include people like President Obama and the Clinton family.
No legal system worth the name allows selective prosecution on political grounds, and that should protect the more obvious civil rights of former government officials such as not being fined or imprisoned for non-existent offences. But we have recently seen selective law enforcement in Seattle and Portland, and we can’t rule out that this might spread upwards from the police to the courts, especially since the Trump accountability vigilantes intend to go after federal judges appointed by the current President too.
Legal prosecutions may not be needed, however, if the sans culottes are content with punishing the Trump veterans—as some say they are—by dismissing them from jobs, removing their ability to use social media, preventing their access to college or scholarships, making the expression of their political opinions unlawful by expanding the range of the legally unsayable, removing certain scientific disciplines (e.g., biology, military research, police education) from the availability of government finance, and in general by creating a new “unprotected class” in law and bureaucratic practice.
The first amendment, if it survives, would prevent government doing many of these things, but again, as we have seen recently, corporations, colleges, the media and Big Tech have done them all the same. And the chances of expanding civil rights legislation to cover Trumpian political opinions doesn’t seem likely to be a high priority for the presumptive Biden-Harris administration.
Yes, this is a worst case scenario, I concede. But the nature of revolutions is that they go faster and further than anyone expects at the start—and especially than the moderate revolutionaries and their “enablers” expect. Their revolutionary doctrines spread from the narrow field of politics to almost every category of work and social life. And the classes of those suspected of being enemies of the revolution spread too until they include more and more of the revolutionaries themselves -- shortly after which the revolution either collapses or becomes an undisguised despotism.
So spend a hour or two on Twitter and then tell me: where's the bright side?
Voting in a W.A.S.P. nest
I rolled out of bed before six this morning, threw on some clothes, and hopped into the car to go and vote. I was hoping to beat the lines and then get home quickly for my first cup of coffee.
Well, no such luck. Despite the near freezing weather, the line in my small New England town was around the block by the time I got there, Baby Boomers as far as the eye could see. I guess I should have waited for that coffee.
I shouldn't be surprised, of course. I hang my hat in W.A.S.P. country these days, and while the prevailing wisdom (and social science data) holds that Mainline Protestant affiliation is in steep decline, the truth of the matter is that the theological character of those once prominent sects has actually just shifted in a worldly direction, such that woke virtue signaling now occupies the space once held by creeds and confessions.
Cancelling and shame storming modern reprobates has replaced more traditional W.A.S.P. practices, but in the age of Donald Trump, voting has become the biggest virtue signal of all -- provided, of course, that you're voting that Orange Man Bad. Consequently, this line -- full of people in designer jeans, with the slightest hint of the dear old Ivy League in their accents, and air of never having a single thought that isn't preapproved by the New York Times editorial board -- had the atmosphere of a religious rite. The earliest protestants reduced the number of sacraments from seven to three, but it seems that their distant progeny have reduced them even further, to one: voting.
And it was livelier than a June wedding. People were taking selfies, wearing sweaters that said "Vote!" One (gray-haired) woman greeted some friends and, referring to the number of people, exclaimed, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen!" This despite the fact that we don't live in a swing state, and the allocation of our seven electoral votes is a foregone conclusion.
As the line inched forward, I couldn't help but feel that this all reeked of privilege. Many conservatives, me included, guffawed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's recent claim that long lines were a sign of voter suppression, even when they're "happening in a blue state." AOC's New York is, of course, just terribly governed, as the pandemic and this election season should make plain to everyone.
But how many regular working people -- plumbers, electricians, construction workers, even cops and firemen -- who have good reason to fear the further empowerment of the left in this country, looked at those lines and said to themselves "I don't have time for this"?
Well, hopefully they make it through in the end. If not in my neck of the woods, at least in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and everywhere else where their votes really count and their livelihoods are under assault. It'd be nice to see the smug liberals I saw this morning mugged by reality, just like four years ago.
'Resilient Recovery' Really Isn't
Back in June I wrote about a new Ottawa-based task force called Resilient Recovery, whose objective is to recommend "sustainable" government action to counteract the economic consequences of the pandemic and lockdowns. What made this group newsworthy was that it counted among its members former Justin Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts, who'd recently returned to the world of highly remunerative enviro-activism after falling on his sword to mitigate the electoral consequences of Trudeau's inappropriate actions during the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Butts, of course, still has the PM's ear, which makes him an attractive target for any green group with big dreams and a few bucks to spend.
After what were no doubt two grueling months of slaving over hot policy proposals in the balmy Ontario summer, Resilient Recovery have released their preliminary report and, well, its so predictable that it could have been published alongside the press release announcing their formation.
The No. 1 proposal... suggests the federal government spend over $27 billion on retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient.... Other recommendations include moving more quickly to build widescale use and accessibility of zero-emission vehicles and to support the retention and attraction of clean vehicle manufacturers in Canada. The group also wants to see the federal government accelerate investments in the renewable energy sectors; spend more on restoring and conserving natural infrastructure and invest in ways to make working for and creating green businesses easier and more sustainable.
In other words: same old same old.
Task force member Andy Chisholm explains in the piece linked above that their "ultimate goal is to ensure Canada is focusing on the future and the needs of the country in the years and decades to come if and when it starts to roll out billions of dollars in economic stimulus once the health emergency spending phase is over." They recommend $50 billion expenditures, on top of the quarter of a trillion in new debt Canada has already taken on over the course of the pandemic, in response to which Canada's credit rating was downgraded, and probably not for the last time.
The liberal reply is that the added debt will go towards creating jobs at a time when Canada is seeing higher unemployment rates than any other G7 country, and fair enough -- that's a noble goal in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, however manufactured. Still, to invest (borrowed money!) so heavily in an unproductive industry in an already precarious economy is, in a word, nuts.
A sane response would be to capitalize on Canada's abundant natural resources by lowering the regulatory burden on the oil and gas industry at a time when it has been dealt a difficult blow. Prices are down, but the sector is still standing, and it would have more money to pump into Canada's economy if it weren't spending so much dealing with federal red tape. Moreover, it wouldn't cost tax-payers a penny.
I bet that never even occurred to them.
The GOP's Green New Deal?
There's an old joke to the effect that Republicans are just Democrats who want their policies implemented slowly. This has certainly been the case throughout most of my life, though I'm starting to wonder if it's still accurate. That is, it increasingly seems to me that Republicans have closed the gap, and desire all sorts of revolutions on the same timeline as Democrats.
You get a sense of this from the outcomes of and reactions to the recent slate of Supreme Court decisions coming out these past few weeks. Not just the fact that the suddenly-reliable-liberal John Roberts pulled a novel constitutional principle out of his hat, namely that an executive order cannot be undone by another executive order ( at least if it deals with illegal immigration) unless he satisfies the Supreme Court that his motives are pure, and that -- under the largely imaginary doctrine of "stare decisis" -- a case that he dissented from just four years ago, established a strong enough precedent that it can never be overturned. Nor just the precedent-setting decision in Bostock authored by Trump's prized Scalia replacement, Neil Gorsuch, which legally redefined the word "sex" to include meanings which would never have occurred to the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (It isn't for nothing that Justice Alito said, in his dissent, “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.”)
More than those examples is the relief they seemed to have occasioned among the Republican elites like Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, the latter of whom responded to Bostock by saying "It's the law of the land. And it.... probably negates Congress's necessity for acting." Oh good.
Another counter-example: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his support for a new conservative climate plan. Though it claims to be an attempt to move the climate conversation beyond Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, its proposals read like the GND for squares. It eschews "debilitating taxes or punitive mandates," but calls for investment in new technologies which will reduce carbon emissions, including currently not-super-effective carbon-capture technology. Most notably, it calls for the U.S. to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, putting the GOP leadership on exactly the same timeline as the Democrats.
This is clearly designed to win millennials over to the GOP, but something tells me that even the Harry Potter generation aren't gullible enough to fall for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without mandating anyone to do anything. "Bring on the cow-fart bans," they'll say.
So maybe that joke has outlived its usefulness. Then again, the left are currentlytearingdownstatues and ex post facto cancelling people for decades-old politically incorrect statements, which seems to indicate that Democrats desire for change has sped up from "Right Now" to "Yesterday," so perhaps it still stands.
Michael Moore Strikes Back
We here at The Pipeline have been covering Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs' new film Planet of the Humansfairlyextensivelylately for the simple reason that we believe it to be a very important film, both because it is extremely informative on the topic of the "green energy" fraud, but also because it has blown open a major rift within the environmentalist movement. So much so that those on the other side of that rift are either ignoring the documentary entirely (as far as I can see, neither the BBC, the CBC, nor Australia's ABC have published a word on it -- kind of shocking that the state broadcasters of the English speaking world are ignoring such a big story) or, as Michael Walsh pointed out yesterday, are calling on YouTube to take it down for spreading misinformation (and, presumably, for giving aid and comfort to the enemy).
To rebut those claims, Moore and Gibbs have been on a bit of a media tour, and one stop on that tour was this lengthy interview with The Hill TV:
It is an illuminating interview, and I think it bears out my contention that, far from turning their back on environmentalism, Moore and Gibbs are willing to tear down that movement as it currently exists so that they can rebuild it as something somewhat leaner (in that it will have less cash), but definitely a lot meaner. Creative Destruction, you might call it.
First of all, Moore takes up the question of their motivation. He and Gibbs haven't turned on the movement - "We are lifelong environmentalists!" They've been in since the "first Earth Day!" Their main concern is "this evil economic system that we have [which] is based on greed," and the tendency of certain environmentalists to "[hop] into bed with corporate America." From his perspective, this gives the corporations a kind of moral authority that they shouldn't have, and allows them to treat the movement like a revenue stream:
[Y]ou've seen this happen over the last decade, how they've all gone Green, they all tout the big Green thing, and they saw basically that enough of us believed in Green, because we want this planet to live, and they saw, '[W]ow, there's the supply and demand right there -- the demand is for Green, lets give them Green, and lets make a lot of money off of it.
So, for Moore:
The failure of the movement has been to address this serious flaw, which is: We are not gonna save the planet or ourselves by allowing Wall Street, hedge funds, corporate America, to be anywhere near us, as we try to fix this.
The film is simply their way of breaking that to the true believers.
To my way of thinking, it's Gibbs who really gives voice to their ambitions:
You know, this is so much bigger than climate change. You know, we've eaten 90% of the fish in the ocean. Half of the wildlife have disappeared in the last 40 years, primarily because of expanding logging and agriculture. Fossil fuels is tragic, but there is a lot more to us damaging the planet than just climate change.... I think [that] looking at ourselves as a single species that's got this addiction to growth, my theory is that infinite growth on a finite planet is called suicide, and that's what we have to address.
I mentioned the Malthusian drift of the documentary in my review, and Gibbs responds to that critique:
We never use the word population control, we're not in favor of population control. We merely point out, there was a UN study that came out one or two years ago, that just points out that the doubling of our human numbers and the quadrupling of our human economy is the prime driver of extinction on this planet. Is the UN favoring population control? No!
Many scientists are pointing out the obvious, but you don't read about that so much in the press anymore, since it's all only focused on climate change.
Funny how, while disclaiming population control, he argues that scientists are merely "pointing out the obvious," but doesn't himself spell out that "obvious" here. When you go to the documentary itself, you find what his scientists are actually "pointing out." Here's one representative sample: "Without seeing some sort of major die off in population, there's no turning back."
Back to the interview, Gibbs mitigates our need to read between the lines further when he says:
[R]ight now we're learning that the three times when climate change and fossil fuel usage went down were during this pandemic, in the days after 9/11, and during the Great Recession. Now, we're just raising the question, we've got to come to terms with this expansion. We don't have the answers in the film, but it is our growth, and especially our growth and consumption, driven by capitalism, that's driving this beast.
Ah yes, those three greatest moments of our civilization. Just as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did the other day, Gibbs is admitting here that their project is built on human suffering. This is what we call "Making the sub-text, text."
I've been seeing conservatives on Twitter and elsewhere over the past week who are elated about this movie, and in the short term it might work to our benefit. But don't be fooled -- Moore and Gibbs are not on our side. Their vision is very dark, and they themselves are very persuasive.
Michael Moore Learns an Inconvenient Truth
The enemy of my enemy is... well, in the case of Michael Moore, still my enemy. That's because of the destruction he's wrought on the mental processes of so many members of my generation with his Riefenstahl-esque documentaries which convinced them that they'd have been better off growing up in Castro's Cuba than in suburban New York. That said, Moore is a worthy foe. He's extremely sharp, and he doesn't go in for easy short term victories. He's playing the long game.
The most recent example is a documentary he's produced along with his longtime collaborator Jeff Gibbs, who serves as director and narrator. The film is called Planet of the Humans, and was released on YouTube earlier this week just in time for Earth Day. It is not, however, your typical Earth Day fare, alternately happy-clappy and weepy-waily. Planet of the Humans digs deep down into the supposed Green Energy Revolution which promises to liberate us from our present fossil fuel regime. What it definitively demonstrates, however, is that Green Energy is a fraud (and one which has made a lot of people very rich) -- and, worse, that the revolution is never going to come.
Gibbs begins by talking about his long standing tree-hugger bona fides. As a young man, he moved to the woods of Michigan and built a log cabin, which he wired for solar power. But as the years went by, and as he continued to learn about the ins and outs of the green energy industry, he got increasingly skeptical and cynical.
Early on in the documentary Gibbs shows us a solar power fair, which boasts that it's powered entirely by solar panels. A rock band is playing on stage under electric lights, everyone is having a good time, all is well. Until, that is, it begins to rain. Gibbs follows staff members working frantically backstage, and when he asks what they're doing, they explain that they are hooking everything up to a biodiesel generator. When that doesn't produce enough juice, they simply plug in to the regular old local power grid.
That basic set-up starts to become pretty familiar. Gibbs attends a launch event for the Chevy Volt electric car, and gets the enthusiastic employees to explain that, well, yes, actually all of the electricity powering the cars and the plant comes from fossil fuels. He's invited to see the plant's solar panel farm, the size of a football field, only to learn that it gets roughly 8 percent efficiency and generates only enough energy to power about ten homes. He speaks to several green energy enthusiasts who admit that the intermittency of solar and wind requires renewables to be backed up with idling fossil fuel power plants, which (as Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Philip Moeller explains on camera) "maybe can be dialed down during the day, and dialed up when demand starts rising." When asked if this effects the efficiency of the plants, Moeller responds "Oh yeah, they don't like to be dialed up and down." Their hope is that we will one day be able to bridge that gap with batteries, but Gibbs points out that not only is that a still-remote possibility, but that the batteries themselves come from mined products degrade in a very few years.
Gibbs also takes us to Lowell Mountain in Vermont, where land is being cleared for an enormous wind farm. He goes hiking with a group of concerned citizens who show him the devastated mountain. One local says:
I'm looking at the ground [here] and thinking 'this is not the legacy I want to leave to my kids.' When I was a kid, we'd go hiking in these woods, we'd be able to drink from the water down the hill here, and now you have to question that.
Aside from intermittent wind energy, what do they get from all of this? Three full-time jobs and about twenty years of use before those turbines need to be replaced. "Has anybody considered that this is mountaintop removal for wind instead of coal?" he asks. Which is to say, so-called renewable energy requires fossil fuels -- often used wastefully -- to exist. Ozzie Zehner, author of the book Green Illusions, sums up this theme of the documentary perfectly when he says
You use more fossil fuels to do this than you're getting a [green] benefit from it. You would've been better off [just] burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend.
In the background roll enthusiastic news clips and interviews featuring environmentalist heroes like Barack Obama, Al Gore, Michael Bloomberg, Jeremy Grantham, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Bill McKibben. Every one of them talks about "shovel ready" projects, jobs in all fifty states, "free energy forever," and the potential for prosperity for all -- while also saving the planet. At one point Arnold Schwarzenegger appears on screen introducing the world's largest solar energy plant, and says "There's some people that look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness! I see miles and miles of a gold mine."
Surely these luminaries must know they're wildly overpromising at best, and at worst simply lying. Why do they do it? Gibbs answers that, for the most part, they're in it for the money and the power.
The only reason we've been force fed the story 'Climate change + Renewables = We're Saved' is because billionaires, bankers, and corporations profit from it.
Many environmentalist philanthropists -- including several of those mentioned above like Grantham and Branson -- invest heavily in supposed alternate energy sources like biofuel and biomass, the usage of which allows businesses and universities to claim that they are powered by "100 percent renewable energy." As Mike Schellenberger points out,
In reality, scientists have for over a decade raised the alarm about biomass and biofuels causing rain forest destruction around the world including Brazil and Malaysia, and have documented that when one takes into account their landscape impacts, the fuels produce significantly higher carbon emissions than oil and gas and may produce more than coal.
At the same time, they use the power of celebrity to lobby governments and shame politicians into enacting biofuel mandates and other regulations which just so happen to benefit their stock portfolio.
Gibbs also examines the potential financial incentives for perhaps the most influential environmentalist of the past 20 years, former vice president Al Gore. Gore was the co-founder of an investment firm called Generation Investment Management, which was an early promoter of biomass and biofuels. Gibbs wonders aloud whether Gore's Oscar-winning climate documentary An Inconvenient Truth was "just about climate change, or was it about something else?" That is, was it about promoting his investments.
If it was, it worked out for him. Those investments helped Gore launch CurrentTV, which he ended up selling for 100 million dollars to Al Jazeera, the state broadcaster of Qatar, a nation whose wealth is largely a product of fossil fuels. The documentary gives us several clips of Gore not even being slightly embarrassed by this hypocrisy. “You couldn’t find, for your business, a more sustainable [buyer]?” he's asked by Daily Show host Jon Stewart. “What is not sustainable about it?” Gore replies.
I mentioned at the outset that Michael Moore is playing a long game, and here's what I meant. Moore and Gibbs know that "green energy" is a boondoggle, and that soon enough it is going to fall apart. Planet of the Humans is their attempt to get out in front of inconvenient truth, so that environmentalism won't be entirely discredited when their fantasy world collapses. Though they will probably be raked over the coals by the usual suspects (one imagines that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be happy about this documentary, which implicitly tears the heart out of the Green New Deal), Moore and Gibbs remain climate-change true believers. We are told over and over again in the course of this documentary that humans are destroying the planet. What sets them apart from other environmentalists is that they don't believe that there is a technological solution. "Is it possible for machines made from industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?" Gibbs asks.
No, their solution is rather darker. They believe that we need to massively diminish the amount of energy we are using, and that, while personal responsibility has a role in that, the very presence of humanity is the main obstacle to their goal. Planet of the Humans regurgitates discredited Malthusian and Ehrlichian ideas which hold that we are experiencing a population bomb and that ultimately the planet's major underlying problem is, quite simply: us.
That said, I found Planet of the Humans to be an extremely affecting and informative documentary. It isn't difficult to feel Gibbs' pain as he confronts the fact that green energy "wasn't what it seemed." And, very likely, the hard hitting nature of this documentary is going to cost Moore and Gibbs more than a few friends. I found myself feeling both appreciation for their honesty and apprehension for what their suggestions portend. At the same time, as I alluded to above, several of my high school classmates were corrupted by Moore's early 21st century documentaries, such as Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. I shudder to think what Planet of the Humans -- with its pessimism about both green energy and human life itself -- will do to the next generation of environmentalists.