The new film “A German Life” draws on 30 hours of conversation with Brunhilde Pomsel, the 105-year-old former secretary to Hitler’s propaganda minister. The film mirrors everything she has done wrong, she admits, “but really, I didn’t do anything other than type in Goebbels’ office. It was just another job.” Indeed: classic disinformation. Just as Exxon and the Koch brothers have been distorting the energy and climate debate by pouring tens of millions of dollars into groups that deny climate change, funding campaigns like Fueling U.S. Forward, fuelingusforward.com. Fueling U.S. Forward is aimed at “rebranding” fossil fuels by carefully crafted oil-industry messages reminiscent of BP rebranding itself “Beyond Petroleum” and Shell, Chevron, and others publishing ads portraying oil as green.
Last week, the Kochs launched a new $10-million-a-year public relations campaign to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack subsidies of electric vehicles. “We need sustainable energy to ensure the future of the country,” Charles Drevna, an ex-fossil fuel lobbyist who leads the PR campaign, told an audience. “That’s, of course, fossil fuels.”
The website kochvsclean.com documents the brothers’ provision, since 1997, of at least $88.8 million to fund 80 groups that deny climate-change science. From 2005-2008, they vastly outdid ExxonMobil in funding organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, and underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups with a long history of attacks on the growth and adoption of clean, renewable energy. Some, like Fueling U.S. Forward, are known, but we can assume that many operate in the dark.
One effort that stands out prominently is the ongoing campaign to use state legislatures to pass laws that inhibit the development of renewable-energy projects. This effort largely runs through the American Legislative Exchange Council, with help from fossil-fuel-friendly academics, think tanks and nonprofits. In ALEC’s own words, corporations thus have “a voice and a vote” on specific changes to laws that are then introduced in state legislatures by ALEC-member politicians routinely flown out to all-expenses-paid events.
ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force, which includes representatives from such major fossil-fuel companies as ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Koch Industries, and Peabody Energy, has approved model bills to repeal renewable energy standards, weaken renewable-energy standards laws by watering them down with nonrenewable sources of electricity (like natural gas), and eliminate solar net-metering policies. For more on ALEC, explore energyandpolicy.org/american-legislative-exchange-council.
The relative merits of distributed solar energy have been explored recently on these pages. Friends, it is time we made up our minds. July was the 15th month in a row to break heat records. Wildfires are ravaging drought-stricken land. “500-year” floods have hit the U.S. eight times this year already, devastating whole communities. Will we act?
Fraulein Pomsel merrily typed away even as Eva, her Jewish friend, was reduced to a line in a Nazi death-camp ledger. “We believed it, we swallowed it — it seemed entirely plausible,” she pleads today from a distance of 60-odd years. Will we as well tomorrow?