Former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator George “Macaca” Allen is now Chair of something called the American Energy Freedom Center. It seems like starting a front group is the default choice of every politician to leave politics (Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future, and former Representative Bill Paxon’s Americans for Affordable Electricity).
True to form, George Allen’s front group is a PR firm masquerading as a non-profit policy center. It advocates “a future of abundant, affordable and reliable sources of American energy,” as opposed to “expensive, imported and highly regulated energy.”
What does that mean, exactly?
According to the American Energy Freedom Center’s website, it mostly appears to involve the following elements:
- “Oppos[ing]…attacks on America’s largest source of energy: coal.”
- Opposing “carbon and energy taxes,” as well as “expensive, job-killing climate regulations.”
- Promoting coal as the opposite of “wind and solar,” namely “reliable, affordable, and proven.”
- Propagating the falsehoods that “wind and solar” are “intermittent” and “cannot power our high-tech society’s ‘always-on — ready to go’ demand for baseload electricity needs.”
- Pushing development of coal-to-liquids, coal synfuels, offshore energy development, and nuclear power.
As if all that’s not bad enough, a study posted on the American Energy Freedom Center’s website makes a series of outlandish claims about clean energy. For instance, did you know that “The U.S. can expect 2.2 jobs to be destroyed for every 1 renewable job financed by the government?” Or that “Only 1 in 10 of the jobs actually created through green investment is permanent?” Or that “Each “green” megawatt installed destroyed 5.39 jobs in non-energy sectors of the Spanish economy?” All completely false, of course, but what’s a few facts when big money’s at stake?
Yet another paper on the Center’s website mocks the notion that “a massive program of government mandates, subsidies, and forced technological interventions will reward the nation with an economy brimming with ‘green jobs’.” The bottom line, according to the American Energy Freedom Center, is that “most ‘green jobs’ would simply not exist without sustained taxpayer subsidies and government mandates.”
The irony here is striking, given who’s behind the American Energy Freedom Center.
George Allen recently announced the formation of the American Energy Freedom Center, a project of the Institute for Energy Research, yet another group attempting to fight efforts to stop the climate crisis with connections to Exxon.
Almost 10% of the Institute for Energy Research's 2007 budget was provided by ExxonMobil. In 2007, ExxonMobil donated $95,000 of the $988,980 received by the Institute for Energy Research. [ExxonMobil 2007 Worldwide Giving Report, accessed 5/13/09; IER 2008 Year in Review; 5/4/09]
Oh, and the president of the Institute for Energy Research “was formerly Director of Public Relations Policy at the legally challenged enterprise known as Enron.” Here’s an example of the type of “research” done by these propaganda factories:
In 2009 IER [ran] a campaign on "green jobs" attacking the expansion of renewables energies. IER commissioned three studies on renewable energies and green jobs in Denmark, Germany and Spain. These studies by different think tanks were than promoted by IER and other free market think tanks in the US but also used in Europe. The study on Germany e.g. was translated into German and taken up by German media - without mentioning that the study was financed by IER with its close business links. The German institute that wrote the study (called Rheinisch-westfaelisches Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung, RWI) didn't acknowledge the funding from IER until they were challenged by investigative journalists.
It would all be laughable if this disinformation campaign weren’t so well funded, coordinated, and aggressively directed at undercutting clean energy. It’s even more outrageous when you consider that the dirty energy industry – oil and coal in particular – got an estimated $72 billion of our tax money in the United States alone between 2002 and 2008. They got $312 billion worldwide in subsidies received by dirty energy in 2009 alone, according to the International Energy Agency.
Despite all this, George Allen’s propaganda platform continues to attack smart policies that support clean energy, while claiming that its preferred source of (heavily subsidized) energy – dirty coal and oil, in particular – somehow epitomizes “freedom.” Translation: big government subsidies are bad when they go to clean energy, great when even more of them go to dirty fossil fuels.
Here’s the reality: Americans want government spending cut and budgets balanced. And, like many dirty energy advocates, George Allen talks a tough game about cutting government spending -- but he loves expensive welfare for dirty energy.
So, as George Allen prepares to run against war hero Jim Webb, he’s starting to put himself back in the public conversation. As he does this, early and often, he relies on Big Oil propaganda money and a veteran of disgraced Enron to give himself something to run around and talk about. The good news is that we can all see that George Allen is outing himself as a big government spender on highly profitable, mature, dirty energy industries -- even as the majority of Americans want these companies kicked off welfare.
Senator Allen might be better off sticking to strained football clichés, and not feigning expertise about how taxpayers’ money is being spent on energy.