At Denier Conference, Heartland Institute President Claims “Fossil Fuel Dependency” is “Not a Problem”

Meanwhile, the one real atmospheric scientist brought in for a debate says “there’s not a lot of science here” but “there’s definitely paranoia here.”

It’s one thing to use absurd charts and phony science language to try to mislead people into believing the data that human activity isn’t causing climate change. But to claim that the “ecological impact” of mining and burning fossil fuels is “not negative” is a stretch for even the most hard-nosed denier.

Apparently not for the Heartland Institute. In an interview at the International Climate Change Conference – a gathering place for a colorful community of climate deniers – Heartland President Joe Bast declared his support for fossil fuel dependency after mockingly suggesting that the energy from opening and closing a refrigerator door would produce more electricity than wind and solar:

Bast’s idea for the energy future isn’t proven renewables, but the insignificant energy created by opening and closing refrigerator doors? He couldn’t make it any clearer that the Heartland Institute is a fringe group out to fight clean energy. (In fact in a later session at the conference, Bast exclaimed that there’s “beauty” in “black power.”)

Regarding his assertion that there’s no negative ecological impact to relying on fossil fuels — that one rivals his 2006 quote on second-hand smoking that “no victim of cancer, heart disease, etc. can ‘prove’ his or her cancer or heart disease was caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Bast apparently isn’t referring to the billion-dollar clean up after the TVA coal ash spill, the tens of billions of dollars in damage after the 2010 Gulf oil spill, or the trillions in environmental and economic losses already being realized because of a changing climate. No. According to Heartland and most of the attendees at this week’s ICCC conference, these are all manufactured problems created by radical environmentalists who want more government control over people’s lives.

The ICCC is the Woodstock of climate change denial. (That is, if Woodstock were held in a windowless hotel ballroom with a couple hundred people — mostly caucasian men over the age of 65.)

This is the sixth time the ICCC has been held since 2008. It’s organized by the Heartland Institute, a “free-market” think tank with a mission to tear down the “establishment” science of climate change and fight environmental standards. The ICCC event was in Washington this year, so we went down yesterday to listen in on the sessions and talk to some of the speakers and attendees. To Heartland’s credit, they welcomed us in and encouraged us to speak with anyone we wanted.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by this heart-warming sign. Yes, strange indeed. But that set the tone for the conference.

Bast’s comments are similar to most we heard around the event. There didn’t seem to be much agreement from the attendees about why — or if — climate was changing. But there was unanimous agreement that the IPCC, the Obama Administration, James Hansen and environmentalists are part of a plot to grow government and take over people’s lives. The conference is a political one, not a scientific one.

One presenter, Timothy Ball of the University of Winnepeg, proclaimed that the IPCC was “hatching a plot,” that environmentalists believe “industries are too advanced,” and that they’re using population control as a way to advance a climate agenda.

Patrick Michaels of the CATO Institute conducted some of his presentation in an Al Gore impression (which was actually pretty good), quoting Eisenhower’s belief that a scientific-technological elite would create the “rise of misplaced power.”

And David Schnare of the American Tradition Institute made the absurd argument that investment in clean energy will kill people. By stripping money out of people’s pockets, giving them less for health care, Schnare explained that clean energy will “sacrifice human life for political expedience.” (There were a lot of claims made at the conference that the left makes up “junk science” to satisfy its radical environmentalist agenda, but this one and Bast’s comment that there’s no ecological impact to fossil fuel dependency reveal how extreme some of the participants are.)

Scott Denning, an atmospheric scientist from Colorado State University who was brought to the conference to present the “warmist” case, agreed that “there’s not a lot of science here.” While Denning said he’s appreciative of the fact that the organizers treat him with respect and genuinely want him there, he’s also turned off by the political perception that climate scientists like him are out to control people’s lives:

There’s definitely paranoia here. Look, I’m a capitalist, I don’t want to take away people’s cars, I don’t want to tell people what to do. I’m not the enemy. If I were in it for money and fame, would I want to be the one who published the 11,000th paper that came to the same conclusion as everyone else? No. I’d want to be the person who published something new and groundbreaking. But the molecules don’t care who you are — if you’re a capitalist, or a socialist, or a libertarian. Politics don’t change the fact that CO2 emits heat and every time we double CO2, we emit four watts per meter squared all day, every day for a long time. That’s scientific fact.

Let’s recognize the climate-change denial movement for what it is: A small, disparate group of people who are united by a fundamental distrust of government. And that’s perfectly fine, if it’s recognized as such. But to paint an overtly political movement as a scientific one is unhelpful to the public and downright dangerous to climate science.

And as Joe Romm pointed out on this blog before, avoiding action on climate change because of fears that “Big Government” will control our lives may actually increase the role of government:

I have a different argument — if you hate government intrusion into people’s lives, you’d better stop catastrophic global warming, because nothing drives a country more towards activist government than scarcity and deprivation … if we hold off today on government action that focuses for several decades on preventing catastrophe, we will almost guarantee the need for extreme and intrusive government action in the post-2030 era, perhaps lasting centuries. Only Big Government–which conservatives say they don’t want – can relocate millions of citizens, build massive levees, ration crucial resources like water and arable land, mandate harsh and rapid reductions in certain kinds of energy–all of which will be inevitable if we don’t act now.

— Stephen Lacey and Stewart Boss


Below are the earlier comments from the Facebook commenting system:

Mike Roddy

There’s always a lot of unintentional humor at the Heartland conferences, but press observers should keep their eye on the ball. No matter how clownish, stupid, and paranoid these people are, the consequences of their beliefs are pretty straightforward: death and destruction.

July 1 at 10:13am

Sailesh Rao

Unfortunately, the Heartland Institute is not an exception. Our entire industrial, human enterprise is built on death and destruction. This is reflected in our culture’s enumeration of value. We don’t value a standing forest except when it is clearcut and turned into timber. We don’t value a tiger except when its private parts are turned into aphrodisiacs. Everything in Nature is treated as “resources” to be killed, if necessary, and processed for satisfying a dizzying succession of human desires, with relentless advertising and marketing to stoke those desires in the first place.

When we don’t change our culture, but just our energy infrastructure, aren’t we just prolonging the duration of the death and destruction, while careening towards the same end goal of a Great Extinction? As we continue to inflict death and destruction on Nature, our necks are surely on the chopping block as well. That is Karma…

July 1 at 11:30am


Speaking of “paranoid” can the merits or dissent of agw be discussed without a vast right wing conspiracy theory about “big oil”. How lame is this?

July 2 at 1:19am

Patrick Linsley

Yes it is very lame that the oil and coal industries have to try and change the debate away from saving our civilization from unchecked global warming for profit. In fact it seems almost criminal to profit while ensuring that the planet you inherited will be almost unrecognizable for the generations to come without a vote from them. Also invest why is it that so many climate change denying scientists and organizaitons also shilled for big tobacco? Care to explain that.

July 2 at 4:58pm

Noel Susskind

Investhack, aint no conspiracy, but an entrenched oligopoly (look it up). The oil industry is a very mature group of companies who in fact, are incredibly powerful. Advertising and communications are part of a corporate infrastructure that is efficiently maximizing profits year after year. I appreciate that as a logical outcome of a successful business model. (full disclosure- I own or have owned major and not so major oil co. stock)

The science of oil production and consumption is dated and we have to move to new energy systems. Really! Its not paranoia, bubba, its reality. Ask an old wildcatter like T Boone Pickens about it. Solar, wind, geo and net-zero buildings are the way to go!

July 3 at 1:26pm

Patrick Linsley

Don’t forget now deceased oil banker Matthew Simmons who decided to found the Ocean Energy Institute of Maine in 2007 because he felt it was imperative to find another source of energy that could replace oil, because as analyst he knew that there was no way the Saudis can keep up with demand with the world needing more and more oil per year.

July 3 at 4:40pm


“Not a problem… because I said so.”

Man, if only my life worked that way.

July 1 at 10:21am

John Mason

“The ICCC is the Woodstock of climate change denial.”

One big difference was that at Woodstock the organisers warned the crowd that there was some really bad acid going around!

July 1 at 10:35am

Joan Savage

Today, all Iowa is too hot for growth of corn or soy, or even cotton.​ather/maps/forecast/iowa/t​emperature/
Temperature thresholds that inhibit growth are 84F corn, 86 F soy, 90 F cotton. (MJ Roberts & W Schlenker).
“Warming” is not a term a farmer uses when crops are damaged.

July 1 at 10:41am

Joan Savage

However, farmers planted a lot of corn, 2nd largest planting since 1944, and the general business outlook is still optimistic.​/business/124827159.html

July 1 at 10:54am

Joan Savage

Given that Iowa, Illinois and neighboring states are usually called the Heartland, I have to wonder what an air-conditioned conference in DC, a conference that uses that name, is noticing about the real heartland.

In looking for a second source for the temperature map, other forecasts show Iowa daily maximum temps in the high 80s, so that hovers around the plant shut down thresholds for some hours a day, but not as extreme as the first map.

July 1 at 11:00am

Glenn Czulada

If you go the temp records, you’ll see recent Iowa summer temperatures are simply average.

July 1 at 4:59pm

Glenn Czulada

oops, right here.​a/climate/research/cag3/ia​.html

July 1 at 4:59pm

Glenn Czulada

oops. the link.​a/climate/research/cag3/ia​.html

July 1 at 4:59pm

Joan Savage

Thanks, Glenn. Looks like the corn has enough hours of growing even with a few too-hot hours in the day.

July 1 at 6:09pm

Colorado Bob

Check the rainfall numbers in Iowa .

July 1 at 10:45pm

Peter S. Mizla

funny- here in Connecticut- our summers have gotten warmer on average during the last 30 years- and winters see less absolute lows then in 1970- meaning many sub tropical plants can be tried here.

July 2 at 10:32am

Peter S. Mizla

Show me proof

July 2 at 4:16pm

Blair Korchinski

They should rename the Heartland Institute the Anti-Science Loon Institute.

July 1 at 11:08am

Pete Lacey

You know, that’s interesting. Tim Ball was once at the U of W (or M) and is a very, very good speaker. But he is so bent on the subject of climate change that he’s now just short of being a lunatic. Exemplia gratia: he will tell you that “carbon dioxide & the greenhouse effect” does not exist. A great pity, to lose a mind like his.

July 1 at 12:57pm

Vince Winstanley

You must really regret losing Hal Lewis and Freeman Dyson then. Despite the efforts to plug the dyke, the Climategate emails marked the moment the dam began to crumble. The lying , the scheming, and shoddy science was exposed and more and more people are willing to call it like they see it. Science will survive this travesty as it has before. Some scientists have not gotten past the denial stage in their grief for the death of CAGW.

July 2 at 12:21pm

Bärbel Winkler

You might want to check your “facts”! Climategate did not change any of the science underlying climate change and several indipendent inquiries showed that there was no wrong-doing by the scientists: http://www.skepticalscienc​​ls-hacked-intermediate.htm​

July 3 at 10:40am

Vince Winstanley

Here’s a fact for you: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of
warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t”

Keven Trenberth, an IPCC lead author,commenting on the lack of warming since 1998. The computer models did not predict this. This is a problem don’t you agree?

July 3 at 1:09pm

Bärbel Winkler

Your reply just proves the fact, that you didn’t read the information provided in the post I linked to earlier. Here is even more:​m/Kevin-Trenberth-travesty​-cant-account-for-the-lack​-of-warming.htm

July 3 at 1:45pm

Pete Lacey

Bärbel – don’t bother. People like him, in spite of a university “education”, have one-sided viewing down to an instinct. Bu
t there has been improvement: it wasn’t all that long ago that they were denying that global warming is happening at all.

July 3 at 2:20pm

Bärbel Winkler

Pete – I know and I was providing the links more for others happening on this comment thread who may not realise how misleading his comments are

July 3 at 3:45pm

Vince Winstanley

Ahhh. Bad timing:​/2011/07/04/a-peer-reviewe​d-admission-that-global-su​rface-temperatures-did-not​-rise-dr-david-whitehouse-​on-the-pnas-paper-kaufmann​-et-al-2011/

July 4 at 8:22pm

Blair Korchinski

Dude, you have no right to your own facts. The “climategate” e-mails, illegally stolen by denialists, were grossly misrepresented by the anti-science community for purely political reasons.

When the issue was looked into, it became obvious that the cherry-picked phrases supported the scientific evidence when put back into context.

At this point, anybody claiming those e-mails provide any support for the denialist camp is either misinformed or purposely misrepresenting the truth.

July 4 at 9:46pm

Bonnie S

I guess you didn’t read and understand the computational mismanagement and malarky described in the HARRY_READ_ME file?

July 17 at 5:48am

Mark Freed

” avoiding action on climate change because of fears that “Big Government” will control our lives ” but not afraid that Saudi Arabia, or (gasp) Hugo Chavez, or Putin, will control our lives. absurd.

July 1 at 12:12pm


Reducing conventional energy of a green fantasy topic and solution is far more foolish. More supply reduces cost and there is little hard scienc linking co2 to any harm. Heartland is correct.

July 2 at 1:21am

Patrick Linsley

invest, why not move to China or Tehran and tell us how unchecked usage of fossil fuels is helping the people of those places advance economically when the life span of the average China man has increased by amongst the slowest globally (even most of the third world stomped them for cripes sakes!) over the last decade while increasing it’s fossil fuel usage by leaps and bounds and how Tehran is dealing with horrible smog cutting into visibility and causing huge amounts of respiratory illness due to no emission controls? Also are you seriously agreeing with the Heartland institute that there is NO downside to mining coal or drilling for oil? Seriously even if you think it is necessary you can’t pretend like there is no tradeoff……like the Heartland Institute (who also, by the way, deny any link between second hand smoke and cancer).

July 2 at 5:08pm

Peter S. Mizla

Bart is an idiot.

July 1 at 12:26pm

Bärbel Winkler

Current example of how far removed from reality Bart is w.r.t. “no negative ecological impact” from fossil fuel use, courtesy of Exxon mobil’s ruptured pipeline:​environment/2011/jul/03/ye​llowstone-river-suffers-oi​l-spill

July 3 at 11:32am

Dana Nuccitelli

That’s a great quote from Denning. Well said.

July 1 at 1:15pm


Been following the ICCC conference a bit on SeaMonster. I wish I had gone up, but for kicks and to try to change a few minds.

July 1 at 1:20pm

Bob Limbach

No warming of significance for the last decade. Solar activity entering another minimum. Thinking that man caused global warming will cause any problems is a dying joke. Show me any strong evidence of a looming problem! The models are junk and don’t account for the strong solar influence.

July 1 at 2:46pm

Tom Gray

“No warming of significance for the last decade”: See​le/global-warming-stopped-​in-1998 . Regards, Tom Gray, Wind Energy Communications Consultant

July 1 at 2:55pm

Tom Gray

“Solar activity entering another minimum”: See​le/its-the-sun-stupid . Regards, Tom Gray, Wind Energy Communications Consultant

July 1 at 2:59pm

M. Amos Clifford

Bob, you say “the models are junk” right after asking for evidence. Are you sure you are capable of seeing evidence?

July 1 at 7:46pm

Patrick Linsley

Solar activity has been in a minimum and it’s still getting hotter so wanna explain that one to us?

July 1 at 9:57pm

Colorado Bob

” No warming of significance for the last decade. ”
This is only true on AM radio.

July 1 at 10:23pm

Bob Limbach

What are the models evidence of? They are scenerios not forecasts.

July 5 at 5:35pm

Bill Snider

My calculator says that if CO2 is 380 parts per million of the atmosphere that means it is 38/1000 of 1% of the atmosphere. If the human generated part of that CO2 is 3%, then the human generated part of CO2 is 11/10,000 of 1% of the atmosphere. We are supposed to believe that if we could only control or slightly reduce that tiny portion of CO2 produced by human activities we can bend the climate to our will and make the climate be “just right”. Forget the sun, the ocean circulations, the earth’s orbit or tilt on it axis, and all the other long list of things affecting the climate. Put me in the skeptical catagory.

July 1 at 3:07pm

Edward Hummel

To Bill Snider,
I guess it didn’t sink in that only about 1% to 2% of the atmospheric gases (CO2, H2O, CH4, N2O and a few others) are responsible for keeping Earth from being like the moon. This fact was established about 150 years ago by John Tyndall and has since been verified many times. You did mention the sun, ocean circulations, Earth’s orbit and tilt, and a “long” list of other things which affect Earth’s climate, but did not include green house gas concentrations as being one of the principle drivers and amplifiers of climate changes over Earth’s long history. Of the principal green house gases that I mentioned above, CO2 is seen as the most important simply because it is the most stable in the atmosphere, lasting decades and even centuries before being cycled through natural Earth processes while the others’ residence time is much shorter (only hours in the case of H2O) as they are cycled through much more readily by their processes, whether chemical, physical, or mechanical. If you want to know what happens to global temperatures if CO2 concentration becomes more “significant”, I would suggest that you go to Venus which is about 400 times warmer than Earth and in fact is even warmer than Mercury though it’s twice as far from the sun as that innermost planet. I would also suggest that, if you are still skeptical, you take some time off from your law books and spend a little time learning basic atmosperic physics. Even professional specialists and professors need to be well rounded in their overall knowledge, particularly when that knowledge concerns something as important as the future survival of human civilization, not to mention a generally habitable planet over the next several thousand years (and that’s being optimistic!).

July 2 at 11:24am

Patrick Hamilton

The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has risen from 280 ppm prior to the onset of industrialization to 394 ppm now due to the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and other human activities. How do you come up wtih only 3 percent as that being generated by humans?

July 7 at 5:17pm

Robert Karaffa

Dude, please…brush up on your science, lose the propagandist attitude. Read Hansen, Mann, Archer, Thompson, Schmidt, et al. Read the scientific papers. Read the journal articles. Brush up on your organic chemistry, atmospheric physics, oceanography. Find out who Svante Arrhenius was. Watch Greenman3610’s youtube vids; same for potholer54. For crap’s sake, Educate Yourself!

July 8 at 1:35pm


EXCLUSIVE: Leaked letter: ICCC climate skeptic conference “an elaborate hoax” http://itsgettinghotinhere​.org/2011/07/01/exclusive-​leaked-letter-iccc-climate​-skeptic-conference-an-ela​borate-hoax/.

July 1 at 3:08pm

Patrick Linsley

The hoax is a hoax lol. If you scroll to the bottom you will see. I kinda thought it was one when I saw the poor penmanship.

July 1 at 9:29pm

Andrew Gerdeen

Wow… just wow

July 1 at 3:23pm


Americans For Prosperity Sues New York For Participating In Regional Climate Pact​americans-prosperity-sues-​new-york-participating-reg​ional-climate-pact?utm_sou​rce=twitterfeed&utm_medium​=twitter.

Crimes Against Humanity and the Democratic Process, brought to you by Exxon, Koch and Co.

July 1 at 3:53pm


Tax payers money for oil companies at work…

July 1 at 3:53pm

Pat Michaels

Hey, thanks for the compliment on the Gore imitation! But, alas, you have it wrong about the scientific-techological elite. In my talk, that was a clear quotation read from Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell Address (two paragraphs below the famous “military-industrial complex” prediction) and identified as such. If you want to rag on Ike, feel free.

July 1 at 4:20pm


Everyone who dissents with your views is “biased and misleading”, you don’t notice a pattern here?

July 2 at 12:58am

Tenney Naumer

There may be no words to express how low Patrick Michaels is, but many have tried.

July 2 at 11:32am

Patrick Linsley

investhack you are very correct. I know I personally feel the same way when someone says ‘smoking isn’t bad for your health’, or ‘gravity doesn’t exist!’ or ‘if you sail to the end of the earth a monster will eat you!’. That is when people say things that aren’t verified facts as if they are and are getting paid to do so I usually say they are ‘biased and misleading’. Seriously the guy (Mr. Bast not Mr. Michaels) heading the event claims that second hand smoke hasn’t killed anyone, just remember you are on the side of THAT GUY!

July 2 at 2:58pm

Vernon Kuhns

Interestingly the trillions in losses due to Climate Change would be nothing compared to the losses due to an Ice age or the earth going back to its GreenHouse period when humans didn’t exist. It is a lot of fun listening to delusional types continuing to try and panic us into believing their Junk Science to fulfill their religious beliefs that Humans are the root of all evil.

July 1 at 6:08pm

Colorado Bob

Then you won’t mind paying the bill for this drought , heat , and fires –
Texas will be a vast wasteland in 20 years
Warmest and driest month on record for portions of Texas
June 2011 was the warmest and driest month of all-time in Midland, Texas, since records began in 1931. The average temperature was 88°F, beating the old record of 87.2°F set in August 1964. No rain fell, making it the first June in recorded history in Midland where no rain fell. June 2011 was the warmest on record in San Angelo and Borger, 2nd warmest in Austin and Amarillo, 3rd warmest in Dalhart, 4th warmest in San Antonio, and 10th warmest at Brownsville………..
…” The 4.7 million acres that have burned in the U.S. so far this year is more than double the 10-year average of 2.3 million acres, according to the Interagency Fire Center. Both Arizona and New Mexico have seen their largest fires in recorded history, and Texas has seen the most acreage burned in recorded history. ……… ”​m/blog/JeffMasters/article​.html
June was the warmest on record in Houston.
# The Junes of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 all rank among the 10 warmest Junes on record.
# April, May and June of 2011 all rank among the 10 warmest on record in Houston.
# Houston had seven 100-degree days in June. On average it gets four per decade.​uy/2011/07/its-been-so-hot​-and-so-dry/

July 1 at 10:43pm

Peter S. Mizla

Humans are simply bringing up vast amounts of carbon to burn as energy to sustain an economic system that is no longer sustainable (using fossil fuels that is- long dormant, for millions of years) There is no difference between what happened during the PETM- when vast amounts of carbon and methane where induce through natural tectonic forces- and what people are doing today- is still carbon !!!!!Lets get off the sill trip that humans cannot do this or that- its just plain science- and that science says too much C02 is entering the atmosphere.

July 2 at 5:05am


This video is nothing less then a Drug Advertisement from an addict.

July 1 at 6:16pm

M. Amos Clifford

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

July 2 at 10:11pm


What in the heck is a “Denier Conference”? I googled it to get more info and found nothing.

July 1 at 10:01pm


Misuse of Food and Climate Data at Forbes.

Forbes, which regularly publishes biased, misleading, and distorted opinion pieces on climate issues, has just published a remarkable one by Patrick Michaels. Michaels is well known for his regular misleading statements about climate. And while his statements are mostly worth ignoring, this one contains a particularly remarkable combination of errors and falsehoods. He accuses a variety of other people (including Justin Gillis of the New York Times) of misrepresenting data on food production and climate risks while simultaneously doing exactly that.

July 1 at 11:25pm


It doesn’t help the debate right off the start by comparing those who dissent to agw, many very qualified to “holocaust deniers” with all the usual unjustifed snark and arrogance that defines the modern left. Your minds are far more closed than those you accuse.

Tons of stats on all sides but certainly nothing close to a comparision to “gravity” and there seems to be a general dependence on the public weakness on both science and economics to advance the agw through largely emotional ranting through standard green vs. industry arguments. AGW is not only losing on science but it is a really tired narrative with zero charisma.

The funding will be cut soon and then recants and posturing will grow further. FOI requests into the models and data are certainly going to get to past abuses (hockey stick) and like many Ponzi structures someone will likely be heading to jail. Politically already many are moving on into other hyperbole; fat and fertility “management”, biodiversity etc.

Stick a fork in it, agw alarmism was done long ago.

July 2 at 12:54am

M. Amos Clifford

I’m still alarmed by AGW. Even more so as the evidence continues to flood in overwhelming and consistent volume. Though I tend to agree that a fork has indeed been stuck, just not where you suppose. And the turnin’ ain’t gonna be pretty for you, me or anybody else.

July 2 at 11:55am

Patrick Linsley

Ice caps melting, glaciers receding please explain that one to me investhack go ahead I’m all ears.

July 2 at 3:06pm

Comments are closed.