Sheldon Whitehouse, Libertarians and Climate Change

Brian McNicoll
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Posted: Mar 07, 2016 10:53 AM
Sheldon Whitehouse, Libertarians and Climate Change

This time a year ago, there was talk conservatives and libertarians finally might be ready to truly join forces on an agenda to win the 2016 elections and govern as principled believers in limited government.

The libertarian wing of the Republican Party – which certainly doesn’t include all libertarians – had a respectable candidate for president in Rand Paul. Another candidate, Marco Rubio, seemed open to libertarian ideas on immigration, as indicated by his participation in the Gang of 8 proposal for immigration reform.

But the longer this campaign has gone on, the more the strains of the relationship have been revealed. The public didn’t take to Rand Paul any more than it did to his father – who was on the losing end of more 400-vote margins than anyone in the history of the House of Representatives.

Rubio has crawfished from his earlier immigration activism, and the two leaders on the Republican side now both advocate building a wall and deporting the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally now.

Tension between conservatives and libertarians on immigration is nothing new. But in the last year, that tension has spread to an area in which libertarians and conservatives traditionally have gotten along – energy and environment policy.

Both recognized the problems a hyperactive regulatory state could cause for the environment and the economy. They joined forces to fight regulatory overreach, spurious scientific claims by the green grant-seeking community and the crackpot conspiracy theories of the left.

But in recent months, the Niskanen Center, a libertarian group, has begun to make noise on the other side of the issue. Jay Faison, the North Carolina businessman who helps fund Niskanen, announced recently he will put up $175 million to try to forge a “conservative solution” to global warming.

Faison wants to use social media, an online advertising blitz, state and national digital advocacy efforts and a series of strategic grants through the ClearPath Foundation, which he created, to push the effort.

Just as there long have been advocates on the right for more open borders, there have always been some on the right who wanted to seek accommodation on this issue. They fear winding up on the wrong side of scientific consensus, and they see suburban votes in pressing for a green environment.

But Niskanen seems intent on taking this in a whole other direction. It has taken to bringing on former aides to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., among the most irresponsible members of Congress when it comes to climate rhetoric. Whitehouse has called for using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO statute – designed to prosecute drug and organized crime kingpins – to go after those who don’t buy his story on global warming.

Whitehouse has compared fossil fuel industries to the tobacco and lead paint industries in that the major players knew the harm their products caused but colluded to keep the dangers out of the public eye. He wants Salem witch trials for global warming skeptics and said indicting them under RICO would be no different than indictments handed down against tobacco executives a decade ago. Indictments that went nowhere.

The entire body of proof of this great conspiracy Whitehouse posits comes down to one sentence in one memo written in support of a PR campaign by the coal industry that did not even end up occurring. The sentence cited the need to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact.”

A whole cottage industry of enviro-crazies has sprung up around that quote – which was about PR strategy; not the kind of scientific dissembling found so often on the green left. Al Gore sites the quote. So does Naomi Oreskes, the “scientific historian” who carries so much water for the global warming cult. So does George Monbiot, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others. Robert Brulle, an academic from Pennsylvania, has promoted this yarn for years.

Beyond that, books have been written, accusations leveled, careers, funding and even liberty threatened. And now a sitting U.S. senator wants to throw people in prison for decades because they do not share his fantasies about imminent destruction from global warming.

All because of a supposed conspiracy of which most observers can find little evidence.

Russell Cook, who has followed closely the accusations of conspiracy, said they all go back to a global warming alarmist named Ross Gelbspan. Cook said there is “no independent corroboration of the accusation” of a conspiracy and that Gelbspan’s claims are “devoid of evidence proving industry money corrupted skeptic climate scientists to lie and knowingly fabricate false reports.”

It’s time for conservatives and libertarians to stand together – the conservatives to fight for pro-growth energy policies; libertarians to fight for the right of people to use their resources as they see fit.

It certainly is no time to bring in loonies from Camp Whitehouse and cut a deal. And anyone who tries to do so is missing the point and needlessly threatening one of Washington’s most productive and beneficial alliances.