I’m not certain anybody can follow the gyrations of The Breakthrough Institute (TBI) anymore. Over the last few years, it has attacked essentially every plausible solution to our energy and climate problems — and anyone who tries to end our status quo energy policies.
Now, in the span of a few weeks, it has gone from attacking clean energy standards and energy efficiency, especially efficient lighting, to proudly defending those crucial strategies. If TBI doesn’t even read its own reports, should we?
Readers have long asked me to update the term “jumping the shark” — especially since the term is really supposed to apply only to “the point in a television program’s history where the plot spins off into absurd storylines,” and I have often been using it for institutions that were not serious to begin with. Certainly another new Breakthrough Institute article can’t be said to be jumping the shark (see TBI’s attack on energy efficiency backfires and Debunking TBI’s attacks on Obama, Gore, Waxman and Markey, Rachel Carson (!), and top climate scientists).
That’s where Charlie Sheen comes in.
Charlie Sheen seems a better archetype for a group that was never terribly serious, and now seems to issue incoherent statements primarily for the purpose of getting media attention. Sheen at least is reveling in his self-parody. As CBS reports, “Charlie Sheen has announced additional tour dates to his upcoming ‘My Violent Torpedo of Truth‘ tour, which kick starts next month.”
TBI, however, has been engaged in a wholesale attack on clean energy standards and energy efficiency for months now, using talking points that right-wing think tanks have pushed for years (see The intellectual bankruptcy of conservatism: Heritage even opposes energy efficiency). This shouldn’t be terribly surprising to longtime followers of TBI. After all, last year they partnered with a right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, to push right-wing energy myths and attack the most basic of clean energy policies, a clean energy standard.
The Introduction to the October 2010 report that TBI’s Ted Nordhaus and Michael SHEllENberger co-authored with AEI (and Brookings) states:
New mandates, carbon pricing systems such as cap and trade, and today’s mess of subsidies are not going to deliver the kind of clean energy innovation required.
Yes, Nordhaus and Shellenberger joined AEI in asserting that mandates plus a carbon price plus subsidies can’t drive the necessary innovation. Seriously.
Note that energy subsidies include R&D (see for instance Wikipedia), and Nordhaus and Sheen support a massive ramp up in clean energy subsidies, just (slightly) different ones … well, it would take too long to try to explain what they supposedly mean here about that, other than pointing out that the Republican National Committee loved their attack on Obama’s huge ramp up in clean energy subsidies so much, they used it themselves. But I digress.
[Regular readers know that TBI posts require multiple head vises. New readers can take some comfort in the fact that DARPA is funding R&D into a containment field that could protect people’s crania from The Breakthrough Institute analyses. It’s too late for you, of course, but just imagine how that breakthrough might improve the lives of future generations!]
At the same time last fall, TBI starting publishing pieces claiming that “More Efficient Lighting Will Increase, Not Decrease, Energy Consumption” [emphasis in original — if you truly have world-class head-vises you can search for “Saunders” on their website]. It was debunked here: “Efficiency lives “” the rebound effect, not so much.”
Then they published a whole big report last month on “How Efficiency Can Increase Energy Consumption.” I have published various debunkings by some of the world’s leading energy experts (see “Debunking the Jevons Paradox: Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” and “The Breakthrough Institute’s attack on clean energy backfires” and “Energy efficiency and the ‘rebound effect’ “).
But the fact that TBI published easily debunked nonsense is not news. What’s head-vise-busting here, what defines the full Charlies Sheen, is that Breakthrough Institute’s Senior Fellow Roger Pielke Jr. published an op-ed in the NYT last week touting the benefits of energy-efficient lighting standard — and the very same TBI website that has been pushing out an unending stream of disinformation on energy efficiency and clean energy standards, now pushes out a tweet praising the study and posts this on their front-page:
Well, as we’ve seen, you can’t spell Shellenberger without Sheen.
[Yes, something would appear to be wrong with their website since the Pielke article isn’t “today,” it was the March 10th (see here).]
TBI supported Obama’s climate plan until he made a few changes and then they trashed it and everyone who supported it (see S&N go after Obama by recycling GOP talking points). They supported a massive increase in spending on clean energy, until Obama did it in the stimulus, and then they trashed it.
But this is beyond such standard TBI fare. Again, after months of trashing clean energy standards, explicitly saying that they don’t drive innovation, and after months of trashing efforts to promote energy-efficient lighting, explicitly saying it could actually lead to increases in energy use, now they sing the praises of energy efficient lighting standards: “Let There be More Efficient Light.”
Like Charlie Sheen, The Breakthrough Institute doesn’t make sense anymore, but they are both amusing, in a way (if only TBI’s efforts weren’t spreading so much disinformation for right-wingers to use). Still, I’m filing this under humor and ending with a final tweet:
- Markey spokesman: “The Breakthrough Institute seems to believe, much as the Bush administration did, that technology will solve all, even without a market.”
- Shellenberger and Nordhaus smear Gore by making stuff up
- For a good example of where in the political spectrum their assaults on environmentalists and climate scientists fit, see “George Will embraces the anti-environmentalism “” and anti-environment “” message of The Breakthrough Institute.”