Bob Williams
Bob Williams, director of research for PennWell Publishing's Oil & Gas Journal Research Center
Bob Williams is a Contributing Editor for PennEnergy. Previsouly, he worked as Director of Research for PennEnergy's Oil & Gas Journal Online Research Center and PennEnergy Online Research Center. He worked for 4 years for the US Department of Energy writing about energy R&D, including the power sector. Prior to that, he spent 24 years on the Oil & Gas Journal staff, and has authored and managed many ancillary publications and editorial products for PennWell over the years. For a detailed bio…


Obama: Bad news for the eco-lobby?
November 30th, 2008
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Will Barack Obama be the worst thing ever to happen to the environmental lobby?
Students of the political dynamic between environmental pressure groups and Washington, DC, know that their fortunes have fared best with conservative, Republican regimes in DC.

The best thing ever to happen to the environmental lobby was President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of James G. Watt as Secretary of the Interior. Watt, a blunt, caustic man given to biblical exhortations in defense of his efforts to rein in what he saw as excessive environmental regulation blocking resource development, immediately drew fire from environmental pressure groups. A major campaign by the environmental lobby to “Dump Watt” netted millions of signatures on petitions to Reagan to dismiss the firebrand Interior secretary—not to mention tens of millions of dollars in donations.

During the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush, environmental pressure groups enjoyed record growth in terms of revenues and memberships, peaking in 1991.
Then Bill Clinton was elected president, and within a few years, the environmental lobby was in disarray, with revenues and memberships declining, staff being cut, programs pared down, etc.

President George W. Bush was a gift to these groups. By appointing a Watt protégé, Gale Norton, as Interior secretary, and his own (and Vice-President Dick Cheney’s) association with the oil industry, Bush II gave the ecolobbyists their best fundraising tool in years.
For example, from 2000 through 2006, the Sierra Club’s membership rocketed to more than 800,000 from 650,000. The organization netted $94 million in 2004 alone amid efforts to defeat Bush in his reelection bid.

But Obama could change all that. The centerpiece of his environmental policies is inextricably tied up with energy and the economy. Essentially he wants to retool the American economy by creating millions of “green jobs” in alternative energy and energy efficiency programs intended to phase out fossil fuels and thereby reduce carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Or so the mantra goes.

What will the green groups do now that they have no one in DC to demonize, no Watt-like lightning rods to set up to attract donations? Without a strawman to spread panic among the enlightened elite of Malibu and the Hamptons trust-fund babies, where will the money come from?

Oh, well, there’s always…luxury travel. The World Wildlife Fund now offers said enlightened elite a luxury world excursion by private jet. The group’s brochure promises a “remarkable 25-day journey by luxury private jet…to some of the most astonishing places on the planet to see top wildlife…” The price tag? Just a hair under $65,000 per person.

The best thing about all this swanky travel to help preserve the world’s wild places? You won’t have to mingle so much with the hoi polloi, if WWF has its way. These exotic travel locales include places such as Fiji and the Galapagos Islands, where WWF has called for limits on local tourism, claiming such efforts by impoverished locals trying to make a buck causes greater environmental damage than larger tourist operations—such as the WWF’s, according to Steven Milloy, publisher of JunkScience.com and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

A $65K (excuse me, $64,950—note the marketing psychology of dropping the price below the $65K threshold) luxury wildlife-gawking trip is an intriguing proposition coming from an organization that regularly berates American consumers for their profligate ways on carbon emissions. The WWF is helpful enough to provide a carbon footprint calculator on its website so you can figure out just how big that individual carbon footprint is.
Milloy used that calculator to estimate the WWF luxury jet trip’s CO2 emissions: 1,231 tons in 25 days just from the fuel consumption alone.
He writes, “The WWF laments on its web site that the average American produces 19.6 tons of CO2 annually, which is nearly five times the world average of 3.9 tons per person. But during the WWF’s posh excursion, travelers will produce 14 tons of CO2 per person. That’s 71% of the average [annual] American carbon footprint and 360% of the average [annual] global footprint in a mere three-and-one-half weeks.”

So why not just buy carbon offsets to compensate for all that carbon profligacy by supporters of wildlife? Milloy notes that the WWF’s luxury trip brochure didn’t mention that option. He estimates that offsetting the jet trip’s carbon emissions alone would cost about $44,000. However, the WWF’s less-costly wilderness excursions (about $3,000 to about $10,000) do offer the option of purchasing carbon offsets.

Milloy also cites a recent report from the congressional General Accountability Office that concluded the carbon offset market lacks credibility, and the lack of standardization left consumers exposed to waste, fraud and abuse.

I’ll defer to Milloy for the last word:
“I’ve been thinking that WWF’s bandit-like panda bear was an appropriate logo, given the group’s promotion of ‘rip-offsets.’ But now, I think that a new logo may be in order—perhaps a hippo-crite?”

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