How to Handle a Senate Demagogue

It is hard to single out the most egregious demagogue in the U.S. Senate, but near or at the top of my list is Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. He likes to blast “dark money” even though Democrats by far receive more so-called “dark money” than conservatives or Republicans. (I’m updating my periodic Lexicon of Political Terms accordingly, to reflect that “dark money” means “donations from the private sector that support ideas or causes the left doesn’t like.”) Whitehouse in particular likes to attack the Federalist Society as some kind of “cabal” or conspiracy to transform the federal judiciary, as if there were no issues whatsoever that any decent person could possibly argue over. He never deigns to argue about anything. If it were up to Whitehouse, I suspect he’d censor or outlaw the Federalist Society. Fortunately, he’s just another Senate blowhard.

Ditto for climate change. Earlier this week Whitehouse chaired a Senate committee hearing on the subject “Left Holding the Bag: The Cost of Oil Dependence in a Low-Carbon World.” It was a set up to denounced fossil fuels, of course, with the witness lineup tilted three to two in favor of the climatista party line. The primary dissenting Republican witness was our pal Ben Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute, who has actually appeared here on Power Line under the pseudonym “Comrade Molotov.” (And now you know. . .)

You can read his complete prepared testimony to the committee here, but here are a few short highlights:

The “Low-Carbon World” assertion explicit in the title of this hearing assumes a structural economic shift away from conventional energy — fossil fuels — that is virtually certain not to be observed. Because fossil fuels are overwhelmingly the most efficient forms of energy available now or prospectively, market forces will not engender a massive shift away from them toward such unconventional forms of energy as wind and solar power. Such unconventional energy technologies are uncompetitive because they are far more costly and far less reliable than conventional energy. That is why they cannot survive a competitive market test, and it is only large subsidies, both direct and indirect, and other policy-driven subventions that allow them to survive. . .

The IPCC in a recent report argues that achievement of the purported 1.5°C “safe” limit on global temperature increases would require implicit taxes equivalent to over $35 per gallon of gasoline by 2030, in constant year 2022 dollars, and rising sharply thereafter. Congress will never enact such policies. . .

There is no evidence of a climate “crisis” in terms of temperature trends, polar sea ice, tornadoes, tropical cyclones, wildfires, drought, flooding, or ocean alkalinity. The IPCC is deeply dubious about the various severe effects often asserted as prospective impacts of increasing atmospheric concentrations of GHG. Moreover, NASA reports significant planetary greening as a result of increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization show that global per capita food production increased 46 percent between 1961 and 2020, and 20 percent for 2000-2020.

The “crisis” narrative is derived wholly from climate models that cannot predict the actual temperature record.

The whole thing is a tour de force. Naturally this didn’t go down well with Sen. Whitehouse, who decided to attempt his best imitation of the late Joe McCarthy. Here’s his cross-examination of Ben (“Mr. Zychel,” he calls him), where, note, he barely bothers to inquire about the substance of the issue at all, but attempts to sully Ben for having once—30 years ago—taken a tiny indirect fee from a tobacco interest (less than $1000) for a paper about the efficiency of tobacco taxes, and for dissenting from the cliches of the party line about the “climate crisis,” rather than talk about the actual subject of the hearing. I doubt Whitehouse is used to being talked back to as directly as this (12 min. long):

But this wasn’t enough for Sen. Whitehouse. He came back at Ben again at the close of the hearing, with a complaint about the Citizens United case that is so bizarre and incorrect that one wonders just how dumb Whitehouse is. (First, Citizens United had and has no effect on donations to nonprofit organizations like AEI; second, as far as money goes, the climate campaign dwarfs—by an order of magnitude at least—the funding level of any climate dissenting organizations. Maybe Whitehouse ought to have a hearing about why those organization spend their lavish funds so badly.)

Let’s just say Sen. John Kennedy he ain’t.

Takeaways: you know the old saying—if you’re taking flak, you know you’re over the target. The ad hominem attacks on Ben suggest that his testimony totally blew out the props from the whole green energy whim wham, and if you watch the whole hearing you can see the other witnesses tacitly note this here and there.  If you are a glutton, you can watch the entire 90 minute hearing here.

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