by Rob Roper
Johanna Miller works for the Vermont Natural Resources Council and is a member of the Vermont Climate Council, appointed by the Speaker of the House to represent “a statewide environmental organization”. Every week or two she does a short YouTube video called “Climate Dispatch.” This last one from March 16 featured Bram Kleppner, another Climate Council member appointed by the Speaker to represent “Vermont manufacturers.” Kleppner’s day job is CEO of Danforth Pewter.
All of these Climate Dispatch videos are cute little exercises in propaganda, but this one was especially egregious. As S.5, the Clean Heat Standard bill, or the UnAffordable Heat Act as it is known to its critics, moves from the senate over to the house for consideration, Lauren Hierl, Miller’s co-host, laments, “That bill has been under unprecedented attack by the fossil fuel industry… they are pouring tens of thousands of dollars into misinformation on that bill and really kind of scaring people about what the impact of transitioning to clean energy are going to be.”
Let’s unpack this….
First, “an unprecedented attack”? Referring to a $34,000 statewide media buy? I’m fairly certain there are multiple precedents in Vermont politics for campaigns by organizations for and against legislation, and by any standard $34K is quite tiny. For comparison, groups for and against Proposal 5, the “Reproductive Liberty Amendment” spent over $1.2 million. And it’s not like the folks represented by Hierl and Miller aren’t running their own equally if not more expensive campaigns in favor of S.5. (See related Behind the Lines story HERE)
Second, the charge that fuel dealers are spreading “misinformation” and “scaring people” is laughable on two counts. In the first place, the fuel dealers’ ad cites testimony from the Secretary of Natural Resources estimating that passage of the Clean Heat Standard will result in an added $0.70 to a gallon of home heating fuel and that translates, on average, to an additional $500 per household on an annual heating bill. That’s not misinformation, it’s math.
In fact, a more robust analysis of the potential cost of the Clean Heat Standard by the Ethan Allen Institute showed as much as a $4.00 per gallon impact on heating fuel. So, as for spreading fear, if anything the fuel dealers are downplaying just how bad the Clean Heat Standard will be for their customers.
But this is the truly hilarious part….
Hierl leveled these hyperbolic accusations at the fuel dealers just after Kleppner was asked by Miller why he supports the Clean Heat Standard. His answer: “Global warming threatens to damage or destroy everything you care about.”
Really? EVERYTHING I CARE ABOUT? DESTROYED?! IF S.5 DOESN’T PASS?!!
No attempt to spread fear and panic amongst the masses with that line of attack! No, not at all! Everybody just remain calm while we figure this thing out….
As for spreading misinformation, Kleppner then goes on a rant about how global warming causes violent weather, disrupts agriculture, damages houses, roads, businesses, and keeps people from earning a paycheck. (If you were’t frightened enough about the prospect of losing everything you care about.) But even if all the issues Kleppner raised about global warming were true (debatable on some counts and outright false on others), saying or implying that passing a Vermont Clean Heat Standard or even the totality of the Global Warming Solutions Act will have ANY impact on future weather patterns is, well, a heaping wheelbarrow full of misinformation. Passing S.5 won’t do a darn thing to prevent the next Tropical Storm Irene from happening if that’s what Mother Nature has on her schedule.
Heile, Miller and Kleppner bring to mind the Joseph Goebbels quote about the best propaganda trick being to accuse your opponents of that which you yourself are doing.
And speaking of hypocrisy, as mentioned at the outset, Kelppner’s day job is CEO of Danforth Pewter. For those not familiar, Danforth Pewter specializes in selling a bunch of overpriced, useless crap to wealthy people who will take it out of the box, put it on a shelf, and never touch it again. Things like the “Cape Oil Lamp with 10” Globe” for $280. A great gift “that celebrates years of warmth and intimacy.” So, if you’re burning kerosene in your trailer to keep from freezing in February, you’re part of the problem, but if you need to create just that right ambiance to score with the very special someone you just met in the apres ski bar, fire up that oil lamp! Bram Kleppner’s got your back.
Pewter is a metal made mostly from tin mixed with antimony – both of which come primarily from Communist China — and a little copper. Needless to say, mining, processing, shipping, and working these metals is a dirty and highly energy intensive business. The stuff Danforth Pewter makes and sells – and the CO2 it produces — is entirely unnecessary for sustaining or enhancing human life. If you really cared about the planet’s future as it relates to greenhouse gas emissions, you’d shut down an outfit like Danforth Pewter in a heartbeat. Seriously, who needs it? And if keeping it around means hastening the destruction of “everything” you, I, and everyone cares about, well, then I say good riddance. Let’s start there.
Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics, robertroper.substack.com