Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, December 04, 2006

Senatorial Bullying On Global Warming

Sen. Jay Rockefeller comes from a state that knows a bit about carbon, West Virginia. He would be a man without great personal wealth were it not for his family's decidedly carbon-unneutral past.

Sen. Olympia Snow comes from a state that would benefit from a cycle of warmer global temperatures. The growing season would increase, the tourist season would be longer, the people healthier.

So it is with hypocrisy on the part of Rockefeller and with a certain befuddlement on the part of Snowe that these two Senators have written a threatening letter to Exxon Mobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson, attempting to bully Exxon Mobil into silence on the global warming debate.

Did I say debate? Before shaming myself for forgetting that the debate is over, let's ask ourselves: Why are two senators threatening Exxon Mobil unless there is, in fact, a debate -- and they don't like how it's going?

Read the letter here (you may need to be a WSJ subscriber).

Exxon Mobil's crime is that it supports education on science, including the funding of research by groups that are not willing to jump haphazardly onto the Global Warming doomsaying soapbox. That offends Rockefeller and Snowe mightily:
We are convinced that Exxon Mobil's longstanding support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics, and those skeptics' access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across all facets of its diplomacy. Obviously, other factors complicate our foreign policy. However, we are persuaded that the climate change denial strategy carried out by and for Exxon Mobil has helped foster the perception that the United States is insensitive to a matter of great urgency for all of mankind, and has thus damaged the stature of our nation internationally…
Wait a coal-fired minute! Are they really saying that a "small cadre" of folks "damaged the stature of our nation internationally?" Well, it would only seem that could happen if that small cadre had something reasonable to say. After all, there are lots of small cadres running around making all sorts of claims that aren't damaging our stature, so why signal out this cadre? Unless you're out to protect your big cadre, perhaps.

The letter doesn't quite contain an open threat, but it does contain this passage:
ExxonMobil and its partners in denial have manufactured controversy, sown doubt, and impeded progress with strategies all-too reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry for so many years.
We know what the American government had done to embarass and harm the tobacco industry, through hearings, research, legislation and taxes. Rockefeller and Snowe are on the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee and Rockefeller is on the Joint Taxation Committee, so that's not an idle reference.

The letter was sent in October and Exxon Mobil didn't cower and grovel. WSJ reports that the company told the senators it will continue its funding practices because "there is value in the debate."

So maybe the senators were just blowing hot air.

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