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Corporate Front Group Presents on Climate Change

November 18, 2009

The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) hosted an event today in Grand Rapids that was billed as “A Business Primer on Federal Climate Change and Energy Legislation.” About 30 people gathered to listen to Tom Mullikin, who the CEA refers to as an “environmental attorney.”

Mullikin began his talk with what he called background on the issue of Climate Change. He said that the issue is usually framed by the two most polar opposite ends – the far right, which denies global warming and the far left, which says we need to reduce global carbon emissions by 83%. I understand how denying global warming is a polarizing perspective, but to say that an 83% reduction of carbon emissions is far left perspective, dismisses the leading scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which agrees that there needs to be about an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

Next Mullikin talked about the “bad precedent that was set at Kyoto.” The speaker said that the language of Kyoto framed the debate of global warming between developed nations and developing nations in such a way as to exempt developing nations from any responsibility for global warming. Mullikin thinks that countries like China and Brazil are more responsible for carbon emissions than the US or the European Union. What he failed to address is that while China produces a significant amount of carbon emissions, the US proportionately generates more since we have a significantly smaller population.

Mullikin showed the audience lots of graphs and charts to support his main points, all of which downplayed US responsibility for global warming. Some of the main points he made were:

  • Human activity on generates about 5% of Green House Gases (GHG)
  • The US is only responsible for 17.9% of GHG
  • US manufacturing is 3 times more energy efficient than in Asia

Mullikin told the story of when he was in Minnesota as part of an effort to bring a new steel plant to that state. He said that environmentalists were opposed to it because of all the carbon emissions generated, but countered by saying that the same steel plant in China would generate more carbon emissions in China because there was less regulation.

In fact, Mullikin seems to direct most of his criticism towards China, but offered no context. When I asked him about manufacturing jobs moving to China and the causes he said it had to do with “currency manipulation,” ignoring trade policy and minimizing the profit motive of large corporations to find a cheaper wage market.

Mullikin concluded his presentation by saying that if the Waxman-Markey legislation is adopted, Michigan will lose 90,800 jobs. Mullikin did not explore the content of the Waxman-Makey bill and his source for the data on Michigan job loss was a study by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Using sources like NAM, which represents business interests, was typical of most of the sources he cited. Other sources were Energy Matters MidWest, another business-centered group, Secure Our Fuels (part of CEA) and the American Petroleum Institute, which represents Big Oil.

In fact, when looking at the website for the Consumer Energy Alliance, it becomes clear that they don’t represent a non-profit, non-partisan perspective, rather a very pro-corporate alliance. The organization’s affiliates is a who’s who of energy companies, business associations and conservative Think Tanks. If anything the Consumer Energy Alliance should be seen as an astroturf organization that was created and funded by a corporate alliance in order to promote that agenda.

Mulliken said throughout his presentation that the audience shouldn’t take his word for the data he was offering. This was good advice, since most of what he presented was at best biased, but more accurately deceptive, since there was no honest commentary about how the Consumer Energy Alliance came to be and whom it represents.

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