Tom Borelli

The silver lining in the cloud of high energy prices is the growing public support for domestic development of natural resources. Opinion polls, including data from California, show Americans are increasingly inclined to support drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In an effort to increase the domestic supply of oil and also to pressure Congressional Democrats not to extend the offshore ban, which expires September 30, on July 14 President Bush eliminated the executive order preventing offshore drilling.

Not surprisingly, Democratic congressional leaders and their special interest allies oppose adding new areas for development. Responding to the president’s initiative, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) charged, “Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil.” A representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council asserted that “Americans deserve policies that free us from fossil fuels and give us better choices that will bring down our energy costs, make our air cleaner, and help solve global warming."

Al Gore, sensing the political shift towards fossil fuels, generated national headlines last week when he called for all of the nation’s electricity to be produced by renewable energy sources in 10 years. “The idea that we can drill our way out of this is just so absurd,” Gore told the annual meeting of the yearly gathering of left-wing activists, Netroots Nation.

It’s tragic that key corporate giants are on the wrong side of the energy debate. Rather than recognize that our current economy is dependent on fossil fuels, too many CEOs have been seduced by the notion that corporate responsibility is defined by Al Gore’s view of climate science.

“Green” CEOs naively believed that they could navigate the social and political terrain and benefit financially by advocating for federal control of greenhouse gas emissions. Over 20 corporations participated in the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) – a lobbying coalition of industry and environmental special interest groups that sought cap-and-trade legislation to address global warming. The USCAP lobbying effort produced Lieberman-Warner – a cap-and-trade bill that, had it been adopted, would have increased energy prices, reduced economic growth.

But many of the USCAP members were unhappy with details of the legislation, so by the time Lieberman-Warner approached the Senate floor for a vote, business support for climate legislation had waned. Only six USCAP corporate members ultimately supported the bill. USCAP membership had promised its corporate members a “seat at the table,” that is, a role in the development of climate change policy, but when every climate policy on that table raised energy prices and hurt the bottom line, to many CEOs the seat must suddenly have seemed less appealing.

Some CEOs may have learned their lesson and will steer clear of coalitions like USCAP in the future, but not all will.

General Electric is among the latter. GE stubbornly adheres to climate change alarmism because it has placed a huge financial bet on carbon-free energy sources, such as wind, that are threatened by domestic oil production. Climate change fears and tight oil supplies are the driving force for renewable energy. Increasing the supply of oil will reduce its price, making wind power even less competitive, even with generous government subsidies.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt, already in hot water for poor stock performance, can’t afford to lose his gamble on renewable energy.

Faced with this threat, Immelt is shrewdly using his NBC news empire to promote climate change fears and wind turbines as a sound energy alternative.

Al Gore was the featured guest on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on July 20. For almost the entire program, Gore spoke about climate change, bashed oil exploration and touted his idea to generate the country’s electricity needs from carbon-free sources, including wind turbines. Gore did support the use of coal, but only if it was associated with carbon capture and sequestration – another GE technology.

GE’s cable business channel CNBC has also promoted wind energy in its news programming. T. Boone Pickens was given air time on “Squawk Box,” CNBC’s early morning news program, to present his energy plan. A major thrust of the Pickens plan involves a significant increase in the use of natural gas and wind – two areas in which Pickens has major investments. Indeed, Pickens is building the world’s largest wind farm in Texas, and his company recently ordered about $2 billion worth of GE turbines.

While Pickens has said he is for all forms of domestic energy, including oil exploration, the imagery in his TV ad campaign – burning oil fields contrasting with wind turbines on green fields – clearly denigrates oil. During the commercial, Pickens says “I'm T. Boone Pickens. I've been an oil man my whole life, but this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of. And I have a plan.”

The scheming of Immelt and Gore undermine our national interest. For economic and national security reasons Americans desperately need natural resource development in our own backyard.


Tom Borelli

Tom Borelli, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow with FreedomWorks.

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