California Scheming

California Scheming

Horner Op-Ed in Tech Central Station
April 25, 2002

The Washington Post first reported internal memos revealing that the vocal "global warming" movement and its 1997 Kyoto Protocol were fruit of a stealthy and extensive corporate lobbying campaign. The ringleader? Enron (surprise!). The memos disclosed that "green" groups were courted, funded and even created to spread the gospel that man is killing the planet by burning fossil fuels, a malady Enron offered to mitigate through its natural gas, windmill and solar ventures. Now similar schemes, cloaking issues in green to garner political influence and economic advantage, are arising in the market for fueling America's automobility. In California, which excluded coal from its electricity mix thus leading to its embarrassing, expensive, and dangerous summer of 2001, corporate interests are seeking to exploit green values to set a heightened, specific requirement for a particular gasoline additive, notwithstanding its well-documented environmental (and economic) downsides. Incredibly, California's legislature again is lending a helping hand. The Post's initial revelation of the corporate-funded Kyoto campaign involved a torrent of internal memos, including Enron's dictation of the need and content for an international treaty restricting energy use emissions. Among them was the 1996 internal Enron memo which included the sub-heading: "Making sure there is a treaty," detailing high-level meetings with Clinton administration officials. Oval Office meetings followed soon thereafter. Enron's chief "warming" salesman, John Palmisano, provided a damning post-Kyoto assessment in another internal memo, in which he wrote: "If implemented, this agreement will do more to promote Enron's business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring of the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States." The memo went on that the Kyoto deal was "exactly what I have been lobbying for," "it seems like we won," "again, we won," and "another victory for us". It closed: "This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!" Well, Enron, for obvious reasons doesn't have the clout it used to. But riding in the "global warming" wake it helped create, the ethanol lobby is riding on, led by the all-time political influence and corporate pork king, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Sniffing the potential of what wooed legislators and regulators can award them but actual competition never would provide, this special interest appears to have scored big in California. And it smacks of Enron's exposed campaign of fronting "green" groups to fuel its greedy agenda. In the waning hours of the recently concluded legislative session, the Assembly passed AB 1058. That bill required California's Air Resources Board to adopt regulations yielding the "maximum feasible" reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from passenger cars and trucks. CO2 is a naturally occurring gas. A small percentage (approximately .03) of the world's total is produced by releasing fossil-based energy through combustion. The principal component of human breath, CO2 is also consumed by plants to produce oxygen. As such it obviously has no ill human health effects as long as, like with any ambient gas, you don't try breathing it exclusively. It does, however, pose tremendous business opportunities for new, high cost boutique fuels. But because of their higher energy costs, which hit seniors and the poor particularly hard, related fuel interests appreciate environmental claims such as "catastrophic global warming" being accepted. Hence industry's stealth green campaigns. There is a lot of money to be made by making the world a poorer place through energy suppression policies. And that's where ethanol, the highly toxic gasoline additive derived from corn, comes into play.Ethanol has serious fuel performance, production, logistical, and price problems dwarfing even those of the demonized MTBE. According to a 1994 affidavit sworn and filed in federal litigation, then-California Secretary of Environment Don Strock said that by "[a]dding ethanol to gasoline … the State would suffer increases in ozone, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and a loss of carbon monoxide (CO) emission reduction benefits." No objective environmental assessment of ethanol supports its use. Yet, the California Senate is poised to consider the "climate" legislation desired by the ethanol lobby, currently rushing it through committees. Until cars requiring no hydrocarbons become "feasible" (quite possibly never), AB 1058 would seemingly require that gasoline contain a hefty dose of the "oxygenate" produced from corn. Why? Well, according to energy trade reporters in California, those wacky ethanol boys are up to their "ears" in this. As bad as the corporate scheming is the environmental groups that stand behind the effort. According to the Associated Press, a group calling itself Bluewater Network is this bill's green face. Who are they? Well, Bluewater is a self-described "project of the Earth Island Institute" (EII). And as some readers may recall, EII on its website dismissed overly mourning the 9/11 tragedies in this fashion: "The majority of the victims were, unfortunately, working for the Pentagon and various elements of multinational financial empires." Bet you never knew those people deserved it. It is time that legislators and regulators stop adopting fashionable eco-scare campaigns, until they at least learn what interests are actually behind each one. There is a good reason elected citizens, not corporate CEOs, make policy.