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RTD Publishes Utterly Dishonest Screed by Former VA Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell on “Green New Deal”

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This Saturday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an utterly dishonest op-ed by former Virginia Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell on the “Green New Deal.” Sad to say, Howell’s screed isn’t surprising, given his history:

  • Bill “ALEC” Howell Signs ALEC Letter to Google Blaming Climate Activists for ALEC’s Own Craziness: Yep, Howell’s a climate science denier, good fossil fuel industry tool that he is…
  • From SourceWatch: “Speaker Howell is on the Board of Directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of September 2014 (and has been since 2003) and is the former National Chairman…In April 2012, Speaker Howell strongly defended ALEC at a press conference in Richmond, Virginia, saying that it had “been subjected to a six-month attack by liberal groups, including the Occupy movement, Moveon.org and billionaire George Soros.”
  • From VPAP, note that Bill Howell received $601,000 from fossil-fuel-heavy Dominion Energy during his non-particularly-illustrious career; plus $108,700 from coal-dominated Appalachian Power; $121,500 from metallurgical coal producer, Alpha Natural Resources; $107,000 from Koch Industries; $45,000 from coal/natural gas company Consol Energy; $25,000 from the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance; $15,250 from oil and gas giant ExxonMobil; etc.
  • VA Speaker Howell Leaps to ALEC’s Defense; Attacks Anna Scholl as Only Understanding “Little” Words: He’s a sexist as well. For instance, “ALEC has promoted a model bill that called plans in 2011 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a ‘train wreck’ that would harm the economy, and it has supported efforts by various states to withdraw from regional climate change compacts.” And “In 2013, their resolution stated ‘Alec is very concerned about the potential economic impact of greenhouse gas regulation on electricity prices and the harm EPA regulations may have on the economic recovery’.”
  • Also check this out, from Wikipedia: “[I]n 2013, ALEC adopted a model bill saying that the role of human activity in causing climate change was uncertain, that man-made climate change could be ‘deleterious, neutral or possibly beneficial,’ and that the cost of regulating greenhouse gas emissions could cause ‘great economic dislocation.’ ALEC also has invited climate change skeptics, such as Craig Idso, to speak at its national meetings. In 2015 Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters pointed to such behavior to accuse ALEC of denying climate change. ALEC responded by threatening legal action, denying that ALEC supports climate change denial, and saying it has more recently welcomed debate on the subject and supported renewable energy and carbon tax policies to curb global warming.”
  • ALEC in Crisis; Virginia Speaker Bill Howell Tasked With Helping Save It (“Over at The Guardian, they had a scoop about our pals at the far-right-wingnut American Legislative Exchange Council, and their money and membership woes following the Trayvon Martin murder.”)
  • ALEC’s record on energy and the environment is beyond abysmal

Given all this, is anyone surprised that Howell would be busy attacking the Green New Deal? Regarding his op-ed, here are a few comments:

  • The dishonesty begins right in the headline of Howell’s op-ed, which purports to be about “Taking the right approach on climate change,” but which in fact spends approximately 99% of its time bashing what Howell considers to be the WRONG approaches – the Green New Deal, taking legal action against polluters, etc. – to tackling the climate crisis.
  • In fact, Howell only spends two sentences in this 12-paragraph op-ed kinda/sorta discussing the “right approach on climate change”: namely, 1) “for elected officials to spend their time on meaningful environmental solutions that work with manufacturers, who already are making great progress in reducing their carbon footprint” and 2) “t’s time for us all to come together and work toward commonsense solutions we can all get behind.” Note that the second sentence is just vague, mushy rhetoric, while the first sentence is basically a call for working with the very companies which are trashing the planet. That, in a nutshell, is the “right approach on climate change,” in Bill “ALEC” Howell’s view.  Beyond pathetic.
  • As for the “substance” (using that word VERY loosely) of Howell’s screed, it’s basically disinformation combined with utterly dishonest scare tactics. For instance, Howell reveals the core fear of right wingers and the fossil fuel industry, that the “Green New Deal” is about “overhaul[ing] American life.” Suuuure, if you think that using CLEAN energy instead of DIRTY energy is an “overhaul” of “American life.” Like, if your home is powered by cheap, clean, inexhaustible solar, wind, geothermal, etc., your life is going to be “changed” in the sense that you won’t be emitting all that carbon pollution, but the “energy services” you receive will be exactly the same, probably for less money and possibly – if you install your own power generation technology (e.g., solar panels) on your home – turning you into a generator of your own electricity.
  • Howell then proceeds to reveal another one of right wingers’ greatest fears: “massive federal government intervention in the free market.” Of course, Howell completely ignores the fact that this is *exactly* what the federal government has been doing for decades if not a century, MASSIVELY intervening on behalf of fossil fuel production and consumption, through a wide array of direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies. See, for instance, Direct subsidies to fossil fuels are the tip of the (melting) iceberg, which counts “$594 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies over the last 60 years”. That figure doesn’t even count the massive, implicit subsidy of the government allowing fossil fuel companies to use the air and water as an open sewer FOR FREE, destroying the climate in the process.
  • Howell misleadingly, disingenuously cites a “study” which found that the Green New Deal would supposedly cost “between $51 trillion and $93 trillion over 10 years.” In fact, as Factcheck.org pointed out, the source of the “study” is actually “a conservative nonprofit [American Action Forum – AAF] that has spent tens of millions of dollars supporting Republicans in general elections.” Even worse, as Factcheck.org explains, “the experts we spoke to said it’s not possible to put a specific price tag on the Green New Deal,” with one stating, “it is *way* too early to even pretend to put cost estimates on the ‘Green New Deal.’ It’s at this point a still-amorphous construct”; and another adding, “When asked what one can say about how much the Green New Deal would cost, he said, ‘basically nothing.'”
  • Also note, as Factcheck.org explains, that “more than 80 percent of the AAF estimate was for social programs such as health care, not for clean energy and climate policies.” In fact, “it’s entirely possible to get to net zero by 2050 by spending around 2 percent of GDP each year, or around $18 trillion in total.”
  • And, of course, none of this mentions the MASSIVE environmental and economic benefits that will result from switching to a sustainable clean-energy economy. For instance, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA): “The energy transformation would boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 2.5% and total employment by 0.2% globally in 2050. It would also bring broader social and environmental benefits. Health, subsidy and climate-related savings would be worth as much as USD 160 trillion cumulatively over a 30-year period, the report finds. Thus, every dollar spent in transforming the global energy system provides a payoff of at least USD 3 and potentially more than USD 7, depending on how externalities are valued.” Of course, fossil fuel tool Bill “ALEC” Howell doesn’t mention any of that. Shocker, eh?
  • We could go on and on, but honestly, why bother with this utterly dishonest drivel? The only other thing I’d add is that it’s wildly irresponsible for newspapers like the RTD to publish dangerous, misleading crap like this without debunking it in real time, while also making the financial connections to the topic being discussed (in this case, Howell’s strong, deep, longstanding fossil fuel industry ties) crystal clear. The failure to do so by the RTD, and other corporate media outlets, is a disservice to readers, and ultimately to the public as a whole.

P.S. On a related note, check out Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook 2019, which finds the world moving to “two-thirds zero-carbon energy by 2050,” including wind and solar at “50% of world electricity by 2050.”