Coal-burning utilities in donation drive to allay warming theory

Coal-burning utilities in donation drive to allay warming theory

July 28, 2006 Filed Under: Coal Mining, Mining Services  

Utilities that cause pollution through processes like coal burning are contributing funds to a climate scientist who has been skeptical of the prevailing view that fossil fuel emissions contribute to global warming.

According to information available publicly, at least one utility, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colorado, has contributed $100,000 to Patrick J. Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, who is a known critic of theories that increasing use of fossil fuel is a major contributor to global warming. Michaels, who is also associated with Cato Institute and is Virginia’s state climatologist, had last year told business leaders that he was running out of money for conducting analyses of other scientists’ contentions on global warming. This led to Intermountain Rural Electric Association launch a collection campaign to raise funds for him and came out with $150,000 in donations and pledges. The company has given Michaels $100,000 of its own, the firm’s general manager Stanley R. Lewandowski Jr., said adding another company has pledged $50,000 while a third planned to contribute to the funds in 2007.

Lewandowski has written individual letters to some 50 utilities in the country, arguing that the discussion on global warming cannot be allowed to be “monopolized by the alarmists.” He wanted the utilities to join a counterattack on “alarmist” scientists and Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

Lewandowski says he does not see any problem in raising funds and fighting the “alarmists.” But many environmental activists see a conflict of interest and view this as a method of funding lobbying.

Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch said this is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda.

He said, “Something coming from a Patrick Michaels should carry a warning label — ‘Caution: this commentary bought with industry money.’”

Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford University and currently editor-in-chief of Science, described skeptics like Michaels as more of lobbyists than researchers.

Michaels holds out his unconventional views through newspaper and magazine columns. He claims his views on global warming are not being properly heard in world media. He said the money would help pay his staff.

Power plants are estimated to emit nearly 40 per cent of all carbon dioxide sent out into the atmosphere and most scientists believe that carbon dioxide is the main contributory cause for global warning, which again many scientists say can lead to catastrophes in future like uncontrollable floods, stronger hurricanes and depletion of the ozone layer.

In the U.S., power companies studiously monitor the government’s thinking on global warming. If the government initiates any project to curb emission of greenhouse gases, several companies will be forced to shut down coal-based power generation and introduce expensive systems and equipment to control emissions.

Consumer advocates say it is not surprising for a utility that relies on burning coal to produce electricity to oppose regulations calling for mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions ”” caps that Lewandowski himself admits would mean expensive investments in new technologies and higher rates for customers.

They are also questioning the ethics of the utility, a relatively small company, offering such a substantial donation without informing customers.

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