The Toronto GlobeandMail: Harboring Attack Dogs?

The Toronto Globe and Mail prides itself as “Canada National Newspaper” and as one editor told me “a forum and forge for new ideas and viewpoints”. So it is with some surprise that Wednesday June 11th 2008 edition of the GlobeandMail had an article in the Report on Business by columnist Neil Reynolds that looked very much like a smear campaign. The article by Neil Reynolds purported to be a scientific look at Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s Climate and Energy Policy. But the title set the tone: Obama’s Climate Solution: Tyranny.

Mr. Reynolds used a George C. Marshall Institute Report to come to the conclusion that Barack Obama was going to impose impossible Carbon-emission controls on the US economy. Now what Mr. Reynolds did was to:
1)Report that “the George C. Marshall Institute (GMI) was established in 1984 in Washington, D.C. ‘to conduct technical assessments of scientific issues with an impact on public policy’… “ implying that this was an impartial think tank. But in fact the George Marshall Institute is known ” … for its skepticism toward the mainstream scientific opinion on climate change ….Historian Naomi Oreskes says the institute has, in order to resist and delay regulation, lobbied politically to create a false public perception of scientific uncertainty over the negative health effects of second-hand smoke, the carcinogenic nature of tobacco smoking, and on the evidence between CFCs and ozoneWilliam O’Keefe, formerly an executive at the American Petroleum Institute and chairman of the Global Climate Coalition, is a registered lobbyist for ExxonMobil. The GMI was described in a 2007 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists as an ExxonMobil-funded “clearinghouse for global warming contrarians”.ExxonMobil still currently provides funds to the Institute. …. Responding to the GMI’s criticism of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) stated, “General Marshall was a great American. I think he might be very embarrassed to know that his name was being used in this disgraceful fashion.’ “ Instead, Mr. Reynolds tells us “Fortunately, the Washington-based Marshall Institute, a scientific policy think tank has conveniently calculated [all for us]. (George C. Marshall, the American soldier and diplomat, won the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize for the celebrated Marshall Plan Reconstruction program in postwar Europe.)”. There is no mention of some of the dubious GMI connections.
2)Fail to mention at all the comprehensive Manhattan Project for Energy Independence that Barack Obama was espousing in March of 2006 and that he has carried into his current campaign. Mr. Reynolds simply has not given readers an inkling of the comprehensive nature of Senator Obama’s energy policy proposals and how they work to harness Mr. Reynold’s “market-driven technological adaptation”. This is a grievous omission.
3)Fail to supply any other authorities, references links; or even mention the tenor of the debate on climate change , environmental regulation, and energy policy despite this topic inherent complexity. Instead Mr. Reynolds says trust my one and dubious source.
4)Fail to provide the North American energy context. First, the the US and Canada are profligate energy users with Canada’s per capita total energy consumption 5 times the World average and nearly double the average for developed countries. Second, that US oil and gas companies have been the beneficiaries of US Federal tax breaks designed to deliver energy independence for the past 20 years and they have simply failed to deliver. Even Bloomberg’s business coverage acknowledged what this graph shows – that oil market driven technological adaptation has only increased energy dependence preciptously and the money spent by the 2005 Bush Energy Bill was “like pigs at the trough”. And finally, that Canada and the US have a huge energy and resources usage footprint, consuming over 20% of World’s resources but having only 5% of the World’s population. So clearly large scale cutbacks in excess energy and resource consumption rates are going to be the reality and order of the day. How to best accomplish that is going to be a daunting political, economic and social task.

In the latter light, this article and its grave omissions was seriously deficient. In a world where even the venerable business ideas thought leader, HBR-Harvard Business Review has gone green, the GlobeandMail seems greatly out of step. One would think that they, like the HBR, would see energy independence as an opportunity to leverage the Canadian oil+gas surplus plus many great university programs and research into energy and environmental conservation leadership – bring new industrial opportunity to Canada. However, the omissions by Mr. Reynolds and the wrap-up (“And the market-driven technological adaption is the only option that we[Obama and supporters] are apparently not prepared to trust. Holy Marxist mania, Batman”) with its attack dog rhetoric are smears reminiscent of the Swiftboat and other politics of fear attacks used increasingly on the North American scene. Is this “the forum for new ideas and viewpoints” that the GlobeandMail aspires to ?

If so, don’t give me a fifth of this obnoxious brew.

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