Memo to media: Eco-fraud Gingrich has always opposed clean energy, climate action. His testimony against Waxman-Markey is not news.

Update: Gingrich testimony is here.  He has the nerve to start with a quote from George Orwell and then utter the most Orwellian statement of our time, “it should be no surprise that I care deeply about and am committed to the protection of our environment.”  He repeats the utterly debunked abuse of an April 2007 MIT analysis that has nothing to do with Waxman-Markey:  “With this glorified, $1-2 trillion new energy tax, expect utility bill increases up to $3,128 per year per household.” His climate plan calls for massive oil drilling in ANWR and elsewhere — quite a carbon reduction strategy.  And he urges, “The Congress should immediately pass a stand alone bill that cuts off any appropriations funding to the EPA that would be used to regulate carbon dioxide.”

Former Sen. John Warner’s House testimony at 10 am EST today on the Waxman-Markey bill (webcast here) is news because Warner was pretty much the only mainstream conservative senator to break ranks in the last Congress and support serious climate action.

Nobelist Al Gore’s testimony with Warner today is also news.  Heck, just last week Michael Shellenberger, President of The Breakthrough Institute, was sniping “Gore has been notably silent during the cap and trade debate.”

Now, in an effort to get some media star on their side as a counterweight, the House GOP — which is unlikely to see a single of its members vote for the final bill (see “House GOP pledge to fight all action on climate“) — they have added Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as “a last-minute addition” in the panel after Warner and Gore, as E&E News PM (subs. req’d) put it.

Gingrich is “” and always has been “” pro-pollution. His 527 is bought and paid for by the oil companies (see here).  Yes, some have been suckered by his fake eco-rhetoric.  But notwithstanding Andy Revkin’s claim that Gingrich is part of a “move to the pragmatic center on climate and energy” or the We campaign’s Gingrich-Pelosi couch-fest on climate, Gingrich has never stopped pushing hard for standard conservative screw-the-climate solutions (see Eco-Gingrich says, “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay More.”).

Indeed, I can think of no single politician since Ronald Reagan who has done more to set back America’s leadership in clean technology than Newt Gingrich.

contractwithearth.jpgYes, last year eco-fraud Gingrich wrote A Contract with on the Earth.  As I wrote at the time, if you look up the word ‘Orwellian’ on Wikipedia “” “An attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past” “” there should be a picture of Newt’s new book.

Instead of wasting time reading a whole book of disinformation, you can just read this interview in Salon, “Give Newt a chance” “” it is definitely all the Newt that is fit to print.

To cut to the chase, readers of this blog will not be surprised that a conservative pretending to care about the environment adopts the anti-regulation, pro-technology approach suggested by GOP strategist, Frank Luntz, and popularized by his protege, George Bush (see Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah”).

You may be surprised that Newt calls himself an environmentalist, given that he co-authored and then worked to enact the anti-environmental Contract with America. Oh, but Newt now claims:

I don’t think that the environment was a central focus of the Contract With America. I don’t think that it was bad for the environment. I don’t know of a single thing in the Contract that was bad for the environment.

I think Salon had to pause in the interview at that point to allow Newt to douse the flames that began engulfing his trousers. In fact, the CWA was a clever, stealthy attack on the environment as detailed by NRDC in a lengthy analysis (summarized here), by the Sierra Club, and by the National Wildlife Federation, which wrote at the time: “Taken as a whole, the House plan constitutes the broadest and deepest attack ever mounted against laws that protect public health, the environment, natural resources and wildlife.”

The only thing more gut-busting than Gingrich claiming that the CWA and related legislation wasn’t bad for the environment is his newfound embrace of technology as the answer to climate/energy problems.

Recall that in the 1990s, the Gingrich Congress tried to shut down the Department of Energy, slash all clean energy research (including biofuels), stop the joint government-industry effort to develop a superefficient car, and zero out all programs aimed specifically at reducing greenhouse emissions and accelerating technology deployment (for some history, see my 1996 Atlantic Monthly article and this 1997 article).

So it is especially laughable that his website quiz, “Are you a mainstream environmentalist?” gives you more points the more you support these statements:

  • Investments in science and technology will generate solutions to most of our environmental problems.
  • Incentives should be offered to encourage corporations to clean up the environment.
  • America must be a global leader on environmental issues.

And it should leave everyone ROTFLMAO that when Salon asks Newt, “What do you think that the U.S. should do about global warming right now?” he answers:

I think we should have a billion-dollar tax-free prize for a hydrogen engine that can be produced at a commercially available price. I think that we should have a substantial prize for developing the first engine that can be mass produced that gets 100 miles or more to the gallon of fuel. I think that we should have a substantial research program under way for dramatically better ethanol products than corn or cane sugar.

We should have a 100 percent tax write-off for investment in the technology needed to make composite-material cars using the material comparable to that which works in the 787 Dreamliner that Boeing is building. Because composite material is stronger than steel and much, much lighter than steel, and you could produce a safer car at lighter weight, which would get dramatically more mileage.

Unless you can create economically desirable, environmentally positive technologies, you are never going to get China and India to adopt.

Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah. Same as Luntz, Bush, Crichton, Lomborg, and the rest of the global warming delayers. This phony environmentalism is what I call the technology trap in my book.

This answer also gives the lie to any claim that Gingrich is a tech-savvy person. After all, you can build an affordable hydrogen engine today: It’s called an internal combustion engine (which can easily be modified to burn hydrogen), but it is low-efficiency, and thus worthless (since hydrogen production is also an inefficient process). What the Department of Energy has been trying to do for over a decade with Detroit “” a program the Gingrich Congress (and the automakers!) ironically tried to gut “” is build an affordable high-efficiency hydrogen fuel cell. And the hydrogen advocates claim fuel cells would be commercial today “” if we could only get unit sales of fuel cell cars to a few hundred thousand a year (up from zero today).

Moreover, a viable hydrogen engine without a solution to the hydrogen storage problem or tens of thousands of hydrogen fueling stations around the country (costing tens of billions of dollars) is completely useless. So this prize idea is dumb. A pure waste of government dollars of a kind Newt used to mock.

To beat this near-dead hydrogen horse, let me note that Gingrich goes on to say:

If you had a hydrogen car and the French level of nuclear power production for electricity, you’d have a very high quality of life, great mobility, lots of electricity, and virtually no carbon-loading. You can create very advanced technological solutions that dramatically improve life in a way that’s better. The quality of air in California is better than it was 30 years ago. The quality of water in the country is better than it was 30 years ago.

Seriously! This is a cross between “unadulaterated crap” and Orwellian doubletalk. First, even forgetting the problems with building hundreds of new nuclear plants to more than quadruple U.S. nuclear capacity — at a cost of some $4 trillion (see here), basing your transportation system on cars using hydrogen made from zero-carbon electricity is possibly the dumbest transportation policy idea ever conceived as I explain in my Energy Policy article, “The car and fuel of the future” .

Why is California’s air “” and the country’s water “” better than it was 30 years ago? Gingrich disingenuously tries to imply the answer is “very advanced technological solutions that dramatically improve life” but, in fact, the answer is very tough government regulations “” indeed, California is allowed tougher air regulations than the rest of the country, as Newt must know.

Yes the environmental gains Gingrich praises and uses to defend a “technology only” strategy were made possible by the kind of regulations Gingrich tried to gut in the 1990s and that he continues to oppose today “” including a cap and trade system for carbon emissions:

We have been caught in a trap where environmental solutions are defined on the left as higher taxes, bigger government, more regulation and more litigation, and so conservatives just shrug their shoulders; since they oppose all four of those solutions, they refuse to get engaged in environmental issues.

One of the major reasons that Terry Maple and I wrote A Contract With the Earth was to reopen the debate, and to say that there are solutions which involve incentives, science and technology and markets. Entrepreneurs are potentially much more powerful and successful than regulatory and litigation solutions. We ought to be having a dialogue about which solution works better rather than being engaged in a purely partisan debate to see who can yell “anti-environmentalist” more.

As someone who fought for years against the Gingrich Congress’s assault on incentives and technology and market-based solutions, I am sickened by Gingrich’s attempt to rewrite and whitewash history. It is especially depressing that someone as clever and articulate as Newt is joining the delayers, since it can only lead to more delay, when we must act now.

If you seriously think we could end up with 80% of our power from nuclear energy (like France) and hydrogen cars also running on nukes any time soon “” without any major new regulations “” and if you think that outcome would be a good strategy for dealing with global warming (and assuming you buy anything this used-car salesman is selling), then buy the book.

Otherwise, try to enjoy the unintentional humor from Gingrich’s public statements. It’s the only positive thing Newt has to contribute to the debate.

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10 Responses to Memo to media: Eco-fraud Gingrich has always opposed clean energy, climate action. His testimony against Waxman-Markey is not news.

  1. Drew Jones says:

    I love reading a blogger who has the guts to tell it like it is. Well said, Joe!

  2. Dennis says:

    One more thing Newt did that was bad for the environment: He abolished the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). When Congress had OTA, it had ready access to independent, non-partisan scientific research and advice. But the Republican Congress abolished it and left Congress with more than a decade of science being treated as a “he said-she said” debate.

    The effect was to obfuscate science because any committee chairman could call witnesses and produce reports that were blatantly wrong and call that “expert science.” I do not understand why the Democrats have not brought OTA back.

  3. Leland Palmer says:

    Well, his testimony is really no surprise to some of us, who have followed his financial affiliations using the mediatransparency database, although his recent reincarnation as an “environmentalist” is.

    Some quotes from mediatransparency:

    “Currently (2005) Newt Gingrich is simultaneously a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Fellow at the Hoover Institution.”

    So, how much money do the far right conservative foundations such as the Scaife and Bradley foundations put into the AEI and the Hoover Institution?


    Total Grants to American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
    Total $ Granted: $ 44,636,101

    Hoover Institution:

    Total Grants to Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace
    Total $ Granted: $ 23,955,661

    The far right has a network of such institutions, which act as a retirement program for far right politicians, and for others who can keep churning out the propaganda.

    As a fellow of both institutions, Gingrich no doubt drew heavy salaries, and may still do so, simultaneous with his recent reincarnation as an “environmentalist”.

    More quotes:

    ” Honorary Chairman of the NanoBusiness Alliance, is also Chairman of the Gingrich Group, a communications and consulting firm that specializes in “transformational change,” with offices in Atlanta and Washington, DC.

    American Solutions for Winning the Future (website) is another of Gingrich’s enterprises. If you thought the Republican revolution had come and gone circa 1994 with the GOP’s “Contract with America,” check out “The Platform of the American People: A Red, White, and Blue Revolution ,” which Gingrich calls a “tripartisan agenda.”

    Gingrich also sponsors The Center for Health Transformation (website), an organization, according to its website, that is “a high-impact collaboration of private and public sector leaders committed to creating a 21st Century Intelligent Health System that saves lives and saves money for all Americans.””

    So it looks like maybe he has branched out into astroturf, and gone into business for himself, while continuing to pull down Hoover Institution and AEI money?

    I’ll read your background posts on Gingrich with great interest, Joe.

  4. Stuart says:

    “I care deeply about and am committed to the protection of our environment” – What a load of BS. As Joe points out, actions speak louder than words and Newt’s actions speak volumes. The worst part is that many centrists will believe this lying scumbag.

    If there is any cosmic justice in his next life he will come back as an actual newt (in a drying mountaintop ecosystem).

  5. russ says:

    The Al Gore of the Republicans!

  6. Newt Gingrich is a smart guy, whatever you might think of his opinions. That’s a step up from the knuckle-dragging denialist goobers further down the spectrum of Republicanism. At least Newt is teachable, and at least he accepts the validity of science.

    I happen to agree with his idea of offering prizes for solutions. We don’t have all the answers yet, and research is not a bad thing.

    Scoffing at Newt, and other inquisitive people of good faith, probably is bad policy, as well as bad manners. The Green Team needs to make friends, by persuasion, and not confirm enemies, by ridicule.

  7. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Both Newt, and Rep. Barton from Texas earlier, professed completely false and dangerous lies about ocean acidification and AGW effects on coral reefs and shelled creatures of the sea.

    The tragedy is that ocean acidification is not complex to demonstrate, is a potentially huge horror show for more than a billion people, and is all but untapped as a source issue for climate activists to rally around.

  8. Ronald says:

    I saw how Fox handled Newt and the whole Climate Change hearing in Congress. They basically had nothing good to say about Al Gore and glowing things to say about Newt who is so concerned about the poor and people’s jobs. Well, sure, completely expected.

  9. Rick Covert says:

    Hmmm, that’s funny. Newt now says that the “tax” for Waxman/Markey is $3400.00 per family annually. Only 2 weeks ago in a Newsweek Newt penned that the cost was $1300.00 per houshold annually. I guess he hadn’t read the Republican talking points memo yet.

  10. Leland Palmer says:

    Gingrich’s tactics were unfair.

    There is no way to write a 600 plus page bill without putting something in it that can be ridiculed out of context, like Gingrich’s ridicule of the efficiency standard for hot tubs and spas. As Markey pointed out, if there is anything that should have an efficiency standard, it is a luxury item like a spa. These efficiency standards are also the standards that were suggested by the spa industry themselves. Efficiency standards for appliances are a good idea. Should goods like spas be somehow exempt, in this era of what appears to be runaway global warming?

    This tactic of finding a single provision of the bill, and then suggesting it is representative of the entire bill is simply unfair, and is the sort of debating tactic that the think tanks Newt has been employed by for the past decade or so specialize in.

    Most of his points were unfair, I thought. American nuclear power has received over half a trillion dollars in subsidies, over the years, for example.

    Where would solar be now if solar had received half a trillion dollars in subsidies?

    His main point, that there was a tradeoff between economic prosperity and this bill, was wrong I think. Global warming will not lead to economic prosperity, if it is as bad as many of us think it will be.

    The real tradeoff is between survival of the human race and death of the biosphere.

    This bill does not go too far, IMO. Instead, it does not go far enough.