22 May 2008

Conspiracy to Emit....

...climate changing gases? This article discusses a lawsuit brought against energy companies not only for damages, but consipring (with political officials) to cover up the cause and extent of those damages:
the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.

[snip]

The energy industry’s ties to government, like the tobacco industry’s, have been unusually tight, and its lobbying efforts demonstrably effective. Philip Cooney, a liaison between the Bush administration and federal environmental agencies, edited uncertainty into reports on global warming by top government scientists from 2001 until 2005, when he resigned after examples of his changes were published by The New York Times. Before joining the White House, Cooney had worked for the American Petroleum Institute; a week after his departure, Exxon­Mobil announced he was joining the company. “In a sense, ExxonMobil walked right into the room of the science program,” says Rick Piltz, the federal official who blew the whistle on Cooney. A government memo obtained by Greenpeace outlines a State Department official’s talking points for a meeting with energy-company lobbyists: the president, the memo says, “rejected Kyoto, in part, based on input from you.”
This case is interesting as yet another example of using disinformation to manipulate public policy -- something that I covered in my dissertation, i.e.,
In 1923 -- one year after proclaiming Los Angeles had four times its water requirements -- Mulholland proposed that a Colorado River Aqueduct (CRA) bring water from the Colorado River to "parched" Southern California... Los Angeles's decision to go for water was politically astute. If LA wanted to get power, it needed a dam. Although money was not available for dams, it was available for water.
Those of you familiar with the plot in Chinatown will recall the "artificial shortage" that allows the local water mafia to use tax dollars to build an aqueduct to their private land in the San Fernando Valley. The real story was not about water, but (electrical) power, i.e., Los Angeles claimed a water shortage to get the Hoover Dam built so that LA could buy the electricity. Thus, we find that two of the largest engineering projects in the Southwest (Hoover Dam and the CRA) were built for power, not water. We are still suffering the effects of that decision: Organizations and agreements made "for water" were poorly designed because the real goal was power.

Bottom Line: Political manipulation of information to serve ulterior motives has a long and shameful history. I see no reason why energy companies now (as in the 1920s) would not deceive the public over the implications of actions -- pretending to "serve" the public while ripping it off.

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