A Case Study In Liberal Hypocrisy

On Monday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce began its consideration of the Upton-Imhofe bill, which would bar the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions. Upton-Imhofe is critical to any effort to restore our economy, so the Democrats are against it. Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman went on a hysterical rant against the legislation:

This is dangerous legislation. Climate change is real; it is caused by pollution; and it is a serious threat to our health and welfare. We need to confront these realities, not put our head in the sand like an ostrich.

We have written about this issue many times. Climate change is “real” only in the sense that the climate is always changing. That has been true for millions of years. Climate change is not caused by pollution; history proves that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not control worldwide temperatures. Nor is global warming a serious threat to our health and welfare. Humanity has consistently thrived during warmer periods and suffered during colder ones. The Dark Ages were dark largely because they were cold.
Waxman continued:

Yet instead of promoting a clean energy future, we are pursuing this partisan bill that benefits no one except big polluters like Koch Industries.

I suppose Waxman thought he was punching his liberal ticket by mouthing the Democratic Party talking point du jour. Evidently he didn’t get the memo, and hadn’t heard that the Left has backed off on its daily attacks on Koch because those attacks were so over-the-top and so factually deficient that they made laughingstocks of the lefties who asserted them.
But here’s the point: imposing more pollution regulations doesn’t hurt “polluters.” (Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, it is a natural substance that is essential to life on earth.) It hurts consumers. If all owners of refineries, power plants and factories have to spend money to install carbon-capture technologies, it is a wash as far as they are concerned. The regulation increases the cost of producing energy or other goods, and that cost is passed on to the consumer. Hot Air cites a study from Waxman’s state, California, that documents the almost unbelievable cost of regulation. To the extent that heightened regulation impacts competition between companies, it helps big companies–like Koch Industries–and disadvantages small ones.
Is is possible that Henry Waxman doesn’t understand that imposing new carbon dioxide regulations would hurt consumers, not Koch Industries? No. Even Henry Waxman is not that stupid. As usual, the Democrats are counting on ignorance.
But there are, in fact, some companies that would benefit from the imposition of CO2 regulations on power plants, refineries and so on. Those companies are the ones that peddle inefficient forms of energy that cannot compete with fossil fuels absent government subsidies. Those subsidies come in two forms. The government can give money and tax breaks to inefficient energy producers like solar and wind, and it has indeed done that. However, those subsidies are relatively transparent and controversial. The second way in which government can help producers of inefficient energy is, therefore, actually better: it can make energy produced with fossil fuels more expensive by imposing needless regulations. And that is exactly what “green”–i.e., inefficient–energy producers lobby for.
Which brings us to Thomas F. Steyer. The New York Times’ “Green Blog” hyped Mr. Steyer as “the anti-Koch” in a puff piece:

For years, Mr. Steyer, a billionaire San Francisco hedge fund manager, assiduously maintained a low profile while becoming a major donor to Democratic candidates. That changed in 2010 when he led the successful fight to defeat Proposition 23, a California ballot measure backed by two Texas oil companies and a company controlled by Charles G. and David H. Koch, the secretive billionaire brothers and bankrollers of conservative causes.

Note the subtle distinction: the Koch brothers are “secretive,” while Steyer “maintained a low profile.”

Proposition 23 would have effectively derailed the state’s landmark global warming law, which would have been a big setback for California’s blooming green technology industry. Mr. Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital Management, is the main financial backer of Greener Capital, a venture firm that invests in renewable energy start-ups.
Now Mr. Steyer appears to be itching to take on the Koch brothers and their supporters as Republican lawmakers seek to limit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “As an investor who one might say is insanely obsessed with energy and its generation and use around the world, it seems crazy to me we would roll back science-based clean air standards because there are skillful political operatives and wealthy political donors who really want to get rid of E.P.A. regulations,” he said in a speech Monday evening at the Cleantech Forum conference in San Francisco. “That seems nuts to me.”

I’m sure it does seem “nuts” to Mr. Steyer, since he has lots of money at stake. As an investor who has placed a big bet on non-fossil energy, he has an obvious personal interest in the government imposing regulations that make his competitors–producers of fossil fuel energy–more expensive. In fact, without such government action, the “green” projects in which he has invested are likely worthless.
But there’s more: Thomas Steyer is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for American Progress, a “Democratic insider think tank started by former Clinton administration official John Podesta” that is often viewed as a mouthpiece for the Obama administration. The Center for American Progress owns the web site Think Progress, which has been the main source of attacks on Koch Industries. So, if you are looking for financial self-interest, let’s connect the dots: Thomas Steyer is desperately trying to influence the federal government to impose irrational costs on industries that produce energy from fossil fuels, so that his own hedge fund investments in inefficient (“green”) energy will be worth more money. The insane attacks that Think Progress, controlled by Steyer and his friends, have launched against Koch Industries are part of this business strategy.
Steyer knows which politicians will enrich him by imposing needless costs on fossil fuel-derived energy, and he contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to them. This is on top of the undisclosed amounts that he contributes to his mouthpieces at Think Progress and other left-wing activists. Click to enlarge:
There is nothing illegal about this; businessmen are allowed to lobby, contribute to politicians, and support astroturf campaigns to protect their investments. But it is the height of hypocrisy for Steyer and his minions at Think Progress to attack companies like Koch Industries, who represent the interests of consumers, while disguising the fact that they are the ones who actually have skin in the game, and are trying to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers and consumers.

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