In the classic 2001 Simpsons episode “New Kids on the Blecch,” Bart and friends find fame as a boy band- until they find out their hit song “Yvan eht Nioj” was actually part of a propaganda campaign to get kids to join the Navy. Why go through the trouble of subliminal messaging, Lisa asks, when they run recruitment ads all the time? “It’s a three pronged attack,” Lt. Smash explains, of “subliminal, liminal and superliminal” advertising, then demonstrating the latter by leaning out the window and yelling “HEY YOU, JOIN THE NAVY!” at Lenny and Carl.
That, sadly, captures both the sophistication and the subtlety of the climate propaganda over at RealClearEnergy these days. There’s the subliminal advertising for the fossil fuel industry that looks like regular energy investor expertise, liminal advertising for the fossil fuel industry that looks like it’s regular opinion journalism, and superliminal advertising of just letting the fossil fuel industry’s spokespeople yell directly at the audience about how their high prices are Washington’s fault.
The subliminal take is by Brian Gitt, whose byline describes as “an energy entrepreneur, investor, and writer” who has “been pursuing truth in energy for over two decades.” So perhaps his piece on the “energy myths” that are “triggering a new dark age in Europe” is on the level, no reason to suspect someone who claims to pursue truth of being untruthful, right?
His six myths, though, suggest something’s afoot as half attack wind and solar as “unreliable” and expensive, and praise "natural gas" for polluting less than coal plants. And sure enough, click on over to his personal website and find that his “investment thesis is that nuclear and natural gas will be the biggest winners in the energy sector over the next 20 years.”
So the guy supposedly debunking myths literally has an investment portfolio staked on renewables failing to meet energy demand. (He also happens to be a huge fan of and event attender-with Alex “didn’t get canceled for racism” Epstein, Michael “wokeism and climate concern are a religion” Shellenberger, and billionaire rape-denying racist-right backer and apartied-approver Peter “I might want human blood to stay young forever” Theil, in case you’re the type to judge one by the company they keep, and also find bloodsucking racist ghouls to be a bit distasteful.)
The liminal take came from Rupert Darwall, who ranted about “woke climate investors” and shamelessly used the Ukraine war as an excuse to lobby for fossil fuel deregulation under the guise of security, oh-so-subtly sending the latest talking-point message that fossil fuels provide “energy security,” despite the fact that relying on Russia’s fossil fuels is exactly the cause of the problem Darwall pretends to try and address.
Darwall’s byline notes he’s a “senior fellow at RealClearFoundation,” an acknowledgement that some oh-so-generous philanthropist is funding his anti-ESG work. (And we know RealClear has been a big recipient of Koch money.)
And then there’s the superliminal advertisement, in which Dave Schryver and John Olshefski of the American Public Gas Association lean out the proverbial window to yell that it’s Washington’s fault gas prices are so high!
Yes, representatives of the gas industry paint themselves and utilities as helpless victims of unregulated markets where price spikes hurt consumers, and not the ones pushing for unregulated markets and profiting mightily off those price spikes.
Apparently “during recent meetings with Congressional staff,” the methane lobby pressed “the need for action to protect gas utilities and their customers from unfair price hikes” and called for “timely investigations of market activity” to understand why they made so very much money off of struggling consumers during times of vulnerability (winter freeze) and unrest (war in Ukraine).
In other words, to end with a meme twenty years fresher than the one we opened with, these two jokers drove a hot dog car into our climate, popped out in hot dog costumes, and published a piece in RealClear yelling: We’re all trying to find the guy who did this!