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ALEC Now Looking to Teach Climate Denial in Schools

RP Siegel | Tuesday February 26th, 2013 | 0 Comments

schoolhouseWell, it looks like the folks at ALEC, the nation’s largest fossil-fuel powered association of state legislators, are at it again. First they’ve been campaigning and writing bills trying to roll back renewable energy portfolio standards, based on the mistaken premise that renewables are more expensive and will make businesses in impacted states less competitive. That would only be true if we were moving backwards through time into an era when fossil fuels were the defining element of every aspect of our economy. But that is the era we are leaving. Driving down the road, looking only in the rearview mirror can be very dangerous to those around you. In fact, the data shows that taking this kind of anti-renewable stance, will, in fact, hurt those states that do.

But, of course, if you’re a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council and your membership is being sponsored by a fossil fuel industry that is determined to stay on top of the heap, despite the countless reasons why their days of dominance are numbered, you have to do something to justify your existence.

So now, just when it seemed that they could go no lower than trying to do away with clean energy, they have turned their attention to our children, hoping to influence them, in the name of critical thinking, to challenge the scientifically established reality of anthropogenic climate change.

If they truly teach critical thinking, then there is little to worry about since the facts speak clearly enough for themselves (hottest years in history, polar ice caps melting at an alarming rate, etc.). But it is more likely that they will be sowing the seeds of doubt, knowing, as the tobacco companies learned decades ago, that a little doubt is enough to forestall action for a long time. Time is money, and if you’re an oil company, a little time is a lot of money.

In heavily rural states, like Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona, where legislative seats in outlying districts can often be won with a few dozen votes, these well-funded purveyors of fossilized perspective have been busy padding state legislatures with candidates who are sympathetic to their need for dominance. And with relatively modest campaign contributions, they can assure that the needed votes will go their way.

The group’s Orwellianingly named prototype bill, the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act, has been drafted and now cloned in eleven states, calling for a “balanced” approach to the teaching of climate science, meaning, of course, that there are equal parts doubt and fact and lots of repetition of the notion that it is “only a theory.” Of course, never mind the fact that gravity is also only a theory, I don’t see anyone clamoring for a “balanced” presentation of gravity. But then, there are no multi-billion dollar corporations whose profits would suffer on account of too many people believing in gravity.

The model bill was the brainchild of Sandy Liddy Bourne, who left ALEC in 2006, to become Heartland Institute’s VP of Policy Strategy. Today she co-heads the American Energy Freedom Center, an organization she co-chairs with Arthur G. Randol, a former Exxon-Mobil lobbyist.

Bourne has gone on record against carbon regulation because, “There is no direct evidence that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have had a significant impact on respiratory diseases or cardiovascular diseases.”

That’s true. And smoking cigarettes doesn’t turn young children into frogs either, but that doesn’t mean we should encourage them to do it.

The Oklahoma state legislature has taken up the model bill as their HR 1674. The bill would mandate any reference to global warming as “a theory steeped in controversy.” The bill was introduced by Rep.Gus Blackwell who received $28,800 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, for which he is no doubt grateful.

Colorado introduced their bill HB13-1089 on the same day. Sponsor Rep. Scott Renfroe, who, like Blackwell, is a dues-paying ALEC member, also received significant cash from oil and gas.

Finally, Arizona’s bill SB1213, which came eight days later was the identical to the other two, was introduced by six state senators, all of whom are ALEC members.

It must be awfully nice for these legislators to have someone else writing their bills for them. All they have to do is carry them onto the floor. Imagine someone doing all your work for you at your job and you still receiving a paycheck. It wouldn’t seem right, would it?

All I can say is that I hope this country isn’t so far gone that any of these bills would actually have a chance of passing. If it does somehow, I still think most kids are smart enough to recognize a hunk of baloney when they see it.

[Image credit: JimmyWayne: Flickr Creative Commons]

RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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