[Vision2020] 5-22-18: Columbia University Hires Trump Official and Fossil Fuel Defender as Climate Policy Expert

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Thu May 24 18:55:24 PDT 2018

Columbia University Hires Trump Official and Fossil Fuel Defender as
Climate Policy Expert
Related videos at website below:

Justin Mikulka <https://www.desmogblog.com/user/justin-mikulka> | May 22,


Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy
<http://energypolicy.columbia.edu/> (CGEP) is a hugely influential policy
group filled with heavy hitters from politics and the oil industry
<http://energypolicy.columbia.edu/people/center-staff-and-fellows>. While
the center's home page describes it as “an independent, interdisciplinary,
and nonpartisan platform,” its track record shows that CGEP consistently
supports the same policies favored by the fossil fuel industry.

And one of its latest moves — hiring former Trump energy advisor and fossil
fuel defender George “David” Banks
<https://www.desmogblog.com/george-david-banks> as an expert on
“international climate policy” — shows that trend will continue.
Under Trump, Banks served as White House Special Assistant for
International Energy and Environment, which included publicly representing
the administration at international climate change negotiations. At last
November's United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, that meant
moderating the U.S.'s lone event, a controversial panel promoting coal,
natural gas, and nuclear energy
— and defending President Trump's infamous “climate change is a Chinese
hoax” tweet.

In addition to his new job with CGEP, Banks remains executive vice
president with the American Council for Capital Formation
<https://www.desmogblog.com/american-council-for-capital-formation>, a free
market think tank funded by an A-list of climate science deniers including
the Koch
family foundations <https://www.desmogblog.com/koch-family-foundations>,
and the American Petroleum Institute

When Banks had to leave the Trump administration due to his inability to
obtain a permanent security clearance, he told Politico,
<http://time.com/5158520/white-house-resignation-george-david-banks/> “It
was an honor to serve the president at the White House and I look forward
to supporting the president in the future.” He certainly lived up to that
promise with his comments on a recent climate change panel hosted by
Columbia University's CGEP.
Platform for the Oil Industry

Each year CGEP has an annual global energy summit
which inevitably gives a platform to oil industry champions like Dan Yergin
executives from ConocoPhillips. In fact, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance was
this year’s keynote speaker.

Another recent hire by CGEP was Marianne Kah,
<http://energypolicy.columbia.edu/marianne-kah> the former chief economist
of ConocoPhillips, who spoke at the summit in 2014 when she advocated
for lifting the crude oil export ban

CGEP played a leading role
pushing for lifting the crude oil export ban using arguments directly
aligned with those made by oil companies. For example, the
center argued that exporting American crude oil would likely lower gas
American consumers, with CGEP founding director Jason Bordoff telling
that “easing
U.S. export restrictions would likely lift production and lower
gasoline prices.”

Those arguments have since been shown to be deeply flawed
but they helped lead to the ban's reversal, which has resulted in a large
increase in fracking and oil production in America. And despite Bordoff's
prediction, gas prices have gone up significantly even as America continues
to set new records
crude oil exports. This has led to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) calling for the
Government Accountability Office to review the impact of oil exports
on gas prices and for Congress to reinstate the crude oil export ban.

At this year’s CGEP global energy conference, held on April 19, a panel
discussion titled “Climate Change: What's Next on Technology and Policy?”
featured the freshly hired David Banks as one of the panelists. He didn't
hestitate to voice his opinion that dealing with climate change shouldn't
be a top priority:

“We think that, at least from the Trump administration’s perspective, and I
agree with this, this is my personal perspective as well, is that climate
is certainly a challenge and is a major problem that we need to work
together to address. But there are other big issues out there that I would
certainly argue are much more challenging, much more immediate.

While this sentiment is no surprise coming from someone who worked in the
Trump administration — not to mention for George W. Bush as well — it does
seem odd for someone just hired by CGEP
focus on “international climate policy.”

During the panel discussion Banks noted the other issues he thought were
more pressing for U.S. security. “I think there are other issues that have
more of an impact and just have more consequences when it comes to global
security and one of those is energy access, it’s poverty eradication,”
Banks said.

The energy access and poverty eradication
arguments are favorite talking points of the fossil fuel industry and
require one to accept the rather absurd claim that a driving force behind
the oil and coal industries is to help poor people turn on the lights
around the world.

Meanwhile, in the 2017 defense bill, military leaders warned that climate
is a major security risk. Banks, however, failed to acknowledge this point,
and no one else on the panel did either.

The final point Banks made on this panel was that the Trump administration
argues that fossil fuels are going to be used anyway and “therefore we need
to face that reality and make sure that the fossil [sic] that’s being
deployed is being used as cleanly and as efficiently as possible.”
*Facing Reality on Climate Panel*

The CGEP summit's climate panel focused on many issues that related to
climate change including agriculture, blockchain
<https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blockchain>, big data, machine
learning, and batteries and storage. What did not come up as a discussion
point was the need to stop burning fossil fuels and adding more carbon to
the atmosphere. There was no talk about ocean acidification. Nothing about
sea level rise — a huge concern
the U.S. military and security.

The one insight to the reality of climate change came from Cameron Hepburn
<http://www.cameronhepburn.com/>from the University of Oxford when he
commented on the reality of the Paris Agreement and global commitments to
reducing carbon consumption.

“The problems with it [Paris Agreement] though, as probably most of the
room is aware is that the pledges don’t add up to anything well below two
degrees [Celsius] … and then you got a set of country pledges and if you
add them up you're looking at over three degrees and then you dig a little
bit more and say well are those countries actually implementing their
pledges and what’s the detail … and they are not even delivering on their
promises. At the moment we’ve got promises that were not realistic and even
the promises that were plausibly realistic are not being delivered upon.”

Hepburn also co-authored an op-ed on this issue that ran with the title “Prove
Paris was more than paper promises.”
UN climate change negotiations continue to grapple with this gap in
national pledges
cut globe-warming emissions and the push to “ratchet” up those ambitions at
future talks in order to meet the Paris goals.

After Hepburn’s bleak and accurate assessment, the panel moved on to
discuss blockchain.
*Intellectual Capture in America*

Banks might seem an odd choice as a climate policy expert at a leading
university's “independent” and “non-partisan” policy center. He has lobbied
on behalf of energy companies reliant on fossil fuels and served as a
staffer under notorious climate denier Sen. James Inhofe
<https://www.desmogblog.com/james-inhofe>. However, Banks' hiring is
consistent with a larger trend among American colleges and universities
being influenced by money from the fossil fuel industry.

The same month CGEP hired David Banks as a climate expert, the Associated
Press revealed that the Koch brothers have been directly buying influence
over at least one of the universities to which they donate large amounts
of money.

Like Columbia, George Mason University — coincidentally where Banks
received his law degree — had refused for years to release information
about its relationship with the Charles Koch Foundation
<https://www.desmogblog.com/koch-family-foundations> and denied that its
donations had any influence
university decisions. However, when the details of the relationship were
revealed, the Associated Press
<https://apnews.com/0c87e4318bcc4eb9b8e69f9f54c7b889>reported that
“Virginia’s largest public university granted the conservative Charles Koch
Foundation a say in the hiring and firing of professors in exchange for
millions of dollars in donations.”

This led to the George Mason faculty passing a resolution
for all gift agreements to be published in a permanent online database for
public review within 30 days of their enactment.”

The Charles Koch Foundation donates to many colleges and universities
which has led to an activist effort called “UnKoch My Campus.”
<http://www.unkochmycampus.org/> As New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer
reported in her book *Dark Money*
early as 1976, Koch advisor George Pearson “advocated funding private
institutes within prestigious universities, where influence over hiring
decisions and other forms of control could be exerted by donors while
hiding the radicalism of their aims.”

An institute not unlike Columbia University's Center on Global Energy
Policy, perhaps?

Unlike George Mason, Columbia is a private university and not subject to
freedom of information requests. In the past, it has refused requests
to reveal the source of the funding which has allowed CGEP to create such a
large organization full of oil industry all-stars in just five years. Yet a
clue revealed by Politico in 2015 showed that ExxonMobil gave at least
$25,000 to CGEP
then doubled
the following year.

Media representatives from Columbia and CGEP failed to respond to requests
for comment from DeSmog on the justification for hiring someone
with climate science denial ties as a climate policy expert. However, after
DeSmog asked why CGEP listed Banks as having “previously” worked at ACCF
on its website, the center added a more accurate webpage t
<http://energypolicy.columbia.edu/george-david-banks>hat reflects his
current status as executive vice president at ACCF, but the page shown
below also still exists <http://energypolicy.columbia.edu/george-dave-banks>on
the CGEP site. ACCF did not respond to a request for comment.


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