"Green Hell" - The Interview

(Back in June, while I was in Washington, “Green Hell” author Steve Milloy graciously agreed to sit down for an interview. You can find my review of “Green Hell” here.)

Q: At what point did you realize that you had accumulated enough material for a book?
A: Having run JunkScience.com for 13 years now, I started to realize that on this issue someone really needed to issue a tough message to the public. So during the 2008 hysteria, I started to simply collect newspaper clippings. After just two weeks of accumulating such clippings, I realized that it would soon accumulate into a book – something that was basically indeed the case after about three months.

(More below the fold.)

Q: Has the hysteria peaked?
A: There really never has been any public hysteria, so there’s no hysteria to peak. In terms of the pushers, though, we haven’t reached “peak alarm” with them yet – they are opportunists and there’s no sign that they’re yet ready to drop their “publicity” efforts. The real problem now is that big business has come aboard to try to shape this matter to its own benefit; General Electric has been decidedly notable on this count.

Q: Among other things, I’m an engineer – and so I’ve come to regard “green” as basically meaning “inefficient.” Given the massive inefficiencies inherent in the “green” agenda, how may the global economic downturn change the game?
A: Probably the most immediate effect is that the economic slide will make it more difficult for everyone to swallow the whole idea of cap-and-trade.

Q: In recent years, we’ve seen a massive and mindless drive for “green energy” as a core policy in Germany – one that has led to Germany’s forced reliance on Russian natural gas supplies, and to the increasing “Finlandization” of Germany. In recent months and years, we’ve also seen that the Putin government is increasingly willing to use that sort of European energy dependence as a weapon. Back in March at the New York ICCC, I asked Czech President Vaclav Klaus if any of this was causing an awakening in Europe with regard to the political stability issues that the “green” agenda was raising. Do you have any thoughts on this matter?
A: The funny part is that the entire “green” agenda does indeed play right into Vladimir Putin’s hand – and his political plans. Let’s not forget that because of the collapse of the massive carbon-dioxide-emitting industries of the old Soviet Union, the way the whole “climate change credits” game is structured will be an enormous benefit for Russia. Politically, the entire objective of the whole global “green” agenda is to ensnare the United States – with the added irony that the United States (in contrast to others) is a jurisdiction in which “green” legislation will actually be enforceable (and enforced).

Q: What kind of backlash might develop?
A: For the moment, there’s been no pushback – so far. The immediate problem is that business has “gone over” in an attempt to manage this to self-advantage. But on the other hand, the best sign for right now is that cap-and-trade legislation has run into such strong headwinds in Congress. Basically, as soon as business loses interest in the “green” agenda, this whole thing is over.

Q: Speaking of “cap-and-trade,” this has quite obviously transformed itself into “cap-and-pork.” What implications do you see from this?
A: That’s an indication that whatever merits “cap-and-trade” might have had on its own, it’s now gone down the same Washington road – which basically involves making it easier to pass. This has transformed “cap-and-trade” into something akin to the various “farm bills” and “highway bills” – it gives Washington a vested constituency that it can feed forever. Ironically, this amounts to an admission of how decidedly “imperfect” all of this is.

Q: There seems to be a schism among the “greens” when it comes to nuclear power; some are willing to acknowledge that it’s the most potent low-carbon-emitting source of energy, while others are adamant about its complete unacceptability. What implications does these sorts of internal “green” self-contradictions have going forward?
A: Well, a key “problem” with nuclear power is that it just works too well. This just points out that much (if not most) of the “green” agenda is really an anti-growth agenda. As I mentioned earlier, in the United States all of this is a Washington-driven issue in its entirety; however, economic realities are quickly bringing people back down to Earth.

Q: I mentioned earlier that I’ve come to see “green” as implying “inefficient” – meaning that “green” basically amounts to a poor use of available resources, and the explicit waste of resources. Clearly, your society has to be wealthy enough to have sufficient resources in order to be able to waste them. Is there a backlash coming from developing countries – who clearly don’t have resources to waste?
A: Strangely, there has been less of this than one might have expected. For example, the “greens” have been adamant about blocking absolutely any reintroduction of DDT, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa – where it’s badly needed. It’s surprising that governments and societies in places like that haven’t gotten more excited about this.

Q: Why is Paul Ehrlich still around?
A: Because he has the “right” point of view – even if he’s always in practice wrong.

Q: In Europe, they’ve already had at least one emission-trading-permit market – and the “market” (sic) value of those credits rather quickly reached their true value of zero. We also find factories being built in places like China and India solely for the purpose of collecting payments to not start operating (and emitting things). How widespread are these distortions and games-being-played?
A: These things highlight the overall unenforceability of all of these schemes. In Europe, they’ll just make up whatever numbers are necessary to feed the agenda. In China, they’ll happily continue to build facilities just to get money – and never, ever turn them on to do anything productive. This whole scheme can go on for only so long – because it’s just too expensive.

Q: Is it fair to call this “green fascism?”
A: Yes. It’s frightening to watch this growing conflation of big business and big government – and together, to that duopoly every “solution” amounts to “command-and-control.”

Q: Is greenism a neurotic hobgoblin of decaying jurisdictions?
A: (Laughs at the pretentiousness of the verbiage.) Well, “green” does correlate to a high degree with the “blue” states. But this fits in with the general viewpoint, and serves as a vehicle – climate hysteria can alter the bases of political power, so it makes for a nicely creeping agenda for some people and their viewpoints.

Q: One strange sidelight of the “green” agenda has been a schizophrenic relationship with hydroelectric power – similar to their schizophrenic relationship with nuclear power. A couple decades back, when Hydro Québec began to build their huge James Bay dam projects, the greens were quite tickled – and gushed over a future of plentiful supply from HQ of “renewable” electric power; many of the northeastern states (such as Vermont) giddily signed long-term supply contracts with HQ. However, the “greens” did one of the fastest and most stunning “one-eighties” on record with regard to HQ, when they learned that the reservoirs being created were flooding lands of the Cree Indians – about which there was a “Cree roadshow” around the Northeast. In Vermont, there was a proposal to set a goal by some date of having some high percentage of electricity come from “renewables;” the problem was that if you included HQ-supplied electricity, that goal was already far exceeded – and Vermont was already the high-percentage-from-“renewables” state. This “forced” the passing of a piece of legislation declaring that electricity from any hydroelectric facility with an output capacity larger than 200MW was “non-renewable” – essentially, slapping the designation onto HQ. That’s a long question, but how does hydroelectric power fit into the “green” scheme of things?
A: I think the bottom-line of that discussion is that the “green” agenda means total chaos. The only question now is how much of this is due to simple incoherence – and how much of it is planned.

Q: How significant are the problems of “numerophobia” and “non-quantitative science?” Are these problems fixable?
A: Probably the main issue there is going to be finding ways to make sure that the people who are going to bear the brunt of “green actions” understand the numbers of what is going to be inflicted upon them.

Q: One of the more shocking parts of your book was the discussion of the explicit “green” plans to cram everyone into densely-packed conurbations – in the name, of course, of keeping the countryside clean and (of course) anchoring everyone to small geographic ranges in the name of reducing carbon footprints. (This is somewhat interesting, since it’s the exact opposite of what the Khmer Rouge did in Cambodia back in 1975 – where they drove everyone out of the cities and into the countryside.) How much traction is “rural cleansing” getting?
A: Well, the “greens” package this under the rubric of “smart growth.” But the reality is that among other things, “smart growth” equals “rural cleansing.”

Q: Are hybrid cars profitable for their manufacturers?
A: No, they’re not. Toyota clears about ten dollars per hybrid car sold.

Q: Is Al Gore working so hard on this “green” agenda so as to be remembered for something other than the “Gore toilet?”
A: (Laughs.) Mr. Gore feels that he has redeemed himself. Maybe he has redeemed himself in his own eyes – and maybe that’s the most important thing to him.

Q: What do you making of all the vague babbling we continually hear about “family farms?”
A: The whole “family farms” thing was basically a 1990s anti-biotechnology line-of-attack; that’s what led to that whole “organic” craze. That’s faded now.

Q: How big a problem is the European Union?
A: They’re a huge problem. Basically, they’re trying to make us (the United States) less competitive and drag us down to their level. The EU has been very aggressive about putting in place very strict regulations for doing business within the EU; those regulations, when imposed on multinational companies, get turned into de facto international regulations – which get back-door imported into the U.S. without any American say in the process.

Q: How big a fiasco will the adoption of compact fluorescent light-bulbs (CFLs) be? Can it be reversed?
A: There’s no chance at this point of reversing the ban on plain old incandescent bulbs in time. The main thing we need to hope for is that lighting based on LEDs (light-emitting diodes) will be ready soon – hopefully, the costs can be brought down in time to pre-empt the widespread deployment of CFLs. The widespread use of CFLs is going to be a total disaster; despite the rules-and-regs, many of these bulbs will be discarded in the trash and end up in landfills – causing mercury contamination and a variety of Superfund liabilities.

Q: Can we fight back? Can we win?
A: We have to win. Look, conservatives have a million think tanks, but the left has activist groups. The left “does,” and has been “doing” for forty years now. The reality is that people on the right need to get active.

Q: Steve Milloy, thank you.
A: You’re welcome.