Yesterday, Sammy Roth of the LA Times published a shocking story of extortion and terrorism in the service of fossil fuels and fighting to stop climate action. Also yesterday, a new group of conservatives who supposedly care about climate action launched.
It’s hard to say which appears more insidious.
On its face, Roth’s story of how pro-gas advocate Eric Hofmann threatened the lives of his own workers and public officials is probably worse. Back in March, Hoffman sent a letter to the San Luis Obispo officials warning that if a scheduled vote went ahead to encourage new buildings to be all-electric and not use gas appliances, he would bus in “hundreds and hundreds of pissed off people potentially adding to this pandemic.” He made it crystal clear that he would endanger the lives of protestors: “I can assure you there will be no social distancing in place.”
As a result, the vote, which was sure to pass, was instead postponed, and has not yet been rescheduled. And maybe we’re sticklers for definitions, but if threatening to expose both protestors and police and government officials to a deadly virus in the midst of a pandemic with a goal of preventing elected officials from voting on a policy you don’t like isn’t terrorism, we don’t know what is. (Though Oregon’s GOP might have ideas…)
But at least that’s obvious. No one wants to get hit in the face by a sledgehammer, but at least you can see it coming, as opposed to someone who smiles and embraces you before quietly slipping the knife into your back.
For that, we turn suspiciously to the Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions, which launched yesterday.
Now, to be perfectly clear: we very much hope that this organization is truly dedicated to advocating for real solutions to climate change that align with conservative principles. And we encourage everyone to reserve judgement until we hear more than just their opening quotes. As far as first impressions go, however, C3 Solutions’ launch page doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence.
On the personnel level, it’s co-founded by Drew Bond and John Hart, both of whom have had long careers as GOP(-adjacent) operatives. Bond as Chief of Staff at the Koch’s Heritage Foundation, and Hart as communications director for Senator Tom Coburn. But Bond also apparently runs a modular solar energy company, and Hart has a sustainable farm in Maryland, which is apparently what’s motivating them to take up this cause.
Its Advisory Board, meanwhile, includes notable denier Rick Santorum, three people from other fossil-fuel-funded front groups AEI, Hoover and Heritage, a sustainable farmer, and more people named Justin than people of color.
As for what they’re saying, well, it appears to be more of the same “innovation” mirage that handwaves about ‘the market,’ but rejects any specific market-based policies. The group explicitly rejects “government regulation and higher, economically-counterproductive taxes.” That, along with their embrace of nuclear power, are the closest anything on their website ever gets to a concrete policy reference.
Even more concerning, though, is a quote from Hart that “progressive solutions like the Green New Deal would lead to economic deforestation…”
If your reaction to “economic deforestation” is “that’s not a thing,” you are correct.
While it may seem like a silly new figure of speech, it’s actually much more than that. Remember that in “How Propaganda Works,” professor Jason Stanely explained that it’s a process of flipping an idea -- its words or phrases -- on its head, inverting the meaning of an ideal into something completely contrary to its original meaning. We’ve seen the utility industry try and do it to solar, and others in the fossil fuel industry do it to minorities.
By co-opting rhetoric like this, propagandists seek to weaken their opposition's ideals by emulating their language to undermine their efforts. Once a term like “deforestation” can be used to describe any negative economic outcome, it no longer stands as a symbol of trees being leveled in the wholesale destruction of an entire ecosystems, but instead means the loss of income a few executives face if trees are left standing, the word becomes meaningless.
Whether or not Hart is doing it on purpose, the use of language like “economic deforestation” acts as a sophisticated propaganda strategy which hurts the very efforts they’re claiming to help.
Whether or not strategically undermining environmentalism writ large is better or worse than the terrorism of extorting people with COVID-19 to prevent climate action is a call we’ll leave up to you.
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