Unclean on Energy
July 14, 2001
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The front page of today's New York Times carries an article under the headline "U.S. Set to Oppose International Plan for Cleaner Energy." The article contains quotes from three persons: an unnamed Bush administration official, a Clinton administration official named Dan Reicher, and a woman identified only as "Daphne Wysham, a fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington."
Never mind the ridiculous headline: The Bush administration isn't opposed to cleaner energy, it is just opposed to the government ramming it down the throats of consumers regardless of the cost. If you want to consume cleaner energy, the Bush administration isn't going to stop you.
And never mind the odd definition of "clean" and "nonpolluting" energy -- "wind, water and the sun." Generating energy from these sources can require building dams and covering virgin hillsides with windmills and solar panels -- not exactly "clean" by the definition of many environmentalists.
The really fascinating question is how a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies came to be the only expert quoted in this Times article. There's no quote from the energy industry, no quote from a conservative or free-market think tank that might support the Bush administration's position. A reader not steeped in the details of the issue might think the Institute for Policy Studies was some centrist research institute with no particular ideological tilt.
In fact, a May 15 article in the Washington Post identified the Institute for Policy Studies as "left-leaning." The Institute for Policy Studies Web site is littered with slogans like "Six Months Since the Coup, and Bush is Still Illegitimate" and references to "the illegality of NATO's attack on Yugoslavia." Ms. Wysham turns out to be the former editor in chief of Greenpeace magazine, the publication of the radical environmental group.
The closest the Times comes to a reason for including the Institute for Policy Studies's perspective in this article is a reference to a study the group did that found, the Times said, that "the export promotion agencies of rich nations, like the Export-Import Bank of the United States, are the world's largest public backers of fossil fuels, the main causes of global warming." Never mind that the notion that fossil fuels are "the main causes of global warming" is still hotly debated in scientific and policy circles and is hardly the sort of thing that one would want to state as fact without attribution in a news article. This "study" that the Times makes so much of in today's front-page article appears to be one that was issued April 28, 1999. It's available in PDF format at http://www.foe.org/international/climatesummary.pdf. In other words, it's more than two years old. Funny how a study like that becomes front-page news all of a sudden once a Republican administration with ties to the oil industry gets into office.
Smartertimes.com isn't saying that the New York Times shouldn't report on the Institute for Policy Studies and what its staff has to say. But why not label the group as "left-leaning" the way the Times constantly labels conservative groups as "conservative"? And there's no good reason -- in a story this complex, where industry and consumers have interests -- that the only expert quoted should be a Greenpeace type. Why not give Times readers the benefit of some other perspectives in addition to those of the hard-left environmentalists?
Wartime: An editorial in today's New York Times, under the headline "Misguided Sanctions," opposes the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act. "Calling foreign companies to account for otherwise legal business conducted outside American borders goes a step too far," the editorial says. "It forces countries to pick sides in a way that is more appropriate to wartime than to commerce." Hello? America is in a war with Iran and Libya. If the Times needs confirmation of that, it might check with Stephen Flatow, the New Jersey man whose daughter Alisa was killed in 1995 what a federal court has ruled was an Iranian-funded terror attack. Or it could check with Susan Cohen, the New Jersey woman whose daughter Theodora died on Pan Am 103 when it was bombed by Libyan intelligence agents. Or it could check with the families of the 19 Americans killed in the Khobar Towers bombing at Dharan, Saudi Arabia, in 1996, an attack in which there is strong evidence of Iranian involvement.
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