Taking Out the Junk: Interview with Steven Milloy

Posted: May 09, 2008 6:52 PM
Taking Out the Junk: Interview with Steven Milloy

When Al Gore and his global warming alarmists take over, one of the first citizens they'll slap in a prison and charge with crimes against the (green) state will be Steven J. Milloy, founder and publisher of the popular Web site JunkScience.com.

For 12 years, JunkScience.com has worked to debunk the bad science that has been used to advance the harmful or merely silly political and social agendas of environmentalists that have led to things such as bans on DDT and incandescent light bulbs.

Milloy is a self-described libertarian whose other unforgivable crimes include working for Fox News Channel and associating with think tanks that accept oil and/or tobacco money. He visited Pittsburgh Thursday to appear at an Alcoa stockholders meeting. I talked to him by cell phone as he drove back to his home near Washington, D.C.

Q: Why did you drive all the way to Pittsburgh to go to an Alcoa stockholders meeting?

A: I am the portfolio manager of the Free Enterprise Action Fund. We’re a libertarian/conservative activist fund and we own shares in Alcoa. We’re concerned that by lobbying for global warming regulation, the Alcoa CEO (Alain Belda) will not only help drive the U.S. economy into a ditch but will help drive Alcoa into a ditch.

Q: How were you received?

A: I spoke at the meeting. I expressed our concerns. I asked the CEO for a commitment that the board of directors would take a hard look at this through their due diligence -- and I got no response.

Q: What is it specifically that Alcoa is doing that you are concerned about?

A: Alcoa belongs to something called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which is a group of companies and environmental groups in Washington, D.C., that are lobbying for global climate regulation. All the parties that belong to the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) have different interests, so you never know if they are going to be able to achieve their goal. But nevertheless they are lobbying for regulation that every economist in the world says is going to harm the United States and the global economy. The Europeans have global warming regulation they can’t live by without killing their economy. It’s going to accomplish nothing for the environment, because China and India, the up-and-coming greenhouse-gas emitters, have vowed not to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions -- as if that mattered anyway. Alcoa is risking its business by lobbying for regulation that will accomplish nothing. We can’t see how this regulation will help Alcoa. Its last quarter’s earnings were hurt by higher energy costs and environmental regulation -- both of which you are going to have in spades with global-warming regulation.

Q: Are there other famous companies adopting similar kinds of environmental standards -- voluntarily adopting them -- that will cost their bottom lines?

A: Well, no one’s really adopting them. Alcoa takes credit for reducing its greenhouse emissions, but what I think they’ve really done is ship jobs offshore, where none of that stuff really matters.

Q: Is there anything wrong about a private corporation choosing to spend its money on going green -- even if it’s foolish?

A: Management has a fiduciary duty to shareholders. If shareholders want management to be foolish, well, then that’s just the way it is. The problem here is that it is not Alcoa just being foolish on its own. Alcoa is lobbying for laws that will make everybody be foolish. If Alcoa wanted to be foolish by itself, that’s fine; but they’re trying to make everybody be foolish.

Q: What is JunkScience.com and what’s its purpose?

A: Junk Science is a Web site I started about 12 years ago and the purpose is to spotlight bad science that is being used to advance special agendas -- like activist agendas, environmental agendas, regulators, politicians, trial lawyers, companies that are using bad science to sell products to consumers.

Q: What’s the most important example of junk science or bad science that needs to be exposed because of the danger it poses to our economy or our freedoms?

A: Well, the most important junk science issue right now is global warming because it’s going to affect our freedoms and it’s going to affect our economy. It’s all based on the unproven notion that human emissions of carbon dioxide are affecting global climate. As a matter of fact, just last week some U.N. scientists said, “You know, there’s really no global warming that’s going to be occurring for the next 10 years, because Mother Nature is driving the climate.” Of course, the big secret here is that Mother Nature always drives the climate, no matter what humans are doing. There’s much at risk. Global warming regulation means higher energy costs, and it means reduced freedom. Remember that Al Gore wants you to take colder showers, dry your clothes outside, turn the heat down, turn the air-conditioning down, drive less -- they want to impact your lifestyle. Now Congress has passed a law saying you’ve got to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs, which a lot of people don’t like -- they contain mercury; they’re more expensive; they don’t provide any environmental improvement. Yet incandescent light bulbs are going to be phased out in four years. They are reducing consumer choice.

Q: What are your politics and how do they tie in with your junk-science debunking efforts?

A: Politically, I am a libertarian. I believe in individual freedom and limited government. I’m against junk science because junk science reduces individual freedom and increases the role of government in our lives. It’s pretty straightforward. No one complains about government using sound science to expand its role and to actually produce benefits. But junk science, which doesn’t produce any benefits, just results in higher costs and reduced freedom. We object to that.

Q: Is there a smaller example of junk science that is harmful?

A: Global warming is obviously the up-and-coming issue. The biggest and probably the most lethal form of junk science so far has been the DDT controversy. Tens of millions of people in malaria regions have died needlessly because the U.S. -- based on junk science -- banned DDT in 1972 and the ban was promptly exported around the world. It wasn’t until just two years ago or so that the World Health Organization rolled back its ban on DDT -- or at least said they did. DDT use really hasn’t expanded all that much and millions continue to die. That’s the environmentalists’ handiwork and that’s just the warm-up for what’s going to happen with global warming.

Q: You are a pretty controversial guy. Your attacks on DDT bans, and your pooh-poohing of second-hand smoke studies, and your mocking of global warming have been strongly challenged. You’ve accused of having conflicts of interest because you receive funds from oil and tobacco companies. Do you get financial support from oil and tobacco companies?

A: I’ve been affiliated with a number of think tanks that have gotten contributions from oil companies and probably from tobacco companies. But this is kind of a red-herring issue now because all the big corporate money is behind the environmentalists in global warming. They try to smear me with corporate money, but the fact is these guys have all the corporate clout -- General Electric, Dow, DuPont. ... All the guys who used to be for sound science are now working with the environmentalists so they can make cash.

The reason I got into this is because industry used to be for sound science. Industry used to be attacked by environmentalists and so, of course, industry was interested in defending itself. So they contributed to think tanks that stood for sound science and sound economic analysis. But that’s completely changed. Industry is now teamed up with the environmentalists. My side, we get extremely little, if any, industry funding. Even the Bush administration is giving global warming alarmists $5 billion a year. If you go on the Greenpeace Web site or whatever, the total money that global warming skeptics have ever gotten amounts to about $16 million. Now $5.5 billion annually compared to $16 million lifetime -- that’s a David and Goliath fight.

Q: Why should we believe anything you say, if indeed you are supported by energy and tobacco companies?

A: I’ll just turn that around on you: Why should we believe anything the environmentalists say? They have been proven time and time again to be wrong. Their actions have resulted in documentable harm to people. They have political as well as financial interests. In the end, you really have to look at the arguments and look at the data. Even U.N. scientists are coming out now and saying there’s going to be no global warming happening anytime soon. Now why would we want to crush our economy for something that is not going to be happening anytime soon -- if ever?

Q: Who are your main adversaries -- politicians, scientists, the media, all of them?

A: Unfortunately, and we came up with this term yesterday, we are suffering from a sort of societal “gang-green,” where this sort of “green” has spread throughout society from corporations and politicians to local governments. Everybody wants to be green. No one really knows what it means. No one really knows what the big goals are.

Lots of people are hypocritical about the whole green thing -- especially people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Gore. Al Gore wants you to be green, but he’s not being particularly green. He’s still going to have his swimming pool, which costs $600 a year to heat. But you’ve got to use two squares of toilet paper.

Michael Crichton, in his “State of Fear,” had a whole appendix at the end of his book about eugenics and how eugenics swept the country and the world in the 1920s and 1930s. That’s kind of what global warming is -- a misanthropic, anti-people public policy that is based on junk science.

Nothing that they’ve every predicted has ever come true. If you go back 20 years, when that NASA guy, Jim Hansen, went to Congress and said global warming is happening, every prediction he made has been wrong.

Q: Recently, it seems there is a little shift in thinking going on -- even in the media -- that maybe global warming isn’t really coming or coming so soon. There are signs of global cooling popping up. Do you think this is just a passing fancy or have we turned a corner?

A: I’d hate to say we’ve turned a corner. We’re kind of at a precipice right now. Congress in the first week of June is going to be debating the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill. I don’t think anything is going to pass this year, but certainly the next president, whether it’s McCain, Hillary or Obama, all of them have committed to fighting climate change. Most people haven’t realized this yet, which is why we do what we do, but the weak spot is the corporations.

I can’t make Al Gore tell the truth. I can’t make Barbara Boxer tell the truth.

I can’t make (NASA climatologist) James Hansen tell the truth. But you know what? I can make a CEO tell the truth. I can maybe even sue a CEO. I can maybe get the Securities and Exchange Commission interested in some of the statements they’ve made about global warming that aren’t true. That’s why we have the Free Enterprise Action Fund, and that’s kind of the route that we are pursuing because we think the CEOs are vulnerable on this.

Once these global warming bills come to the floor and different companies start to see who the winners and losers are, I think at that point we’re going to turn a corner. All the companies want different things, and they are irreconcilable a lot of the times. For example, Alcoa wants Congress to give it free credits -- which is basically like getting free money from the taxpayer -- for past reductions in greenhouse gases.

Well, a company like Duke Energy, which is a big coal-burning utility in North Carolina, is going to wind up needing to buy carbon credits, which they can’t afford. So Duke is not for carbon credits; they’re for a carbon tax. Well, you can’t do carbon credits and a carbon tax. It’s going to be one way or the other. So when the winners and losers get identified, I think the USCAP will ultimately get blown up. Then we’ll see where things are.

Of course, the alternative is that we’ll get a global warming regime but no one will live by it. U.S. CAP emissions will not go down. It’ll be just like a farm bill. Once you create that global warming constituency, like the constituency made up of the few farmers who get their subsidies, it’ll never go away no matter how bogus it is. Has ethanol gone away? No.