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From "Green Conservatism" to Black Gold

June 23, 2008


Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been on Fox News and Sean Hannity's radio show promoting oil drilling in the U.S to help solve our energy crisis. He's got a "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" campaign drawing hundreds of thousands of names to one of his websites. But this is a new tune.

Gingrich's book, Real Change, advocates "Green Conservatism," including a perceived need to "reduce the amount of carbon discharged into the atmosphere" and a public works "green" boondoggle known as the Atlanta Beltline Project.

Before rising gas prices convinced Gingrich that he had to launch a campaign to drill for oil, he had promoted an Al Gore-like Contract with the Earth, which is the title of one of his other books, and claimed on his website that socialist Norway represents a case study of "green conservatism." Norway 's government, through the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, controls its energy sector. Gingrich features photos of Norway homes with grass roofs. Is this America 's future?

Before posting his petition urging more oil drilling, Gingrich had appeared in a global warming ad financed by Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Our country must take action to address climate change," Gingrich said, after exchanging glances and small talk with Pelosi. It directs people to one of Gore's websites and a slew of radical environmental groups.

In a major embarrassment, however, Judicial Watch has filed a complaint over the ad with the Federal Election Commission, charging that it constitutes an illegal contribution to Pelosi's re-election campaign. 

Gingrich took a lot of heat for appearing in the ad and responded to the criticism by saying that he merely wanted to participate in the debate over energy policy. Clearly, he could have done so without promoting Al Gore's agenda. Then it was fashionable to appear "green." But the American people understand that going green can't produce more oil for the gas tank.

I am surprised by the oil drilling campaign, having read the two chapters in Gingrich's book, Real Change, on energy policy. They are titled, "Green Conservatism is the Real Answer to Environmental Challenges," and "National Strategies for National Security, the Environment, and the Economy." There is nothing in these chapters about drilling for more oil in the U.S.  

At the end of the book, in a chapter titled, "The Platform of the American People," there is a line on the subject. Gingrich says that we should "build more oil refineries and drill for oil off America 's coasts to lower the cost of gas and reduce our dependence on foreign oil." It follows such proposals as "giving tax credits to companies that cut carbon emissions as an incentive to cut pollution." Hence, Gingrich buys into the theory, popular among radical environmental groups, that CO2 is a pollutant. This dubious belief is helping drive the effort to tax, control and limit carbon emissions.  

Instead of vigorously promoting more oil drilling, as he is doing now, the Gingrich book promoted the mostly government-funded Atlanta Beltline Project, which seeks to convert unused railroad tracks into a 22-mile system of parks, bike paths, trails, and housing. Gingrich included this in a section on examples of "green conservatism." 

But the escalating cost of this project is now put at $2.8 billion and has run into serious trouble because of a lawsuit alleging that school property taxes cannot be spent on it. Attorney John Woodham convinced the Georgia Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision handed down in February, that the funding scheme was unconstitutional. The decision said that the funding mechanism violated the "educational purpose clause" of the Georgia Constitution. So how conservative is this?

Gingrich refers to the Beltline boondoggle as "a good example of the local leadership and public-private partnership that can really improve the environment in a very practical way."

In his book, sounding like Al Gore, Gingrich maintains that "global climate change" is one of several "worldwide challenges," requiring an energy strategy that must be adopted by China , India , and other countries. Unlike Gore, he seems to reject any involvement by "international bureaucrats" in such a scheme. So does he favor a new global warming treaty or not? We are left wondering.

He has a section attacking "environmental extremism" but accepts their man-made global warming theory and other pet causes. He claims to favor a "market-oriented approach" to energy problems but says that "we should insist that the federal government adopt an aggressive strategy" to produce "a dramatically better energy system." What about getting government out of the way and lowering taxes on those who seek to develop and produce more energy? That's old-fashioned conservatism.

Gingrich favors "tax breaks" for producing alternative energy and a payment of $1 billion as a "tax-free prize" for the first hydrogen car that can be mass-produced for a reasonable price. Would a government board determine the winner? Would the government pay the $1 billion?  

He says that he favors nuclear power, but bows to the environmentalists by saying that we need to develop "a new generation of ultra-safe nuclear reactors..." What's wrong with the current crop of nuclear reactors? The only nuclear accident in America , at Three Mile Island, didn't harm anyone.

So-called "green conservatism" also surfaced in former Bush speechwriter David Frum's book, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.  Incredibly, however, Frum advocates a carbon tax as a winning conservative idea. This is the only way, he says, to make renewable energy and nuclear power more competitive with fossil fuels. At the same time, in Gingrich fashion, he says conservatives should continue to push for "free markets to solve our energy and environmental problems."

This kind of doubletalk helps explain why the Republican Party is in disarray. Rather than advocate the production of more energy of all kinds, they have an incoherent message that looks insincere and hypocritical because they want to appear to be as "green" as the Democrats. They think this is popular. Senator John McCain buys into the man-made global warming theory and his bashing of the oil companies, which are actually doing something concrete to put oil in gas tanks, only makes the Republicans look even more ridiculous. 

However, there is hope. Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, was recently in Washington, speaking at a dinner sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and telling us the truth about radical environmentalism. It's socialism, he said, or worse. It's an effort to control your life by claiming that your lifestyle is damaging the environment, he added. The promoters of this insidious ideology are dressing it up in "green" garments in order to fool us into giving up our freedom and independence. His book is titled, Blue Planet in Green Shackles.

Having lived under communism, Klaus understands the socialists and the communists and doesn't want any part of them. But in order to accept his analysis, we have to conclude that "Green conservatism" is an oxymoron that not only spells the death of the conservative movement but human freedom and progress in America . It's good that Gingrich now seems to have jettisoned this approach. He should go further and recall copies of his books. 

We need an American Vaclav Klaus to lead the way back to freedom. Perhaps Fox News can find one.

Copyright ©2008 Cliff Kincaid

Cliff Kincaid is the director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism. To learn more about Cliff, please click the link. http://www.aim.org/expert-bio/cliff-kincaid/

 


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