The renegade Bush-Cheney co-presidency seems to hold most laws in total contempt. An obvious exception is Offutt’s Law: “The more important it is for you to know something, the less likely that information will be volunteered to you.” Take a look at the Regime’s policy on global warming. They warned Dr. James Hansen, the chief climate expert for NASA, to stop providing the public the results of his studies on global warming. They even ordered him to allow prior reviews of his planned lectures, papers, or interviews. They don’t want you and me to know what he has learned.
Quite the opposite of Offutt’s Law was the announcement in late February by Environmental Defense of the winners of its first Global Warming Globie Awards. These awards roughly coincided with the Academy Awards ceremony, but Earth Day on April 22 might have been a more appropriate time. I am a contributor to Environmental Defense, and I voted for each of the following recipients. Everyone needs to know who cares about our planet and who doesn’t.
For Best Performance in the Corporate World, the winner was USCAP, the U. S. Climate Action Partnership. Ten Fortune 500 corporations and four national environmental organizations joined to call for Congress to enact immediate, effective global warming legislation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The membership includes such heavyweights as Alcoa, BP America, Inc., Caterpillar, Inc., DuPont, General Electric, Environmental Defense, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. They are all aware that volunteerism by itself will not work.
The Murphy Oil Corporation should consider becoming the next corporate member of USCAP. It has long exhibited excellent citizenship. Its recent “El Dorado Promise” of college tuition for our high school graduates has set quite a standard. Also, Murphy’s considerable funding for the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (SASO) has allowed El Dorado, under the superb leadership of conductor Kermit Poling, to have an orchestra that everyone can be proud of. A good time for Murphy Oil to announce its joining USCAP might be at the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on Earth Day, which should be spectacular.
ExxonMobil was the overwhelming “winner” for Worst Performance by a Corporation or Corporate Official. For decades, this oil giant has used “junk science” to promote an element of doubt in the minds of the people about the causes of global warming – much the same way the tobacco industry worked for years to create doubt about the causes of lung cancer even though its own studies confirmed the obvious.
Except for the Clinton-Gore Era, ExxonMobil has had its allies in the White House for a quarter of a century. James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s anti-environmental secretary of interior, issued numerous oil leases on federal lands at bargain basement prices. From 2001 to 2006, Watt’s protégé, GaleNorton, did the same thing – but on an even larger scale! The first President Bush embarrassed us by snubbing the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and the second Bush did the same in 2005 in Montreal. Their message was clear: The U.S. was not going to help the rest of the world prevent global warming.
The dubious honor of receiving the award for Most Egregious (outrageously bad) Contribution to Public Ignorance and Denial went to Sen. James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma. He infamously described global warming as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humankind.” Incredibly, this devotee of Offutt’s Law had been the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee! With the new Democratic Majority, the good news is that Barbara Boxer of California is now the chairperson. Finally, hearings will be held on how to increase conservation, develop alternate energy sources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
James Dobson, of the so-called Focus on the Family, and other religious political extremists, like Gary Bauer, are also major contributors to public ignorance on global warming. They recently tried to persuade Richard Cizik, the policy director of the National Association of Evangelicals, to stop harping on the moral issue of what we are doing to the planet and all its life forms: They fear that trying to prevent global warming will distract attention from trying to legislate against women’s rights and gay rights.
Greg Nichols, the Democratic mayor of Seattle, won the award for Best Performance by a State or Local Official for spearheading the “U. S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement.” Mayors representing 60 million Americans and 418 towns and cities have accepted the challenge to reduce carbon dioxide pollution 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. Mayor Mike Dumas and our city council should study the possibility of adding El Dorado to the list. That may add yet another enticement for people to move here.
It’s even more important to take action on the local levels because of the open hostility against the environment displayed by Bush-Cheney. We all remember how Mr. Bush lied during a 2000 debate with Al Gore by saying he wanted mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide emissions. He trashed that promise as soon as the Supreme Court proclaimed him emperor. The Clinton Administration had been prosecuting the worst 75 coal-burning power plants that were violating the Clean Air Act. Who can forget that after receiving contributions of $100 million dollars from that industry, as soon as he took office President Bush ordered those lawsuits to be dropped?
For the Best Film, Documentary, or Website Focusing on Global Warming, the landslide winner was, of course, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. When this extremely important movie was first released, our president was asked if he planned to see it. Mr. Bush quickly responded, “Doubt it.” It was necessary that Mr. Bush be able to continue to claim ignorance of 30 years’ research and evidence confirming that humankind is contributing to the warming of the planet. Otherwise, his negligence could neither be defended nor forgiven. Hopefully, our teachers are showing the DVD to our students so that our youths will never be able to use the Germans’ excuse for the holocaust, “If only we had known….”
After six years of stubborn and irresponsible denial, the Bush Regime recently issued two encouraging statements. Dirk Kempthorne, the relatively new Secretary of the Interior, has recommended polar bears being listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. When asked why, he risked saying it was “because of global warming.” He defied the Regime’s long-standing position, and he wasn’t fired! Secondly, in his 2007 State of the Union Address, even our benighted President made a passing reference to “the serious challenge of global climate change.” He still didn’t appear to care much about it, but he did at long last admit the problem exists. Even in the darkest and most incompetent presidential administration this country has ever seen, these are glimmers of hope for this up-coming Earth Day.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published March 31, 2007,
in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.