The following is a transcript of a session hosted by the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) during the organization’s July 2016 summit, held in Colorado Springs, CO. The session, titled “Climate Change Debate: How Speech is Being Stifled” was moderated by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, alongside Myron Ebell, Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) President Chet Thompson.
Audio of the session was obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy. For more details see here.
Attorney General Luther Strange 00:32
Good morning everyone. If you’ll come take your seats, we’ll get started here. Talk about the great climate change debate. Okay good morning everyone, I know you’re getting coffee. We’ve got a great panel and I want to keep us on time. I ask everyone to come in, take your seats, so we can get started with this first panel. I think you’re going to find it to be a very interesting subject and we have two great panelists who can share their real world experiences in dealing with this issue. And then we’re going to allow plenty of time to allow, for those of you who are here, to ask questions, weigh in on your perspective on this issue. Because I expect you’ll have for Attorney General of Alabama, glad to see so many friends here and colleagues, I think this is highly, best attended event that we’ve had. And I really appreciate everyone taking the time to be here.
Attorney General Luther Strange 01:39
Well as you all know by now, this past February, we, Republican AGs historic victory in the Supreme Court with our decision stopping Obama’s Clean Power Plan . You might say in response to that, maybe they just decided to do it on their own, a group of Democratic attorneys general calling themselves AGs United for Clean Power, I’ve heard them called the “Green 20,” I don’t know exactly what they would call themselves and their allies are taking steps at I believe threatens the First Amendment and we’ve written a lot about that the idea of criminalizing public policy differences very publicly. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
Attorney General Luther Strange 02:33
Just this morning, Congressman Ted Lieu and Sheldon, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, announced plans to introduce a resolution accusing fossil fuel companies of using a sophisticated campaign to deceive the public of climate change. However you feel about climate change, I think we can all agree there should be a vigorous debate on the issue, what to do about it, and without criminalizing people who may have a different opinion. So we have two good panelists. I’m going to do a quick introduction, I’m going to turn it over to our first panelist and we’ll go from there.
Attorney General Luther Strange 03:09 Myron Ebell is director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute Center for Energy and Environment. This is one of the most effective advocates for free market environmentalism. He also chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, the ad-hoc coalition of 28 non-profit groups that question global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies. He’s got a very strong background in government and he worked for several people including someone I really admire, Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming. A native born and grew up in California. Graduated from Colorado College, school of economics. So we’re going to hear from Myron first.
Attorney General Luther Strange 03:45
We’ll also hear Chet Thompson, the President of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association. Chet has nothing but so I’m not going to belabor him but Chet has a very diverse, very impressive background in advising policy makers and industry on energy issues. His association is one of the leading in that regard so he’ll come second. I want to ask Myron to start off our discussion today, give us his perspective and I will fill and then we’ll allow plenty of time to hear from you in the audience to give us your perspective. Myron come on up .
Myron Ebell, CEI 04:40
Thank you Attorney General Strange. And thank you all for having me. It’s a, I’m very pleased that you invited me and it’s a great honor to be here. Of course as he mentioned, I was an undergraduate for four years here in Colorado Springs, Colorado College. It’s always great to get out of Washington. But of course, one of the reasons it’s so great to get out of Washington is to get away from all the lawyers. But I just want to say you’re the right kind of lawyers. And one thing you may not know about the Competitive Enterprise Institute, even if you’ve heard of us before, is that we do a lot of litigation and we have been co-litigants in a lot of cases. For example, Dodd-Frank litigation and currently the costly Clean Power Plan litigation.
Myron Ebell, CEI 05:38
Let me just say first about CEI, we’re a small free market policy institute. The reason a lot of people haven’t heard of us is because we’re small and secondly because– and underfunded I might point out–the other reason, of course, is that we don’t do taxes and spending. We do regulations, which is a much harder and a less rewarding thing to be in than fighting higher taxes.
Myron Ebell, CEI 06:03
So let me just say, I want to point out that these subpoenas issued by Attorney General Schneiderman in New York, by the Attorney General in the Virgin Islands Claude Walker and by the Attorney General of Massachusetts Maura Healey and I think by Kamala Harris in California. These are not by any means the start of the story of trying to silence and defund the opponents of global warming alarmism in energy integration and policies. Nor should this be taken out of the context of what the left is doing to try and silence and defund all types of groups on all sorts of issues. Let me just give you one example of the background because it involves CEI. In 2006, ExxonMobil was first targeted. ExxonMobil posts all of their contributions to nonprofit groups on their website. So in 2006 after Lee Raymond retired and was replaced by Rex Tillerson, the environmental left pounced, first the Royal Society in London, they don’t have legal authority but they have a huge amount of intellectual authority. At first, they demanded that ExxonMobil stop funding CEI. And when ExxonMobil announced they would agree to do that, they then said, well now they have to stop funding all the other groups they fund. The same thing happened later that year with Senators Olympia Snowe, a Republican, and a Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, said, well we’re glad you stopped funding CEI, if that is indeed true, but now you have to stop funding all the other groups. Now, Exxon’s annual total was about 2.5 million dollars. 2.5 million dollars to 20 some groups. CEI is the leader of the opposition, it was the largest recipient but there were many smaller groups and bigger groups that got funding. 2.5 million dollars was something that the left thought was worth fighting over.
Myron Ebell, CEI 08:30
As it turned out in 2009 and 10 when the Democrats controlled Congress and the White House, it was a very close sort of thing, whether the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill would be passed or not. It is a very close sort of thing. And the fact that we had lost those resources made it much harder. And people say, well there was a lot of corporate resources. Yeah, but most of the corporate resources were in favor of Waxman-Markey. So we’ve been through this before. Now what’s, I’d just like to show you what 2.5 million dollars, should make you laugh. If you look at just 10 environmental groups, their annual budget is just over 900 million dollars. If you add up the next 20 environmental groups, you’ll get another 8 or 900 million dollars. If you add up the next 50 or 100 you’ll get another 8 or 900 million dollars. So the free market environmental community in Washington, D.C. consists of fewer than 50 people. And people say, “well you have corporate allies.” Well, in fighting cap-and-trade, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership was much, much better funded than the opponents of cap-and-trade. Carbon tax. Who supports a carbon tax? ExxonMobil, Shell, BP. So this is a David versus Goliath battle. I pointed out, it’s nice to remember that David won.
Myron Ebell, CEI 10:08
So, so why is the left so intent on trying to win the debate by silencing and de-funding their opponents? Well they have a little problem, we’ve got reality on our side. Let me just point out, here’s, here’s the famous John Christy graph that shows the model results versus the actual beta. The model results predict a lot of warming. The data doesn’t show much warming. And the, the circles and the squares on the bottom, those are two separate data sets. One is weather balloons and the other is satellite data. They’re in pretty close agreement. They’re not in agreement with the model projections. So what does the other side do? Well the first thing they try to do is try to change reality. They try to change the facts. So they reinterpret the data so the United States climate temperature data, as reinterpreted by the federal government, they make the 1930’s and 40’s much cooler and that makes it look like there’s been a significant warming but in fact there has not.
Myron Ebell, CEI 11:25
So the next thing they try to do is exaggerate the impacts. And I have about 50 slides I could show you on the impacts of climate change. This is just tropical cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes. Do you see a trend? The next thing they do is try to claim that replacing, turning world’s energy economy upside down, which is currently 80 percent fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) is really easy. And it’s really cheap. And it will create huge economic growth around the world. Well they make claim of this, going back to the 1970’s, these two have lines from the Wall Street Journal show. 1978 solar power 20 percent of needs by 2000 that is more subsidies, more solar. 2006, renewable fuels may provide 25 percent of U.S. energy by 2025. They make the same claims today. And that reality is just as far from being accomplished as it was in the 1970’s. So, so when you expose all of these arguments as phony and what is left but trying to win by silencing and defunding your opponents?
Myron Ebell, CEI 12:49
Now in Exxon’s case, they have already silenced them. They have already stopped funding the opponents of energy rationing and what is left to shake down Exxon and the industry. That’s why you continually hear this is just like big tobacco. Big oil is just like big tobacco. So this did not start last summer when Sheldon Whitehouse, the Senator from Rhode Island, published an op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he said, “it’s time to investigate big oil and their allies, just like we went after big tobacco.” This didn’t start then. It started in 2012 when there was a conference at the in La Jolla, California, according to , where I was privileged at one point to be a graduate student. Notice the subhead, “lessons from tobacco control.” You may not be able to read these but these are just little tidbits from the report that was published and I’m not going to spend much time on it because I’m already running out of time. But notice some of the organizers: Naomi Oreskes, Peter Frumhoff, also notice the name Matt Pawa, and Sharon Eubanks, and Mary Christina Wood, she’s the one who’s got the children’s lawsuit against climate change.
Myron Ebell, CEI 14:12
So on the 29th of March, the AGs United for Clean Power had a big pow wow in New York City. They had a press conference that ended with Al Gore and six AGs. Any of these AGs expressed an interest in being part of the litigation against Exxon and the idea is Exxon is the first. We move from Exxon to oil and their allies and then we move to the other fossil fuels. So Peter Frumhoff was one of the private speakers at this conference. Before the press conference, Peter Frumhoff briefed them. Then Matt Pawa from the Pawa law firm. So this has been going on since 2012. Here are his helpers. And I won’t go through the list but I would just mention that Tom Steyer is also involved. He is a separate track from the Rockefellers, he’s working on his own. His lawyer Ted White in Denver is the key guy. Tom Steyer is not as important in the AGs United for Clean Power, but he is the key guy in arranging the governor’s court, the governor’s court for a clean energy future, which is the parallel organization. He’s, they’ve got not 17, they’ve got 23 governors. Four republicans. Rick Snyder of Michigan, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Terry Branstad of Iowa and Charles Baker of Massachusetts. And they tried to get more. They tried to get Hogan in Maryland, for example, McCrory in North Carolina and so on. So right now the climate inquisition is in retreat. It’s in retreat because of what ExxonMobil has done. What CEI has done. And what a number of the attorneys general here today have done, in supporting our rights to free speech and freedom of association. So I want to thank Attorney General Strange for writing and getting the signers on that letter, I’m not going to go through everyone who signed it but we are very grateful and I think it had a big impact and I will talk about that later on where we go from here. But this query is far from over. Okay. Claude Walker, the Virgin Islands AG has been pushed back. Maura Healey has been somewhat pushed back. Kamala Harris is running for governor and she has gone quiet at least for the moment. But Eric Schneiderman in New York has the Martin Act, which is much more powerful.
Myron Ebell, CEI 16:55
So his big deal is to, he gave a speech in which he lashed out at First Amendment opportunists. Speaking out on behalf, against global warming alarmism and against energy rationing policies. His First Amendment opportunists. He’s clearly rattled by, especially the letter from AGs. He’s clearly rattled by that. So we need to keep pushing that. We need to keep saying this is a matter of constitutional rights. And the second thing is don’t believe that the other side is going to give up. This is not about winning a court case. This is a shake down of one of the biggest industries in the world. Tobacco, the tobacco settlement, it’s 10 billion dollars a year in protection money going to 46 states that litigated. 10 billion dollars a year. Think how much bigger the oil industry is, and the tobacco industry, and you get an idea of what their goals is. They see trillions of dollars in protection money and they are not going to give up. So, so they play a long game. Let me just conclude. Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, has said that the Justice Department is looking at it. And the Democratic platform advocates, it hasn’t been finally , the current Democratic party platform for this year says that they should be investigated for misleading shareholders and the public about the risks of climate change. So I’ll leave it right there and thank you very much.
Chet Thompson, AFPM 18:50
Thank you General Strange I appreciate it. Myron, I’m honored to be on the panel with you. Also, I’d like thank General Coffman, what a great location, what a great state, thanks for having us. And also General Schuette. Thank you for all the work that you’ve done. So this morning is a couple of firsts for me. First time I’ve ever lost a panelist before the session started. General Pruitt, if you guys didn’t know, was supposed to moderate it but wasn’t feeling great. And this is the first time that I’m speaking to this group. So this is a real honor for me and I appreciate it. And because I’m new I thought I’d give you a little background on AFPM. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. I’m the president of that organization. I’ve been there for only about a year. But it’s one of the oldest associations in the country. It’s been around since 1902. And we represent in the energy , what we call the downstream sector. So that’s the U.S., you know the refining, and the petrochemical side of the shop. So basically we take crude oil and natural gas and turn it into the products that we as Americans, and really the world as a whole, use everyday for our modern way of life. We take crude oil, which is rather worthless in itself and we turn it into gasoline and jet fuel, heating oil, all the things again that we take for granted. And our petchem guys take natural gas and turn it into plastics and synthetics. And again, everything that I tell folks more and more, typically when we’re having a climate discussion, is imagine what the world would be like without our products. We think we have to bring context to this discussion. So in any event this is where our members, as you can imagine, are in the thick of this climate change battle and we really appreciate the support of folks in this room. So as you can imagine, even though we’re all refiners, it’s still a pretty diverse group, and we don’t always agree on everything. But I will tell you what our members do agree on. And that is the biggest threats that we have as an industry. The biggest threats that we have and we continue to provide our products to the country and the world, comes not from competition here or abroad. The biggest threats come from our own government and if you think about that for a minute. I was pretty astonished to hear this, again this is universal that Washington, D.C. is the place that most folks fear. Although with this green 20, maybe things are starting to spread out a little bit. But so in terms of the threat of Washington and the government, I thought I’d touch on two things today.
Chet Thompson, AFPM
21:33 One, general over regulation. I know this is a bit off topic but again I’d be remiss not to touch on this topic given the audience today. Folks have to appreciate how difficult it’s become, both in the oil and gas industry but also manufacturing generally, to be competitive against the avalanche of regulations that continue to come out of Washington. In particular, this current administration. It’s really difficult and we see things are only going to get worse. It threatens the viability of our industry, jobs and the economy. And there are no bigger offenders right now than EPA. And again, you guys know this very well, but I say this a lot of the time so I better fact check some this to be sure. What I’m saying is just more than rhetoric. But you should be surprised, maybe not surprised, to learn during this current administration, the Obama Administration, the EPA has issued nine rules that in and of themselves have compliance policy that would exceed 1 billion dollars. So this is in addition to the rest of the federal regulatory mess. 9 rules. A billion dollars in annual compliance cost and that doesn’t include what the Clean Power Plan, if our lawsuit isn’t successful, and it takes effect, and the ozone standards could layer on top of that another 100 of annual compliance costs. So as you can imagine very, very difficult to compete in this world. The other thing is, again no secret to folks in this room. The authority that has been asserted by EPA to get these rules done clearly exceeds their authority. And I say this as a person who spent three years at EPA as deputy general counsel. I remember. And Jeff Holmstead is out there somewhere, Jeff you don’t know me, I used to run the air office in the Bush Administration. I remember, we got criticized for some of the things we tried to do to regulate mercury. Folks thought we were exceeding our regulatory authority. That’s nothing compared to what this administration is doing. So we appreciate all the help of the AGs here to keep Washington honest and to keep these lawsuits. I’ll tell you the biggest thing we see as industry and that we appreciate, is the states leading the charge to fight back on these regulations.
Chet Thompson, AFPM
23:50 Alright so back and more to the point. The second threat to our industry right now is what I’d call the, you know the politics of climate change. You know, we’re facing a coordinated campaign to demonize, weaken and try to destroy the industry. The oil and gas industry, in particular, using the coercive powers of the federal government. As Myron said, folks are trying to make us the next Tobacco case. So I’d like to use what little time I have left to talk about a couple of things. A few more thoughts on the green 20 initiative. I agree with everything Myron has said, but I also want to bring your attention to a couple of other things that are happening that we hope you start to pay attention to, if you’re not already. And that is SEC disclosure initiative that’s underway right now. Its comment period is ongoing. It closes in a couple weeks. And then there’s this fossil-fuel divestment campaign underway. All of these are designed to attack the industry and silence speech. As far as this AGs United for Clean Power, green 20, again as others have said and frankly the name itself implies this effort is clearly an abuse of power, wholly inappropriate. It’s designed to silence critics, the trying to, it’s viewpoint discrimination. You know, pure and simple. So again as Myron mentioned some of your democratic colleagues are pushing back on our objections to the campaign in saying this is a form of First Amendment opportunism. You know, whatever that means, what in speech Schneiderman is trying to say is the First Amendment doesn’t protect fraud. Well that’s a red we’re not asserting that it does. What the First Amendment does protect is fishing expeditions like we’ve seen through these subpoenas. Targeting people based solely on the positions they hold. And threatening similar investigation of others if they don’t change their views and conform. Now I wish I wouldn’t have to say this because it’s unfortunate and I probably shouldn’t say this publicly but one of the worse parts of this campaign is it’s actually having a chilling effect. As the president of an association of an industry under attack right now, I see firsthand the uneasiness of some of our members to speak out on this issue. And whatever you feel about climate change, you should be able to speak up about bad policies. So even if you accept the premise that climate change is real and man is contributing to it, doesn’t mean you have to accept bad public policy. But what I’m seeing firsthand is a lot of our members are afraid to engage in this discussion at least robustly, out of fear of being the next Exxon. Out of fear being CEI. And it’s real and so we really need the support of folks in this room to continue to speak out because this is tough times when leadership is most appreciated.
Chet Thompson, AFPM 26:55
The other thing I want to make sure everyone gets out of this initiative is that this is not just about Exxon. This is not just about CEI. It’s not even just about oil and gas. Right, it’s about the products we make, they’re trying to shut us down, they’re trying to do away with fossil fuels. And what the other side really wants is control, right? They’ve used this tactic before, as we mentioned they’ve used it against cigarettes, they have been using it rather successfully, dare I say, against the coal industry and now they’re turning their sights on to us. And if it continues to work they’re going to continue to do it again and again. So for anyone out there in the audience who says well I don’t really care about oil and gas, I don’t have any in my state. You should care because there are certainly products out there that are on the green guys’ bad list, and if it works against us it’s going to be turned to you down the road. So again we also appreciate General Strange, all the great work you’ve done, your letter is really instrumental. Also General Pruitt, all the others, the 12 others that signed on to the letter, we really appreciate it. Now is the time to speak up.
Chet Thompson, AFPM 28:05
So let me turn quickly to a couple other things. I want to make sure you leave here at least interested in or knowledgeable a little bit about. And that is the first one is the SEC disclosure I mentioned. A few months ago in April, the SEC released what they call a concept paper. I don’t know how many of you have seen this but the purpose of the concept papers is to modernize the financial disclosures under the SEC’s regulation and buried in the 300 pages of the proposal, is a proposal, at least a solicitation of comments, on whether there should be, whether they should mandate the disclosure of non-material environmental and social policy information, including climate change. Right, so all the political social issues that are being debated now and where and how companies are impacted. The SEC is seeking comment on whether they should make that mandatory.
Chet Thompson, AFPM 29:00
If this is approved, the concept release would overturn more than 80 years of federal law, regulations and court decisions governing corporate disclosure. Materiality used to be the bedrock of what has to be disclosed. So right now, if climate change is a material to your company, you have to make that disclosure now. But what the SEC really wants to do is go beyond that and make all companies discuss the potential impacts decades from now of climate change. Again this is, in my opinion, this is another form of stifling speech just at the other end of the spectrum. This one is trying to force folks to amplify the message of climate change proponents. So again this is a form of speech, limit speech and again viewpoint discrimination. And if you don’t believe me on what the SEC is up to. You should look at the comments of Senator has been making publicly about this. You know she recently asked the SEC in a letter to stop trade associations quote, saying whatever they want without Washington policy debates. She’s also said publicly that she was gonna block any future SEC commissioners to not pledge to support tighter disclosure rules. Again, I can’t make this stuff up. It’s happening now and you probably have seen in the last few days that the DNC party platform has adopted simpler measures. Where they adopted, they’ve encouraged the investigations of oil companies to continue and for companies quote, to be held accountable for failing to disclose climate risks. And again I assume by what they mean by being held accountable is that they’re going be treated like Exxon and like Peabody Energy. So this is really important stuff. Public announcement comment period runs until July 1. Take a look at it and submit comments. Again, it’s unlawful.
Chet Thompson, AFPM 30:55
Finally, I’ll give you before we open it up before discussion, this divestment campaign that we’re seeing now. And so there’s a campaign underway to convince state and local pension funds, public and private institutions, education institutions, to divest from fossil fuel companies with the goal like all the other initiatives we’re talking about to weaken and eventually destroy our industry. Also it’s pretty clear, it’s an effort to capture young voters. It’s really been sweeping across college campuses and so we’ve been involved in that trying to get the facts on the table, the facts of what divestiture would mean. The good news is it’s pretty clear most institutions see this that by divesting from the fossil fuel industry would be a big hit to pension funds. Some studies show that over the next 20 years, divesting from oil and gas would cost the pension endowments 12 percent of their worth. Unfortunately I was going through the list and I saw a lot of Georgetown grads in the audience. Well I’m here to tell you that Georgetown has announced they’re going to be divesting in fossil fuels, so is Syracuse. So is nation’s capital. The good news is, most of the other institutions, those that don’t typically align with us, like Harvard and MIT, Michigan and NYU, have all come out recently publicly saying they’re not going be part of that campaign because it’s not good for the institution, it’s not good for taxpayers and it’s not good for students. But the important part of this is it shows it’s part of a broader campaign against our industry. And we have to, you know, keep up the fight. So I’m gonna stop here, certainly can take any questions, but again we appreciate the leadership, general, we appreciate the support of RAGA.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange 32:45
Thank you very much Chet and Myron. I’m gonna give you, just in a couple of minutes, my perspective as a state attorney general on this issue, then let us open it up for questions, because I think we’re dealing with something pretty extraordinary here. You know our role with AGs, certainly Republican AGs, is to uphold the laws of our states and United States in the constitution. That means all the institutions of our government, ideas come and go and we can’t rely on principles , not to be too corny about it. They were into serious trouble. And this seems to me, a developing states or whatever right term it may be. But it’s something pretty extraordinary in my experience. That’s why an extraordinary letter from 15 of my colleagues of the AGs in this country say you need to step back and look at what you’re doing here.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange 33:40
So let’s start, I made a few notes of AG perspectives here, I’m not gonna repeat what’s been said. One of the allegations, really what I guess they’re trying to hang their head on here is there’s some sort of fraud going on. Let’s be clear about that, this is not fraud. Simple definitions of fraud are knowingly making a false statement with the intent of getting a victim to rely on that statement to their detriment. That’s a simplified version and so I thought just for fun. Let’s take a look at something that might be closer to the traditional elements of fraud for a real life example. Remember when President Obama told us that under Obamacare, we like our health insurance, we could keep it along with our doctors. So now we know, definitively, that promise was a false representation and that President Obama actually knew it was false at the time that he made it. That promise was made to induce the American people and Congress to support the President’s agenda. And those same people were injured as a result of relying on this false representation. Now I’ll just leave it to you as to whether or not the President committed fraud under those circumstances. Should we investigate that? So it’s not about fraud, that’s not what’s going on here.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange 35:00
Let’s look at what the AGs, the green 20, call themselves. They’re not the AGs united against fraud. Or the AGs united for clean energy. Or truth in the, truth in the climate debate, something along those lines. They said they’re the AGs United for Clean Power and the very title of their group, they’ve aligned themselves with the competitors of their investigative targets. Think about that. 2200 billion dollar green power energy industry. One of the AGs even explained that she hoped to advocate for a comprehensive portfolio renew energy sources. Now if you were, and you think about this, you know, we’re talking about . If you were launching a fraud investigation of Target for example. And I don’t mean to pick on Target but I’ll just use that you would probably call yourselves “AGs United for More Walmarts.” You wouldn’t have a Walmart representative at your press conference. And you certainly wouldn’t say that you hope to increase Walmart’s market share through your investigation. But isn’t that exactly what’s going on here?
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange 36:10
Now I want to be clear here, because I represented energy companies in the private sector throughout my career and I was very fortunate to do so. But I really don’t care anything about Exxon. No offense to them. To my knowledge, I never received a penny from Exxon in any campaign I’ve ever run. Never represented them or anything else that . It wouldn’t make a difference if I had. And I’ve actually joined with a number of AGs states representative in this room and hold BP accountable for the largest oil disaster in our nation’s history. So I’m not carrying water for anyone here. If any energy company violates the law, I think they should be held accountable. This is not about climate change and it’s not about fraud and it’s been made very clear. It’s about whether elected officials should be able to turn against their political opponents. In contradiction of the First Amendment and our basic speech rights in this country. That’s not to say that we should never be involved in controversial issues. We are involved in controversial issues, we deal with them every day. And we should have a robust discussion without any fear that the government’s gonna use its sword against us for exercising those fundamental rights. That’s what this country is founded on, that’s what’s most important here. So let me conclude by saying that we appreciate your presence here and your participation in this debate. We are winning now. I think the, our fellow AGs that are on the other side here have pulled back to say this is going to be a long, standing effort that we need to be engaged in and be diligent about it. So that’s a real brief overview of an AGs perspective about this debate and with that I think we’re gonna have time, Samantha, for a questions, and so let’s open it up. Jason’s got the microphone. If you have a thought about this issue or the public or private sector role in. We would love to talk about it. While we’re waiting to get the microphone over here, I want to apologize for Scott Pruitt’s not being here. He went for a five mile jog right before the panel and I told him jogging is very bad for you. And I’m at higher altitude than he is. That’s why I don’t jog. But he, he’s fine, we’re gonna get by without him.
Michael Whatley, HBW Resources 38:49
Michael Whatley with HBW Resources. I think what you guys were talking about here is obviously very, very crucial but I would like your thoughts on how this goes beyond Exxon. I think you’re exactly right. That, you know, with all the major companies that do it. It’s actually the people they’re serving and it’s the drivers, and it’s the folks that use products for all the other parts of their lives. And what do you think is the best way for us to mobilize the normal people who have to have access to affordable, reliable energy to bring to this debate, an alternative version and try and push back on the poll numbers that are driving what the Democratic AGs are doing.
Chet Thompson, AFPM 39:30
Well, let me just start off by saying a couple of things. Part of it is education on our part. You know, we need to speak much more to the public about all the benefits that our products bring to this country and the world. And we haven’t been doing our job in that regard, frankly. The polling that we see, you know, certainly there are folks that believe that something has to be done about climate change. But that also shows that they’re not as all in as the other side thinks they are. Right? We did some polling that found the general public supports alternative energy but then we asked how much they’re willing to contribute to alternative energy in a year? The response, the mean response was $10 a year. So right, folks want reliable, affordable energy and we have to do a better job educating the public of what’s really at stake.
Myron Ebell, CEI 40:32
Well, Michael, that’s a great question. One of the problems is the oil and gas industry’s been so successful that we have rock bottom prices for natural gas at cent gas stations, so people don’t understand what the threat is to affordable, abundant energy. We need to look, we need to compare the heartland states that still have coal and natural gas with the states that have, that are several years ahead of the abundance energy rationing commitment. California, now the average rate is 17 cents per kilowatt hour, that’s twice the national average and they have killed manufacturing in California. California used to have a lot of manufacturing–they have zero now. So that’s one side of it. I would just say, we also, there, you know, there is a lot of skepticism about this whole agenda. I saw Paul got a lot of publicity. Eight percent of corn farmers believe that global warming is a problem. Well and the authors of the poll that tried to explain in a way that there’s I guess they don’t have any experience of weather or they’re too dumb or they haven’t been reading the New York Times or they’re not in their offices in Manhattan. But so I think we need to connect that. And finally I would just say this is about free speech and we need to keep driving that point because free speech, the constitutional protection of free speech is not to protect the rights of the majority, it’s to protect the people who are, do not occupy the positions of authority. It’s the little people, the people who aren’t heard. The New York Times always has a huge megaphone but it’s the people like CEI for example, the refining industry, who don’t have a big megaphone that need to protected.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson 42:20
Myron, This is Doug Peterson from Nebraska. I want to ask you, I appreciate the history that you gave with regards to Exxon’s engagement bashing in the mid-2000’s with the Royal Society. Is there a lesson there with the corporations trying to work with someone like a Royal Society who agreed to primary target. It’s kind of like if you agree to dance with the extortionist watch out because she’ll kill you at the end of the night.
Myron Ebell, CEI 42:50
I better not touch that question except to say at the time it happened the only message we had for our friends at ExxonMobil was, this is not, you know, if you give it once, you’ll have to give it again so. They’re, this kind of appeasement with. People misunderstand the environmental movement. It isn’t like other left-wing phenomenon. The environmental movement, when they negotiate with industry, you own the loaf, they get half of it in the first negotiation. What’s they’re, what’s the next step, well now they’ll start negotiating over the half you’ve retained. So industry has been very slow to understand that the environmental movement isn’t like dealing with the labor unions. You understand that we can’t actually kill the company and still have a job. The environmental movement wants to kill the industry.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange 44:00
Unfortunately we’re out of time but this is such an interesting topic, our panelists will be around to talk after this. I want to thank again all my colleagues and their support on this issue and I want to thank you all in the audience for supporting our organization. I’m gonna be pleased to take over the chairmanship in November but I can promise you that when it comes to fundamental principles, rule of law, we will continue to be diligent because it’s extremely important to our country. Again thank you very much.