Enjoy Last Summer? Here It Comes Again.

How one Texas non-thinking think tank is shaping the debate. (I'm looking at you, Texas Public Policy Foundation.)

Enjoy Last Summer? Here It Comes Again.
The only coping mechanism for a Texas summer.

So, how was your Thanksgiving? And by asking that, I don't mean was the turkey overcooked? Did no one touch your ooky, sweet pink gelatin salad again this year? Well of course they didn't, it's awful. No offense, but it looks like My Little Pony got sick on a plate.

Just put me in the fridge next to the fruitcake no one ate.

But the green bean casserole isn't what we all are here for, especially the green bean casserole. We are here to gather with family and give thanks for each other. And then, unfortunately, we all start talking. Especially, Uncle Ralph.

You know him. Every family has one...or a lot.  He's the guy who dips into the egg nog a bit too much and asks your unmarried cousin when she's going to find a guy; and when she stonily let's him know she is a lesbian, asks her how things are in Beirut.  Ralph goes from "Great Turkey, Karen" to "Elon Musk is our only hope," without stopping for a breath. And just when you are about to respond that there was no steal to stop, he talks about all this climate change nonsense.

There's Ralph. Quick, pour me more wine. 

So I'll leave this Norman Rockwell on acid family gathering to let everyone who is dealing with a Ralph at home, at work, in the comments section of Huffington Post or representing you in Congress, know that you are not alone.

And all the Ralphs out there are being constantly fed a steady diet of misinformation and just plain BS when it comes to this issue, and for a very good reason. Money.

The New York Times did a recent investigative piece on a Texas group that is one of the chief shovelers of the aforementioned informational excrement. It is called the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

"Come unto me all ye who travail and are heavy laden...and I'll get you a school voucher."

Founded in 1989 by a devout Christian doctor and conservative activist named James Leinenger in San Antonio, it was founded to advocate for conservative ideas and philosophies in the public square, and in the capitol. His primary areas of concern were health care, school vouchers and later, fighting attempts to deal with climate change.

And lest you think this was all simply pure political belief in action, this is from their Wikipedia entry...

Originally based in San Antonio, the organization was relocated in 2003 to Austin, Texas to be near the state capitol. In February 2015, TPPF moved into a new $20-million building two blocks from the Texas Capitol. In 2010, TPPF received funding from Koch Industries as well as Geo Prison Group, a GEO Group company. In January 2018, the organization announced that it had opened a new office in Washington, D.C.

And the fight against any moves to mitigate the effects of climate change are similarly non-altruistic. The Texas Observer delved into the group and it's energy partners. Here's a list of the major donors...

If you clicked on the link, you saw that they include Koch Industries, the Hunt Family, Exxon, Chevron, Luminent, Associated Electric Companies, TXU Energy, Centerpoint Energy, Texas Western Energy, Conoco-Phillips, The American Coalition for Clean Coal and, well, you get the drift.

According to purists, these two things can't coexist. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with these companies, well except for those clean coal grifters. And they certainly can advocate for their role in our economy like any other corporation. But that's not entirely what the TPPF does. To be blunt, it lies. And it lies for money, not on principle. And it is not confined to Texas, according to the Times' investigation..."

"When a lawsuit was filed to block the nation’s first major offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, it appeared to be a straightforward clash between those who earn their living from the sea and others who would install turbines and underwater cables that could interfere with the harvesting of squid, fluke and other fish.

The fishing companies challenging federal permits for the Vineyard Wind project were from the Bay State as well as Rhode Island and New York, and a video made by the opponents featured a bearded fisherman with a distinct New England accent.

But the financial muscle behind the fight originated thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, in dusty oil country. The group bankrolling the lawsuit filed last year was the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit organization backed by oil and gas companies and Republican donors.

With influence campaigns, legal action and model legislation, the group is promoting fossil fuels and trying to stall the American economy’s transition toward renewable energy. It is upfront about its opposition to Vineyard Wind and other renewable energy projects, making no apologies for its advocacy work...In Arizona, the Texas Public Policy Foundation campaigned to keep open one of the biggest coal-fired power plants in the West. In Colorado, it called for looser restrictions on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. And in Texas, the group crafted the first so-called “energy boycott” law to punish financial institutions that want to scale back their investments in fossil fuel projects, legislation adopted by four other states."

And again, they simply lie about the research on climate change and our contributions, which is virtually irrefutable at this point. For all of you who still remain unconvinced, or simply refuse to be convinced, I encourage a quick scan here. In case you're wondering, it's not Al Gore, it's NASA. Honestly though, I doubt that anyone not convinced actually followed that link. Because it's just easier to deny.

Hey, what gives? Tom Jefferson just kicked my ass.

That way you have to do nothing. My contention about the popularity of Rush Limbaugh was twofold. First, he made people comfortable with their prejudices and hatreds. Secondly, when it came to societal changes mandated by science, when you say you don't believe it, you don't have to get off the couch and do anything. It's the path of least resistance.

He claimed that about the so-called "Ozone Hole" and the role chlorofluorocarbons played in it. Even when scientists all over the world were in agreement, and The Montreal Protocols were negotiated and signed by the Reagan Administration, he still blamed it on liberals, though it's hard to see what liberals in any country gained from it. And it is working, and the ozone depletion has finally started reversing, though very slowly since burning fossil fuel plays a large part as well. And the gloom and doom he preached about the refrigerant in air conditioning systems and the propellant in hairspray and deodorant were just nonsense. I mean, did you turn on the AC last summer? Did it work?

And the Texas Public Policy Foundation is playing the role of Limbaugh in tonight's performance of climate change denial. And it's the usual litany of arguments for which there are a lot of answers. For example.

"Oh, come on. The climate has changed throughout earth's history."

Yes, just ask the next woolly mammoth you meet. But it is happening 20-50 times faster now than it has ever in the last 4.5 billion years. Three studies published in Nature and Nature Geoscience use extensive historical data to show there has never been a period in the last 2,000 years when temperature changes have been as fast and extensive as in recent decades.

"Plenty of scientists disagree with your so-called experts."

Actually, the agreement among those for whom this is a specialty is now almost 99% And the industry knows it. The oil industry’s leading pollution-control consultants advised the American Petroleum Institute in 1968 that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels deserved as much concern as the smog and soot that had commanded attention for decades.

"Yes, Ralph! We'll still have winter!"

"Well, it sure is cold out there if the earth is warming up."

And on and on. Yes, Uncle Ralph, it will still get cold and hot. Yes we will have seasons, Weather and climate are two different things. But remember the work of groups like the TPPF and the lobbying against the idea of fighting climate change is paid for by the guys who are part of the cause in the first place. Every lobbyist is a hired gun. Every lobbyist will offer his client's best argument for or against regulation. But in this case, the issue at hand is existential in nature.

I know, any transition from fossil fuels will take a long time, and there will no doubt be a use for them essentially forever. What I find disturbing though is the dishonesty of groups like the TPPF. But the bucks are huge and enough money cuts through a lot of personal dignity. That's why they tried to blame the big freeze of 2021 on windmills. Of course, even the morally supine leaders of ERCOT couldn't sell that one and had to admit that the entire delivery and generation system froze like a Mrs. Paul's fish stick.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” - Upton Sinclair.

The other part that has me scratching my head is the opposition to any other fuel source. How in the world does the building of a windmill or solar farm hurt the oil industry, except that it is not a gas-fired power plant? It's not a zero-sum game. We don't close down a gas station when a charging station is built for electric vehicles. But for groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, it's a matter of principle, said principle being pieces of paper with Ben Franklin's picture on them. If they give in on anything in this "debate" then they start to lose, or so they see it.

Come on, if you can't trust a founding father...

And there really is no more honest debate on the problem, just how we deal with it. And some ideas are slow and deliberate and others are literally a Hail Mary. Some are talking about some sort of way to block the sun partially to cool the planet. Now, that is outlandish for among other reasons, the difficulty of getting Chris Christie into orbit. But others are worth looking at and need to get rolling. Some experts in the field say it's already too late and the idea of reversing it is a horse that left the barn years ago. I honestly don't know how long we have before the problem becomes truly unbearable, but it's sooner rather than later.

And even some of the deniers are seeing that as well. The latest wrinkle is, "well, sure, the planet is warming, but we will just have to adapt." The so-called "mitigation versus adaptation" debate is already underway. And there is frankly some evidence that we will indeed need to change aspects of our lives. And that is largely because of the slowness of our response, thanks to pseudo-scientific ladies of the evening like the TPPF and their political Charlie McCarthys in the congress.  

Presidential discounts offered.

It's not illegal to lie for dollars, just like it's not illegal for Stormy Daniels to ply her trade. And when the lying is papered over with illusions that there is an actual debate underway, then it can be hard to call out. But call it out we must. The Texas Public Policy Foundation is lying for a paycheck, and not just fudging the facts, but attempting to bury them under mountains of oil money.

That will be a very lame explanation to our grandkids.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.