The Hightower Lowdown

Bush's insane energy policy, Greenwashing on Earth Day, and the Washington Legal Foundation moves in on the White House

Bush-Whacking Energy Sanity

"Crisis, crisis!" squawks Little George Bush, pointing to the rolling blackouts, skyrocketing electric bills, and general energy mess made by California's deregulated utility corporations.

How does he propose to respond to the mess? Gotta pull out all the stops, he cries, demanding that Congress let Big Oil punch holes and build pipelines in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Plus, he says, we've gotta let the utilities churn out more pollution as a tradeoff for generating more electricity -- gotta unleash American enterprise, is his line.

So, why does George W.'s energy budget slash the most enterprising sector of the energy industry? He dumps more money into the failed approach of the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear giants, instead of shifting to two cost-efficient, non-polluting approaches: renewable fuels and energy conservation. Entrepreneurs and conservationists have teamed up to make dramatic gains using these two approaches, creating more than $200 billion a year in energy savings so far.

These programs provide the biggest, quickest, and cleanest bang for the taxpayer's buck -- yet renewables get Bush-Whacked with a 36% overall cut in W.'s budget. R&D funds for solar, wind, geothermal, and hydrogen technologies are cut by half, and funds for implementation of these most promising energy sources are whacked by 76%. At the same time, Bush is moving to kill new efficiency standards that would save a third of the energy now consumed by air conditioners.

Bush's budget throws more millions at nuclear power -- a failed and flawed energy source that already has sopped up $66 billion in tax-paid R&D spending. Nuke promoters, however, were very energetic contributors to George W.'s presidential race, so it's payoff time.

To fight for energy sanity, contact Safe Energy Communications Council at 202/483-8491.

'Don't Be Fooled Awards'

If it's spring, it must be time for Earth Day -- you can bet it's time for a heavy dose of corporate "greenwashing."

Greenwashing occurs when a notorious corporate polluter rushes out a touchie-feelie ad campaign, associating its name with Bambi or butterflies, in a cynical effort to gloss over the corporation's gross record of environmental contamination with a green PR image of environmental sensitivity. A watchdog group called Earth Day Resources applied some gloss remover to the 10 worst greenwashers with its "2001 Don't Be Fooled Awards."

Heading the list of dishonorees is BP-Amoco, which launched a multimillion-dollar ad blitz last year to proclaim that the initials BP no longer stand for British Petroleum, but for "Beyond Petroleum." Brandishing a new abstract logo of a yellow and green sunflower, the world's largest oil company now asserts that its chief concern is Mother Earth, and its fuel of choice is Old Mr. Sun. It would be more honest if BP changed its initials to BS. This giant spends a pittance on solar energy development but billions on oilfield development. In this Earth Day season, BP can be found lobbying furiously in Washington to open Alaska's pristine Arctic Wildlife Refuge to BP-Amoco's oil wells, roads, and pipelines. It already has a long rap sheet of environmental crimes in Alaska -- including 104 oil spills in one year, and the illegal dumping of hazardous waste near Alaska's once-pristine Prudhoe Bay.

Boise-Cascade, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Weyerhauser, Dupont, and Royal Dutch Shell are among the other Greenwashers caught red-handed by Earth Day Resources' "Don't Be Fooled" report.

To get a copy of the report, call 213/251-3690.

The WLF Goes Inside

The WLF might sound like another spin-off from the World Wrestling Federation, but it's really in a much bigger league.

Instead of wearing wrestling tights and strutting around a ring, the performers in the WLF wear pinstripe suits and strut around courthouses. They are lawyers for the Washington Legal Foundation, a corporate front group that specializes in clogging the courts and administrative agencies with tons of legal filings that are anti-consumer, anti-worker and anti-environment.

WLF lawyers have recently intervened in auto-safety lawsuits on behalf of Honda and Goodyear, it tried to prevent financial punishment of Exxon for its catastrophic Valdez oil spill, and it stood up for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company in a case against the FDA. In addition, the foundation produces articles and "educational" programs spouting corporate propaganda on such issues as the public's right-to-know laws and patients-rights laws. It is also a major proponent of corporate "civil liberties" and corporate "free speech." It just might be that WLF's fervor for all-things-corporate stems from the fact that the bulk of its funding flows from corporate interests.

Now, this anti-government outsider has quietly moved inside, as George W. Bush -- who also embraces all-things-corporate -- has placed many WLFers into key positions. For example, cabinet members John Ashcroft, Gale Norton, Tommie Thompson, and Spencer Abraham serve on WLF advisory boards, and Energy Secretary Abraham and Interior Secretary Norton also are listed as "educational program speakers" for this cozy corporate club. Attorney General Ashcroft also is staffing the justice department with WLF alums, including his deputy AG, and his assistant AG for anti-trust.

WLF's infiltration of the Bush presidency represents the continuing corporatization of our government.

Jim Hightower's latest book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, has just been released in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The Donald Show

Jim Hightower, July 10, 2015

The Hightower Report
The Hightower Report
The damning nuttiness of the GOP's "Hell No" faction

Jim Hightower, Aug. 15, 2014


George W. Bush, renewable energy, solar energy, nuclear energy, greenwashing, Earth Day, BP-Amoco, Washington Legal Foundation, John Ashcroft, Gale Norton, Tommie Thompson, Spencer Abraham

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle