December 4, 2008

Enron provided the model for buying off environmentalists

There are two kinds of environmentalist groups: activists and collaborators. They both have important roles to play. The collaborators, however, often get too cozy with the industrialists they mean to influence. Many of them, such as Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, The Sierra Club, and The Nature Conservancy, also accept large donations from the companies they "work" with. They become, instead of the pragmatic arm of the environmentalist movement and corporate watchdogs, the "green" outreach office of those companies, industry's "useful idiots".

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that several of these groups have signed on with the new industry-initiated American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) (and its $3 million first-year budget). AWWI's board includes representatives from GE, BP, Iberdrola, Enxco, and NRG Systems, and its web site is registered by Wayne Walker, a consultant who works for Horizon Wind Energy and the American Wind Energy Association. Other industry members are AES Wind Generation, Babcock & Brown, Clipper Windpower, Eon, Horizon, Nordic Windpower, Renewable Energy Systems, and Vestas.

The goal, as seems apparent from Wayne Walker's work, is to come up with ways that industrial wind developers can "mitigate" their impact on wildlife, i.e., give money to cooperative environmentalist groups in return for letting them get on with industrializing the last of our rural and wild places.

It also comes as no surprise to learn that Enron, who created the modern wind industry (inventing "green tags", for example, to sell the energy twice), provided the model for AWWI. Christopher Morris wrote in August 2002, for the anti-welfare Capital Research Center:
... Enron executives worked closely with the Clinton administration to secure support for the Kyoto Protocol because the company believed the treaty could generate a financial windfall. An internal Enron memo circulated immediately after the 1997 Kyoto meeting (and first reported by the Washington Post) shows the company believed the treaty “would do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”

So Enron philanthropy lavished almost $1.5 million on environmental groups that support international energy controls to reduce so-called global warming. From 1994 to 1996, the Enron Foundation contributed nearly $1 million dollars ($990,000) to the Nature Conservancy, whose “Climate Change” project promotes global warming theories.

The company did more than simply provide financial backing for groups supporting ratification of the Kyoto treaty:

• In 1997 Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was named a member of President Clinton’s “Council on Sustainable Development,” joining Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, EPA administrator Carol Browner, and Fred Krupp, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The task force also included representatives from the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

• The National Environmental Trust, a public relations organization heavily funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to promote environmental policies, worked with Ken Lay to place pro-Kyoto editorials under his signature in the Houston Chronicle, the Austin-American Statesman, and the Salt Lake City Tribune.

• Enron built ties to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). EDF lauded Enron’s “Enron Earth Smart Power,” a 39-megawatt wind farm in Southern California that was intended to offer consumers “environment-friendly” electricity. Daniel Kirshner, an EDF senior economic analyst, commended Enron’s achievement, saying, “The Environmental Defense Fund hopes that buying environmentally-friendly electricity will soon be as popular as recycling is now.”

• Representatives from Enron participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Progressive Policy Institute to “discuss the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and politically viable strategies for tackling the larger threat of climate change.” Other panelists included Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and members of the Natural Resources Defense Council and EDF.

Enron’s activities were not limited to advancing the environmental agenda; the company also used its environmental friends to advance its business agenda. Enron solicited support from green groups for its own business ventures, such as the 1997 purchase of Portland General Electric. Enron urged Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of Oregon environmental groups to sign a memorandum of agreement endorsing the purchase, despite objections by the state Public Utility Commission. Portland’s Willamette Week newspaper reported that the groups subsequently received Enron grants totaling nearly $500,000. Among the beneficiaries: Northwest Environmental Advocates ($30,000), Salmon Watch ($15,000), and American Rivers ($5,000). . . .
wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism