People Unclear

This is number 24

Somebody posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was kind of cute, so I stole a copy.

These come at me at such a rate, it’s getting hard to keep up. To avoid papering over this site with the stuff, I’m spreading them out at one a day, at the most. I may get behind if this keeps up.

So who is it who’s unclear today? How about we go with Kathleen Hartnett White, previous chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under Governor Rick Perry and now President Trump’s pick for senior adviser on environmental policy? And an interesting selection this appears to be. The President’s choice to advise on the environment is, from all appearances, a person with great disregard for the environment:

Like other members of the Trump administration, she has long questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-fueled climate change and has criticized the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a volunteer group of climate scientists whose findings are considered the gold standard of climate science. And she has described efforts to combat global warming as little more than an attack on the fossil fuel industry.

I will get back to White’s disdain for the environment shortly, but first I need to address her unclear concept regarding how the universe works. Here is more from the Washington Post item:

She has displayed similar contempt for international climate efforts, calling scientific conclusions from United Nations panels “not validated and politically corrupt.” Hartnett-White has also questioned the idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant at all, calling it “an odorless, invisible, beneficial, and natural gas.”

The last part illustrates how to say a bunch of true stuff while pushing a false notion. Specifically:

  • Carbon dioxide is odorless.
  • Carbon dioxide is colorless, virtually invisible when viewed using certain wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Carbon dioxide is what feeds all the green plants, providing them the carbon they need to make sugar to power their processes.
  • Although people produce a bunch of carbon dioxide on purpose for industrial use, most of it occurs naturally.

What White wants readers to think is that putting a bunch more COinto the atmosphere is harmless. All related science has demonstrated this is not harmless. I have covered this in prior postings. You can follow the link, or you can search this site for “age of embarrassment” to locate a collection of associated postings.

About “scientific conclusions from United Nations panels” being “not validated and politically corrupt,” there is more to be said. Let’s start saying:

While working at TPPF, Hartnett-White also directs the Fueling Freedom project, which seeks to “Explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels” while “building a multi-state coalition to push back against the EPA’s unconstitutional efforts to take over the electric power sector by regulating CO2 via the Clean Power Plan” as well as “End the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.”

Most interesting is the nature of the TPPF, the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is a conservative think tank based in Austin, Texas, and a member of the State Policy Network (SPN). The think tank’s funders from 2010 were inadvertently made public a few years ago. According to Al Jazeera America, “A 2010 donor list from the IRS shows the Texas Public Policy Foundation receives funding from groups long associated with big oil, gas, and coal, such as Koch Industries, the electric utility Luminant, and the oil and gas investment company the Permian Basin Acquisition Fund.”

A 2013 report by Progress Texas and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) found that TPPF received over 3 million dollars from the Koch brothers or organizations they fund. For example, the Koch family foundations and Koch Industries sent $733,333 to TPPF, and $2,581,258 has been donated from the dark money groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. In 2015, the Charles Koch Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute contributed a total of $199,697.

Another interesting entity is The Heartland Institute. From their Web site:

Kathleen Hartnett-White is a distinguished senior fellow and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Honorable Kathleen Hartnett White joined the Texas Public Policy Foundation in January 2008. She is a distinguished senior fellow-in-residence and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment.

I have discussed The Heartland Institute in previous posts, starting over five years ago:

So, what do people do? They do what people always do. They shoot the messenger who brings the bad news. It’s as though if the message goes away then the problem will go away. As with all problems there is a profit to be made solving the problem. Which brings us to the matter of Heartland Institute.

A quick trip to their home page reveals their message in a circulating marquee:

HEARTLAND FIGHTS BACK

Left-wing groups commit fraud, but we’re fighting back! Join our legal defense fund and remove false and defamatory materials and prosecute the true criminals.

The site also mentions a number of these “left-wing” groups:

NCSE (National Center for Science Education)
Greenpeace
Desmogblog
Huffington Post
Thinkprogress
Pacific Institute

There is much to read, but there is no escaping Heartland’s political investment. Nor White’s. Some additional fun:

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

And this:

Anyhow, White’s assertions regarding the political nature of the NATO science panel pale with some insight.

As an open advocate for fossil fuels, White has taken some bizarre stands:

Fossil fuels dissolved the economic justification for slavery. When the concentrated and versatile energy stored in fossil fuels was converted to mechanical energy, the economic limits under which all societies had formerly existed were blown apart. A life of back-breaking drudgery was no longer the inescapable condition of the overwhelming majority of mankind.  The productivity made possible by fossil fuels led to the institutionalization of compassion and respect for the inalienable rights of each human individual.

So, fossil fuels provided a means to replace human muscle power with mechanical power. I  think not. Looking back, when industrialists wanted raw power they did not turn to human sources, paid or enslaved. They turned to (surprise) wind power, water power, and—lower down—animal power. On very rare occasions was human power ever sufficient to supplant those other sources. In this country’s prior slave industry slaves were used where human dexterity and intellect were required. On this matter, White is decidedly unclear.

Twisting the knife, suppose slaves had been used as an industrial power source. Eradicating slavery in this country was accomplished by changing laws and fighting a civil war. Where did fossil fuel enter into the picture?

But what this is about, from all appearances, is a desire on the part of major industries to unfetter themselves of government regulation. Regulations so cramp industrialist’s style, it’s hard to get anything done. Regulations—prod me if I am wrong—make industrial concerns uncompetitive. This can be true in the case where a company that complies with the regulations is forced to compete with one that does not. Where have we seen this before?

On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, eighteen miles (29 km) north of Waco, while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility. Fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Investigators have confirmed that ammonium nitrate was the material that exploded. On May 11, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stated that the fire had been deliberately set.

Passing over whether the fire was deliberate, what is at issue is a facility such as this being allowed near human habitation. Among the facilities heavily damaged was a school building. In this case it was not so much of there not being a regulation, it was a case of the regulation not being enforced. Also, people were too stupid to notice a dangerous situation developing.

And there is this:

The Elk River chemical spill occurred on January 9, 2014 when crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) was released from a Freedom Industries facility into the Elk River, a tributary of the Kanawha River, in Charleston in the U.S. state of West Virginia.

The chemical spill occurred upstream from the principal West Virginia American Water intake and treatment and distribution center. Following the spill, up to 300,000 residents within nine counties in the Charleston, West Virginia metropolitan area were without access to potable water. The areas affected were portions of Boone, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties and the Culloden area of Cabell County.

Crude MCHM is a chemical foam used to wash coal and remove impurities that contribute to pollution during combustion. The “do-not-use” advisory for drinking water from West Virginia American Water’s system began to be gradually lifted by West Virginia state officials on January 13 based upon “priority zones.”

On Tuesday, January 14, the company revealed that the tank, which leaked about 7,500 gallons into the ground by the Elk River, had also contained a mixture of glycol ethers known as PPH, with a similar function as MCHM.

The chemical spill was the third chemical accident to occur in the Kanawha River Valley within the last five years. On June 12, 2014 another spill of containment water occurred at the same site.

I have had conservative friends tell me that these matters can be handled through direct action, without resorting to job-killing regulations. Somebody does something bad, then you sue them, and that serves as a lesson to others who might be considering to indulge. No, it does not. In this case the culprits slipped neatly out of reach of any consequences of their actions. More from the Wikipedia entry:

By January 13, a Kanawha County judge had granted a temporary restraining order against Freedom Industries, and the number of lawsuits filed in the Kanawha County Circuit Court had risen to 19. On January 17, 2014, Freedom Industries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, requiring a court–appointed trustee to run the company.

However, according to the Charleston Gazette, a company “whose characteristics are strikingly similar to Freedom Industries,” Lexycon LLC, registered as a business with the West Virginia secretary of state about two months after Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy. The company is registered at the same addresses and phone numbers as the former Freedom Industries, and is founded by a former Freedom executive.

And that appears to be the order of drill for the Trump administration. Take on as chief executives for the various agencies the very people determined to undo the purposes of these agencies:

  • Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary
  • Rick Perry as Energy Secretary
  • Ben Carson has Housing and Urban Development Secretary
  • Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Jeff Sessions as Attorney General
  • Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury
  • Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary
  • And finally Kathleen Hartnett White as the President’s senior adviser on environmental policy

Looks like a dream team in some perverse sense. We are going to experience consequences.

One thought on “People Unclear

  1. Pingback: People Unclear | Skeptical Analysis

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