THE BLOG
03/28/2016 02:41 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2017

More Nonsense from the Fossil Fuel Industry

Dan Møller via Getty Images

It's hard to know where to begin with the nonsense from the fossil fuel industry's front men. For raising questions about potentially fraudulent and illegal activity by fossil energy producers, David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Andrew M. Grossman of the industry's PR network took to the Wall Street Journal opinions page to label me a Spanish Inquisitor. The authors are both frequent Republican witnesses in congressional hearings, with seemingly vast expertise. Between them, they have testified on separation of powers, international treaties, bankruptcy law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and detention of enemy combatants. But this week it's climate change--and I'm the modern-day Torquemada.

Let's start with the fact they refuse to acknowledge that the Department of Justice brought and won a civil racketeering case against Big Tobacco based on conduct that matches closely what academic reports are saying about the climate denial operation they defend. Many of the studies, from individual academics at multiple universities and even from the Union of Concerned Scientists, volunteer that tobacco comparison.

Then let's move on to their complaint that calls to hold the industry accountable for spreading potentially fraudulent misinformation amounts to stifling free speech rights. Never mind the fact that fraud is not protected by the First Amendment, and fraud is the gravamen of a civil RICO complaint. The writers' whipped-up froth about the First Amendment overlooks that little fact.

Then let's consider the "science" they are defending, which virtually never manages to turn up in peer-reviewed scientific journals, but instead usually inhabits blogs, FOX News, and congressional hearings, and frequently can be traced back to industry money (just like the tobacco scheme). One researcher was paid over a million dollars, and vetted his "science" with his industry funders.

The larger point is that the Republican Party is torn between its fossil fuel funders and their denial apparatus on the one hand, and reality and science on the other. Sadly, the Party has chosen to follow the money. But from NASA and the Navy to every national lab and major state university, the verdict is clear about carbon pollution and climate change, and people know it--particularly young people. This sickening kowtowing to fossil fuel denial may help explain the recent news that young voters choose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump 52-19, consistent with the view in polls among young Republican voters (age 35 and under) that a climate-denying politician is "ignorant," "out of touch" or "crazy."

The fossil fuel industry's denial apparatus is in an anxious state that it may be exposed, but sunlight into the vile machine cannot come too soon. As Pope Francis has reminded us, Nature does not forgive.