Paul Driessen is the author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death, a senior policy advisor to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and a senior fellow with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. He writes and speaks frequently on energy and environmental policy. Driessen was interviewed on March 26 by Wesley Irwin of the LaRouche Youth Movement. This interview also appeared in the April 6, 2007 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
EIR: There are a number of people out there who see that perhaps we are consuming more resources than we may be replenishing at this point, and they might be saying: "Don't we have to do a better job of so-called protecting the Earth. And if that's the case, why can't we develop Africa with so-called 'smarter' technologies?" They would say, "Can't we put a solar panel on every hut? And give Africa wind power?" And, with the Al Gore testimony on Capitol Hill, certainly a number of people are now suggesting this for the United States. Does that policy make sense to you?
Driessen: Absolutely not.
Just think about it: 95 percent of Africans have no electricity. It would certainly be an improvement to have a little solar panel on a hut and maybe a couple of wind turbines for the village. But in essence, what you're telling them, is, "You can't have electricity, except on the most minimal scale. You can never have it for a modern home, hospital, clinic, office, school or society." If you put a solar panel on a hut, for example, the people might have enough electricity to power a couple of light bulbs, a radio, a 1 or 2 cubic-foot refrigerator, and a hot plate—but that's it!
It would be intermittent and only work when the Sun is shining. You may have battery backup, but just to have a solar panel and battery to operate a couple of light bulbs, a radio, and a tiny TV is going to cost you about $1,500 per hut. Wind turbines are also very expensive and, whenever the wind stops blowing, whatever you've got hooked up to that turbine shuts down. Just imagine yourself strapped on an operating table with your chest cut open, in the middle of open heart surgery ... and the wind stops blowing, or the Sun stops shining. There goes your electricity. You cannot possibly get enough affordable, reliable, abundant electricity off of these so-called "appropriate, renewable" resources. They just aren't going to be there at the levels or with the reliability that we in this country, or anywhere in the developed world, demand.
If these folks who advocate this stuff want to go and live that way—great! But I don't see Al Gore, Cameron Diaz, Prince Philip, Leo DiCaprio, Paul Ehrlich, or Barbara Boxer lining up for their turn in that state-of-the-art mud hut. There can be a place for wind and solar power—as an interim improvement in remote African villages, or to supplement household electricity. But you just can't rely on it as a primary source, because it is too expensive and unreliable.
EIR: A number of leading Senate Democrats voiced a certain consensus that serious changes need to be made in the energy policy and sustainability here in the United States. This brings to mind what Lyndon LaRouche and others have called the "Great Global Warming Swindle" or the "Al Gore Hoax." I want to hone in for a moment, on Al Gore: What is your take on his theory that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are going to create a 20-foot rise in sea level, that will wipe out Manhattan and create hurricanes like Katrina, that have the potential to wipe out life as we know it on the Earth?
Driessen: The whole thing is ludicrous. Even the alarmists in the UN don't buy into this hysteria. Their latest report suggests an 18-inch rise in sea levels over the next century as the most likely scenario. Gore's 20 feet is pure Hollywood scare-mongering. Certainly, we're experiencing some global warming, and in certain places especially, humans are having some effect on local weather and climate, and so forth. But to suggest that human carbon dioxide is responsible for this stuff is crazy.
EIR: What is responsible?
Driessen: The total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 0.05 percent—the equivalent of about 1.9 inches on a 100-yard football field. Less than one-twentieth of that is man-caused. The rest comes from plants, decaying plant matter, and the oceans. Al Gore has the theory backward. Gore claims that rising carbon dioxide causes warmer planetary temperatures. In reality, according to the ice core data and other records going back thousands of years, the planet warms first and then—400 to 800 years later—the carbon dioxide increases. As the oceans warm in response to various natural forces, they cannot hold as much carbon dioxide as when they're cool, so they release some of their built-up stores of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Even Gore had to admit, in response to a question after his testimony, that sometimes temperature increases have preceded CO2 increases. Even his own graph, the one he uses in his lectures, the one featured in the "Great Global Warming Swindle," shows this time lag. The temperature goes up and, several hundred years later, up goes the carbon dioxide. The temperatures go down and, several centuries later, the carbon dioxide levels go down.
EIR: So, you're saying the reason for the increase in carbon dioxide is the heating of the oceans, which is caused by something else?
Driessen: Which is caused by global warming and a variety of natural forces. As solar radiation changes, the amount of heat energy reaching the earth increases. Changing cosmic ray levels from the Sun affect cloud formation here on Earth, and thus the amount of sunlight reaching the surface. The tilt of the Earth's axis and shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun also change over thousands of years. And the atmosphere and the oceans themselves are dynamic, turbulent, chaotic liquids, moving and changing on their own.
And so, you combine all of these forces—and you get a climate that changes constantly, repeatedly, to varying degrees, in long and short cycles, due to natural forces, and with only very limited inputs from humans. Even if we put a ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants—it would make no difference whatsoever. It certainly wouldn't stabilize carbon dioxide levels, because they're already going up, as warmer planetary temperatures warm the oceans and release more CO2—and as China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, and other countries burn more coal and other fossil fuels, to fuel their growing economies and lift their people out of poverty.
EIR: So Al Gore is even more extreme than the other alarmists?
Driessen: That's right. All kinds of environmentalists, politicians, and grant-seeking scientists want to talk about climate catastrophes that are vastly overblown—a figment of their imaginations, Hollywood special effects, and a few computer models that spew out crazy scenarios. But no real climatologist is talking in these terms; even the IPCC has reduced its forecasts for temperature and sea level increases. Aside from some hysterical types, almost no one but Al Gore is talking about massive inundations of Manhattan and Bangladesh, or other climate Armageddons straight out of "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Convenient Lies and Half-Truths."
It's really hard to believe that even Al Gore believes his own rhetoric. He uses huge amounts of electricity and natural gas—20 times more than the average American—and he refuses to cut back. He's flying all over the planet, often in private jets, spewing out greenhouse gases. He refused to take an energy pledge that Sen. Jim Inhofe offered him, refused to agree to use no more energy than the average American. But he wants Africa to rely on wind and solar power, and he thinks everybody else should cut back to the level of the new middle classes in India or China, which still use only a fraction of what Americans, Canadians, and Europeans do.
EIR: Al Gore is also the head of a financial management company, which was set up in 2004, which is going to make a killing off the so-called "carbon swap" and the financial speculation associated with that, if a carbon tax and carbon swap system were put in place internationally.
Driessen: That's correct. Basically, the rule of thumb is, follow the money. Follow it for Al Gore, follow it for the environmental groups, follow it for the scientists, who are going to get billions of dollars in grant money from the U.S. government, the Canadian government, the European Union, the UN, and so forth. If they start talking like climate catastrophe skeptics, that money is going to dry up. Not only does Al Gore have this company that's going to rake in millions of dollars by selling and trading these various emissions credits, but he gets free emission credits from his company—he doesn't even have to buy them! So, again, the hypocrisy is boundless, it seems.
EIR: So if you've got money, you're an exception to the rule.
Driessen: As Marie Antoinette allegedly said, "Let the peasants eat grass, like my horses." If you've got money, and you're important, you can buy the credits to sustain your grand lifestyle. Who are they buying the credits from? Who are they paying not to use electricity, not to have energy? In many cases, they're going to pay a billion dollars here and there to somebody who will put it in a Swiss bank account, and tell his people: "We've accepted money as part of an emission trading arrangement, to save Africa from climate chaos. Now you are going to have a sustainable energy future. You got to have a couple of wind turbines and little solar panels on your huts. Aren't you happy?"
What right does anyone have to tell a poor country it can't develop, because we're concerned (all of a sudden, now that we're rich) about climate change, and your political leaders are trading emission credits with rich country folks like Al Gore, who can't be expected to cut back on their energy use. It's fascinating and hypocritical.