Welcome inside the mind of Myron Ebell, the man shaping energy and climate policy in Donald Trump’s America.
This 63 second-long advert ran on American television for a few weeks in May 2006 and was produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), where Ebell is a director.
“There’s something in these pictures you can’t see,” begins the smooth-talking narrator, the friendly plinkety piano from every piece of corporate hold music you’ve ever heard playing softly in the background.
“It’s essential to life. We breathe it out, plants breathe it in. It comes from animal life, the ocean, the earth and the fuels we find in it.”
“The fuels that produce CO2… enable us to create and move the things we need, the people we love,” continues the narrator, to images of a speeding train and a delightful young family piling into an SUV.
Then comes a dramatic change in background music. We’ve got cellos now, and is that a minor key?
“Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant.”
“Imagine if they succeed?”
“WHAT WOULD OUR LIVES BE LIKE THEN?”
That’s right America: politicians want to ban carbon dioxide.
“Carbon dioxide,” the video concludes, as a child blows CO2 all over a dandelion. “They call it pollution, we call it life.”
The root of all Ebell
Ebell is currently the director of the Center for Energy and Environment, an offshoot of the CEI.
He’s also the head of Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, meaning that he is shaping the future of the regulator and America’s policy on mitigating climate change.
That’s rather worrying, because Ebell thinks climate change is “nothing to worry about”.
That view chimes rather well with the new President, who in typically thoughtful terms has called the gravest threat modern civilisation has ever faced: “bullshit”.
CEI’s funders are largely hidden from public view, but back in 2013 the Washington Post got a look at who had paid for the organisation’s annual gala dinner.
Unsurprisingly, fossil fuel interests featured prominently, with Marathon Petroleum, Devon Energy, Murray Energy and various offshoots of the Koch Brothers’ empire.
Back in the mid-2000s, the group received over two million U.S. dollars from ExxonMobil.
But even Exxon was compelled to cut support for the most cartoonish climate deniers, including the fine folks at CEI, “whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”