The people behind President Obama’s war against fossil fuels

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Politicians have been boasting about their commitment to energy independence for years. Many voters, they understand, detest the idea of buying oil from regimes hostile to the United States, even as they worry about the effects of fossil fuels on the environment. “Energy independence” makes a useful talking point. But it has other uses as well. The move from oil also has the potential to make some of its advocates very rich.

Against the backdrop of the Gulf oil spill, President Obama delivered a speech in June, which once more made the case for the reduction of U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

“I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can,” the president said. The country’s use of fossil fuels, he continued, “will jeopardize our national security, it will smother our planet and will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.”

While Obama isn’t the first president to take on fossil fuels (in his 2007 State of the Union address, former President George W. Bush talked about the need to generate electric power through “clean coal technology, solar and wind energy”), the current administration has taken a far more aggressive position on the subject than any previous White House. Last Thursday, for example, the administration released a plan requiring federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next ten years.

But this war against fossil fuels is being waged not just by President Obama and the executive branch of the federal government. In many ways, the president is simply the front man for the social, political and business elite that are driving the campaign for renewable energy to replace things like coal and natural gas.

Although fossil fuels account for upwards of 80 percent of the nation’s energy consumption, lobbyists, executives, environmentalists and politicians have come together to force a reduction in their use, as well as pass mandates for things like solar wind panels and electric cars.

What many of them fail to disclose is their vested financial stake in this new technology — technology that remains fundamentally uncompetitive with traditional sources of energy. In the words of Dan Kish, senior vice president at the Institute for Energy Research: “At the end of the day, the stuff they want us to buy is just more expensive.”

So who are some of the individuals behind the war against fossil fuels?

John Doerr and Al Gore, for starters. As The Daily Caller has reported, both men are major players in the green industrial complex. Doerr, perhaps the most famous venture capitalist in the Silicon Valley, has donated heavily to Democratic causes, lobbied for green energy initiatives, and then received stimulus dollars through the Department of Energy (DOE) in the form of grants for companies in which he has investments.

Gore has spent the last ten years lobbying for carbon taxes, the use of green technology, and legislation that would require it — all while standing to profit financially if such policies were implemented because he is a partner at Doerr’s venture capitalist firm. Like Doerr, Gore will benefit financially if the start-up companies he invests in do well – which is almost a guarantee if the federal government continues to shower them with tax dollars.

Then there’s General Electric (GE) CEO Jeffery Immelt and Duke Power CEO Jim Rogers. Both were involved in the creation of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a lobbying organization comprised of businessmen that counts getting Waxman-Markey  passed in the House last summer as one of its accomplishments.

Both GE and Duke make products that are essential in any transition from an energy industry based on fossil fuels, to one that uses renewable energy. It’s no wonder Immelt and Rogers are so invested in “energy independence.”

Next: Enter the Podesta brothers
Now consider John and Tony Podesta. The brothers, key figures within Democratic circles (John organized Obama’s transition in 2009 and is president of Center for American Progress; Tony is a frequent White House visitor), are both champions of environmental causes. They have the financial investments to prove it.

Tony heads up the Podesta Group, one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington. In the first year of the Obama administration, the Podesta Group brought in more than $25 million (up $10 million from the year before) from various clients, including Duke Power, and GE .

General Electric has a history of throwing money at lobbying efforts for climate change and renewable energy legislation. In 2009, for instance, GE lobbied through USCAP for Waxman Markey, a bill that aims to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases by establishing a cap and trade system.

Now that USCAP is all but disintegrating, the Podesta Group is now leading the effort on behalf of GE to pass legislation and mandates that increase the demand for GE’s “green” products. The CEO of GE, Jeffery Immelt, sits on Obama’s economic advisory board.

The Podestas also had some help within the White House for a time, in the form of Van Jones, the “green czar” who resigned in September 2009. Before joining the White House, Jones served on the board of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of businesses and environmental leaders working to “catalyze a clean energy revolution” and reduce carbon emissions.

During his stint as “green czar,” Jones served on the Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates the federal government’s environmental efforts. While Jones was there, the council was lobbied by companies like Duke Power, Exelon and Dow Chemical, as well as the National Wildlife Federation and World Wildlife Fund. Duke, Exelon and Dow – to name a few – are also members of USCAP and lobbied heavily for Waxman Markey. Not surprisingly, the number of businesses and organizations that lobby the Council spiked in 2009.

Because of their history together at Apollo, there’s reason to believe the Podestas had some extra pull with energy policy while Jones was a senior member of the administration. After Jones resigned, he was given a job by John Podesta as senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

There is another member of the board of the Apollo Alliance, however, that also deserves scrutiny: Ellen Pao.

Pao also works for Doerr at KPCB. In other words, Pao sits on the board of a lobbying organization that focuses primarily on legislation that would financially benefit “green technology” companies like the ones KPCB is invested in. Pao also heavily donated to the Obama presidential campaign.

Next: Obama’s assistant secretary of energy connected to the green industrial complex
No discussion of individuals behind the war against fossil fuels is complete without mentioning Cathy Zoi – the U.S. assistant secretary of energy. Before joining the federal bureaucracy, Zoi was CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection, an organization founded by Gore.

Disclosure documents show that Zoi also has a vested financial interest in companies that stand to gain major profits from anti-fossil fuels legislation like Waxman-Markey.

The most telling example of this is Serious Materials, Inc., a “leading provider of high-tech products and services that reduce energy usage,” where Zoi’s husband, Robin Roy, is vice president. Between them, Zoi and her husband own 120,000 shares, plus stock options in Serious. The company would hugely benefit from cap and trade and any other legislation that mandates the public buy its products.

In fact, it already has. In January 2010, the Department of Energy released a list of companies receiving tax credits to manufacture energy-efficient products. Serious received a large portion of those credits.

“Incredible,” said Chris Horner, author of the newly released “Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America,” when asked by The Daily Caller about Zoi’s conflict of interest. He pointed out that Zoi’s appointment at DOE represents something even more disturbing: the move of the CEO of Gore’s “radical” advocacy group to a senior Obama administration cabinet position.

All of this is with total disregard to the consumer. As the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce put it, “The goal of all of them is the same. Yes, it’s about money.”

Bryce, who is also author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, told TheDC that in the end, it is the public that pays for big business and its lobbyists to push government for green initiatives.

“It’s all about cash and how much the consumer is going to have to pay to subsidize renewable energy sources,” said Bryce. “Because when it comes down to it, where is the public demand for these programs and mandates that will increase the cost of electricity?”

Kish put it another way, saying that the corporate elite and environmental lobbyists all coordinate to turn companies into quasi-public relations firms. “And in the end, they benefit financially while the public thinks they’re doing great things,” he said.

“Energy runs the world,” said Kish. “It is directly linked with wealth and economic output … The question here is whether these are just good people who happen to believe in saving the earth.”

“They all go to the government to try and change the underpinning of our economic society,” Kish continued. “But at the end of the day the dial stops and everybody’s dancing together.”

Meanwhile, Obama’s green industrial complex continues to grow. But as the web of influential players stretches, it is not by accident that environmentalists are using corporations to advance their agenda.

“GE and others have signed up to be Big Green’s PR outfits, though they don’t even realize whose pocket they’re in, convinced they’re the ones using the greens,” said Horner. “When politicians and activists not typically fans of private enterprise suddenly boast that America’s biggest  corporations support the green industry lobbying for these schemes, it is quietly assumed to be virtuous. No one asks the basic question, ‘why is that, precisely?'”