The Kyoto Conspiracy

Nov 05, AU Edition


How Enron hyped global warming for profit

Amidst all the talk about the benefits that Kyoto Protocol is supposed to promote, it is perhaps forgotten especially amongst the greenies how Kyoto was born in the corridors of very big business. The name Enron has all but faded from the newspapers since the company went down in flames in 2001 amidst charges of fraud, bribery, price fixing and graft, and the jailing of founder and chairman Ken Lay. But without Enron there would have been no Kyoto Protocol.

It all started about 20 years ago when Enron was owner-operator of an interstate network of natural gas pipelines that had transformed itself into a billion-dollar-a-day commodity trader, buying and selling contracts and their derivatives to deliver natural gas, electricity, internet bandwidth – whatever. The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments authorized the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency to put a cap on how much pollutant the operator of a fossil-fueled plant was allowed to emit. So, in the early 1990s Enron helped establish the market for, and became the major trader in, the EPA’s $20 billion-per-year sulphur dioxide cap-and-trade program, the forerunner of today’s proposed carbon credit trading scheme. This commodity exchange of emission allowances caused Enron’s stock to rapidly rise.

All this led to the inevitable question, what next? How about a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program? The problem was that CO2 is not a pollutant, and therefore the EPA had no authority to cap its emissions. When Al Gore became Vice President under Bill Clinton in 1993, he quickly became infatuated with the idea of an international environmental regulatory regime. He led a US initiative to review new projects around the world and issue ‘credits’ of so many tons of annual CO2 emission reduction. Under law a ‘tradable’ system was required, which was exactly what Enron also wanted – remember, they were already trading pollutant credits. Thence Enron vigorously lobbied Clinton and Congress, seeking EPA regulatory authority over CO2. From 1994 to 1996, the Enron Foundation contributed nearly $1 million dollars – $990,000 to be exact – to green group The Nature Conservancy, whose Climate Change Project promotes global warming theories. Enron philanthropists lavished almost $1.5 million on environmental groups that support international energy controls to ‘reduce’ global warming. Executives at Enron worked closely with the Clinton administration to help create a scaremongering climate science environment because the company believed the treaty could provide it with a monstrous financial windfall. The plan was that once the problem was in place the solution would be trotted out.

Around this time a lawyer named Christopher Horner was hired who had worked in Connecticut Senator Joseph Liebermann’s Environment Committee. Horner, employed by Enron, became director of relations with the Federal Government. That was in 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was drafted. According to Homer, on the second day at the job he was told that the number one objective was to obtain an international treaty that would impose cuts in CO2 emissions, but at the same time allow the trading of emission rights. Enron was the second-biggest natural gas producer in the world, behind Russia’s Gazprom. Enron was making a lot of money trading with coal, but they had already calculated that the profits they would lose with coal would be more than compensated by the profits derived from its privileged position in other areas. With clever positioning and anticipation Enron had bought the world’s biggest wind power company, GE Wind, from General Electric. They now also owned the biggest solar power company in the world, in society with Amoco (now belonging to British Petroleum – BP). Enron then started to finance everything related to the global warming hype, including grants to scientists – but asking for results favorable to their interest – ‘proof’ that humans were responsible for the excessive emissions of CO2 through fossil fuel burning. The fire of malaise, now lit and kindled, only required feeding.

The expressive term ‘Baptist-bootlegger’ derives from the days of prohibition. Under prohibition bootleggers and those who transported and supplied illegal alcohol made fortunes. One such entrepreneur was Joseph P. Kennedy whose second son, John, became US President in 1961. The bootleggers had allies in the Baptists and other teetotalists, who believed that alcohol was a deadly threat to the social order, and had worked for decades to get prohibition onto the statute books. The Baptists provided the political cover and the bootleggers pocketed the proceeds. In public the two groups maintained a great social distance from each other. Now Enron had positioned itself at the centre of an awesome Baptist-bootlegger coalition. The gargantuan rents which Enron energetically sought could be realized only if the Kyoto Protocol became established as part of US and international law. Ken Lay saw that Enron could not only make billions from sales of the natural gas which was to displace coal as the preferred fuel under the Kyoto commitments, but that as the main (if not the only) international and domestic trader in the new barter world of carbon credits, could realise hitherto unimagined wealth. Such credits, of course, would only become bankable pieces of paper if governments, particularly the US Government, established and policed a global policy of decarbonisation under which a global tax on carbon was to be enforced.
As the movement to establish the Kyoto Protocol developed momentum, it was necessary for Ken Lay to build up alliances with the green movement, including Greenpeace. A 1998 letter, signed by Lay and a few other bigwigs asked President Clinton, in essence, to harm the reputations and credibility of scientists who argued that global warming was an overblown issue because these individuals were standing in Enron’s way. The letter, dated 1 September, asked the president to shut off the public scientific debate on global warming, which despite furious attempts by the green lobby continues to this day. In particular, it requested Clinton to moderate the political aspects of this discussion by appointing a bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission. The purpose of this commission was clear – high-level trashing of dissident scientists. Setting up a panel to do this was simple; just look at the recent issue of Scientific American where four attack dogs were called out to chew up Bjorn Lomborg. He had the audacity to publish The Skeptic Environmentalist which demonstrated that global warming fears were overblown, and that the Earth is in much better shape than popularly believed. David Bellamy, the world’s foremost environmentalist also stepped out of line with his widely-distributed article, ‘Global Warming? What a load of old Poppycock.’
In the same way Galileo was forced to publicly utter that the moon had no effect on tides, so Bellamy under pressure backtracked on some of his claims.

Enron commissioned its own internal study of global warming science. It turned out to be largely in agreement with the same scientists that Enron was trying to shut up. After considering all of the inconsistencies in climate science, the report concluded: ‘The very real possibility is that the great climate alarm could be a false alarm. The anthropogenic warming could well be less than thought and favorably distributed.’ One of Enron’s major consultants in that study was NASA scientist James Hansen, who started the whole global warming mess in 1988 with his bombastic congressional testimony.

KYOTO.jpgRecently he published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicting exactly the same inconsequential amount of warming in the next 50 years as the scientists that Enron wanted to gag. They were a decade ahead of NASA. True to its plan, Enron never made its own findings public, self-censoring them while it pleaded with the Bush administration for a cap on carbon dioxide emissions that it could broker. That pleading continues today – the remnant-Enron still views global warming regulation as the straw that will raise it from its corporate oblivion. Some greenie campaigning in America is still directed from this source. On July 7, 2004, Kenneth Lay was indicted by a federal grand jury for his involvement in the scandal.

‘Enron stood to profit millions from global warming energy-trading schemes’, said Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association and American Coal Coalition. The investigation into the collapse of Enron reveals much more about the intricacies of the Baptist-bootlegger coalition which was promoting the Kyoto cause within the Republican Party and US business circles. Coal-burning utilities would have had to pay billions for permits because they emit more CO2 than do natural gas facilities. That would have encouraged closing coal plants in favor of natural gas or other kinds of power plants, driving up prices for those alternatives. Enron, along with other key energy companies in the so-called Clean Power Group: El Paso Corp., NiSource, Trigen Energy, and Calpine – would make money both coming and going – from selling permits and then their own energy at higher prices. If the Kyoto Protocol were ratified and in full force, experts estimated that Americans would lose between $100 billion and $400 billion each year. Additionally, between 1 and 3.5 million jobs could be lost. That means that each household could lose an average of up to $6,000 each year. That is a lot to ask of Americans just so large energy companies can pocket millions from a regulatory scheme. Moreover, a cost of $400 billion annually makes Enron’s current one-time loss of $6 billion look like pocket change. Little wonder Americans and the incoming Bush administration did not want a bar of it.

One needs look no further than New Zealand to see what a disaster the Kyoto Protocol would be in practice. In NZ, the Labour government was forced to agree to the Kyoto Protocol because the Alliance Party self-destructed and Labour needed the Greens for support. The cost of that support was agreement to anti-GE legislation and the Kyoto Protocol. Labour could see that the GE debate had no financial return, but the carbon credit trading game looked much more promising.

Positive credit-trading with all our trees acting as CO2 sinks made politicians see dollar signs. But just as Enron came unstuck mired in financial ruin and scandal, so too is the Kyoto Protocol set to ruin economies and bring down governments and any players foolish enough to be taken in – indeed, it almost brought down Helen Clark at the last election. Enron collapsed in a quagmire of bribery, misinformation, energy price manipulation and the use of political connections to exert pressure on energy boards. Anything connected to the Kyoto Protocol will turn out to be good money after bad, because a scheme instigated by half-truths and hype must eventually collapse under the weight of the spin of its own cover-up. The half-billion dollar debt clean and green New Zealand now owes major polluters like Russia could be just the beginning.

In 2002 Helen Clark said ‘Climate change is a global problem…the Kyoto Protocol is the international community’s response to climate change and New Zealand is playing its part’. This contrasted strongly with Enron’s own internal report expressing doubt that global warming was real. It is hard to accept that Clark, and Kyoto’s boosters in Australia and around the world, do not know that the Protocol only became real because of a bunch of corporate crooks. Real problems are the gullibility of satellite western economies, the dangers of being the tail of giant corporate dogs and the perceived need to appease the EU for trade deals. Global warming itself does not even get a look in.

Despite all the handwringing and increasingly desperate hysteria, where global warming is concerned there has been a failure to force this paranoid religion onto the world. Since the Rio Conference in 1992, the greens have tried using the threat of global warming to induce Protestant guilt in us all, to cap growth, to change lifestyles, to attack the car, industry and the Great Satan of America. They have lost. Only schoolchildren remain rich fodder willing to believe it is up to them now to Save The World, which hasn’t needed saving one iota during the last 4,000,000,000 years or it wouldn’t still be here. Now it is surely time to face the facts: there isn’t a snowflake-in-hell’s chance of global warming altering real life. But the failure of the greens is not just with the public. While playing the climate-change card at the G8 Summit, the final Gleneagles’ declaration shows that the leaders of the developed world have no intention of sacrificing growth and economic success for an ascetic global warming religion. To quote Michael McCarthy, the environment editor of the Independent: ‘The failed agenda that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the World Wide Fund for Nature and others were complaining of – that the US has still not agreed to cut its carbon dioxide emissions – was the green groups’ own agenda, not the British government’s. At G8 the idea of capping greenhouse gas emissions was cleverly replaced by an emphasis on technological innovation and imaginative development. The Kyoto Protocol is effectively dead.’