On Aug. 9th, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R- LA-03) showed up at the America First Energy (AFE) conference, which was organized by the far-right Heritage Foundation and which was almost entirely focused on promoting the petrochemical industry and denying the realities of climate change, something understood and accepted by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community.
Higgins represents one of the most environmentally vulnerable districts in the nation, largely due to the negligence of the petrochemical industry, which dominates the local economy. The industry has previously acknowledged liability for more than 30% of the damages inflicted in Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, a consequence of decades of illegal dredging and a cavalier approach to the state’s permitting process.
Attendees of the conference were told, among other things, that increased carbon dioxide emissions would make the Earth a “greener planet.”
That may be true, according to Pep Canadell, Scientist and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia (CSIRO) and CSIRO research scientist Yingping Wang, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
“But don’t get your hopes up,” their report cautions. “We don’t know how far into the future the greening trend will continue as the CO₂ concentration ultimately peaks while delayed global warming continues for decades after. Regardless, it is clear that the benefits of a greening Earth fall well short compared to the estimated negative impacts of extreme weather events (such as droughts, heat waves, and floods), sea level rise, and ocean acidification.“
“Humans have shown their capacity to (inadvertently) affect the word’s entire biosphere, it is now time to (advertently) use this knowledge to mitigate climate change and ameliorate its impacts,” they concluded.
Rep. Higgins never heard these remarks. Instead, he received a self-published book, Dumb Industry: A Critique of Wind and Solar Energy, which is available for less than $5 on Amazon.
A reader named A. Leahy was pithy and brutal in their review of the book: “I’ve been seeing excerpts from this all over the internet,” he wrote, “and I assumed it was a joke. This guy doesn’t have the faintest idea how solar or wind power work and just plain ignores oil subsidies. Is he serious?”
Higgins also received this “alternative facts” sheet in the conference, which, among other things, falsely asserts that global temperatures have not risen in the past 20 years, which isn’t true. He also asserted that “Antarctic ice is increasing far more than Arctic ice is melting.”
There’s one major problem: The same controversial study’s “lead author, NASA Goddard’s chief cryospheric scientist Jay Zwally… predicted that melting would outpace increased snowfall in a decade or two” (emphasis added).
Higgins, for his part, was convinced of the pseudo-science.
“The Louisiana Republican also joked about wind and solar energy and said there are probably people speaking at a conference somewhere in the country about ‘how the future of the world’s engine will be provided by rainbow dust and unicorn milk,’” according to Folley.
Last week in the nation’s Capitol, Rep. Higgins attended a conference hosted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, better known as FAIR, a recognized hate group of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to the advocacy group America’s Voices (emphasis added):
FAIR is an anti-immigrant hate group that was founded by white nationalist John Tanton, who helped create a network of anti-immigrant organizations — many of which are also hate groups. For this year’s “Hold Their Feet to the Fire”, an annual event, FAIR brought in anti-immigrant activists and far-right talk radio hosts from across the country to amplify their anti-immigrant messages. The conference also attracted a number of elected and appointed officials.
One of them was Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, who came to speake with far-right talk radio host Tom Roten. On the show, Vitiello defended the policy of separating families at the border and racistly characterized immigrants as the bearers of crime and disease.
Higgins was one of only ten elected official in attendance.
For our other report on Rep. Higgins’ associations with militia groups, click here.