The Next President’s First Task: A Manifesto

May 14, 2008

Vanity Fair

In early May, 100 of the nation’s top business leaders gathered for a summit at a private resort nestled on 250 acres in California’s Napa Valley. The attendees, gathered at the invitation of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, included CEOs and other top executives from such Fortune 500 corporations as Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble and BP.
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Global Warming: A Real Solution

June 18, 2007

Rolling Stone


In early May, 100 of the nation’s top business leaders gathered for a summit at a private resort nestled on 250 acres in California’s Napa Valley. The attendees, gathered at the invitation of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, included CEOs and other top executives from such Fortune 500 corporations as Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble and BP. They had been invited to discuss ways to end America’s fossil-fuel addiction and save the world from global warming. But in reality they had come to make money for their companies – and that may turn out to be the thing that saves us.

For three days, the executives listened as their colleagues and business rivals described how they are using new technologies to wean themselves from oil and boost their profits in the process. DuPont has cut its climate-warming pollution by seventy-two percent since 1990, slashing $3 billion from its energy bills while increasing its global production by nearly a third. Wal-Mart has installed new, energy-efficient light bulbs in refrigeration units that save the company $12 million a year, and skylights that cut utility bills by up to $70,000 per store. The company, which operates the nation’s second-largest corporate truck fleet, also saved $22 million last year just by installing auxiliary power units that allow drivers to operate electric systems without idling their vehicles. In a move with even more far-reaching potential, Wal-Mart has ordered its truck suppliers to double the gas mileage of the company’s entire fleet by 2015. When those trucks become available to other businesses, America will cut its demand for oil by six percent.

The executives gathered at the retreat weren’t waiting around for federal subsidies or new regulations to tilt the market in their direction. Business logic, not government intervention, was driving them to cut energy costs and invest in new fuel sources. “We haven’t even touched the low-hanging fruit yet,” Kim Saylors-Laster, the vice president of energy for Wal-Mart, told the assembled CEOs. “We’re still getting the fruit that has already fallen from the trees.”

As the discussions at the summit demonstrated, America’s top executives know something that the Bush administration has yet to realize: America doesn’t need to wait for futuristic, pie-in-the-sky technologies to cut its reckless consumption of oil and coal. Our last, best hope to stop climate change is the free market itself. There is gold in going green, and the same drive to make a buck that created global warming in the first place can now be harnessed to slow the carbon-based pollution that is overheating the planet.

And green investment will not just enrich a few corporations. We know from past experience that it will strengthen America’s economy, not to mention our national security, our economic independence and the effectiveness of our world leadership. During the oil crisis sparked by OPEC in the 1970s, American business and government went into overdrive to promote conservation and develop alternatives to Middle Eastern oil. Between 1977 and 1985, Detroit boosted the fuel efficiency of its automobiles from eighteen to 27.5 miles per gallon. Oil use shrank by seventeen percent – while the economy grew by twenty-seven percent. Even more important, oil imports from the Persian Gulf plunged by eighty-seven percent, breaking the cartel’s power over America’s economy. Had we stayed the course, we would not have needed to import a single drop of oil from the Middle East after 1986 – achieving true energy independence that, in all likelihood, would have enabled us to avoid the devastating attacks of September 11th, as well as both Gulf wars.

“We customers have more market power than the oil cartel,” says Amory Lovins, the physicist whose efforts to get big business to go green have made him the Paul Revere of energy independence. “OPEC has its megabarrels, but we are the Saudi Arabia of negabarrels – the energy we save through conservation and energy efficiency. The reality is, we can save oil faster and cheaper than the oil cartel can conveniently sell less oil.”

So why, if we can profitably slash planet-warming pollution, does the world face a climate crisis? The answer is simple: market failure.

The global climate crisis is the result not of an orderly free market, but of a distorted market run amok. A truly free market is the planet’s best friend. Free markets promote efficiency. “Efficiency,” after all, means the elimination of waste – and pollution is waste. The pollution that is catastrophically heating the Earth is the result of market failure; the incapacity of a poorly designed marketplace to place a proper value on an essential asset – the atmosphere. That market failure has brought us to the brink of a planetwide environmental collapse.

King Coal and the oil barons like to pretend that their industries dominate the energy sector because their products are cheaper and more efficient than alternative fuels, giving them a competitive advantage in the free market. This is a myth. The dominance of fossil fuels is the direct result of corporate welfare and crony capitalism that would make a Nigerian dictator balk. Direct federal subsidies to Big Oil – everything from loan guarantees and research support to outright tax breaks and waived royalty fees – amount to as much as $17 billion a year. That taxpayer money distorts the marketplace, artificially lowering the price of gasoline and making it difficult for other fuels to compete. Little wonder that the oil industry was able to report profits of more than $137 billion last year.

Hidden subsidies to the industry are even higher than the direct benefits it receives from our government. Studies show that oil pollution causes at least $4.6 billion in damages each year to crops, forests, rivers, buildings and monuments – destruction that Big Oil is not held liable for. The industry also fails to pick up the annual tab for the $54.7 billion that Americans pay to treat the host of debilitating illnesses caused by oil pollution. In addition, taxpayers spend as much as $100 billion each year to defend the industry’s infrastructure around the world, maintaining bases in the Middle East and providing military escorts for oil tankers bound for America. And that does not include the more than $100 billion that the Pentagon has spent annually in Iraq since the war began – another expense that should appear on Big Oil’s tally sheet.

According to Terry Tamminen, former director of the California EPA, the true costs of our oil dependence run as high as $807 billion a year – or $2,700 for every U.S. citizen. If all the hidden costs that Americans currently pay for oil were reflected in the price at the pump, gasoline would cost more than $13 a gallon. In short, taxpayers and consumers are essentially giving the oil industry a subsidy of $10 for every gallon of gas sold in America. If we simply eliminated those subsidies and created a truly free market, renewable sources of energy would beat oil – as well as nuclear power and coal, which receive equally grotesque subsidies. It is only through these giant subsidies that gasoline has a prayer of competing with alternative sources such as biofuels and wind, which produce energy far more cleanly and efficiently, at far less cost.

Back in the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter attempted to level the playing field by creating incentives and minimal subsidies to jump-start clean fuels in the marketplace. But then Ronald Reagan took office and ordered the solar panels that Carter had installed on the White House roof torn off. He rolled back fuel standards for automobiles, killed federal incentives that had given America a commanding lead in wind and solar power, and doubled our oil imports. Reagan’s efforts fueled the current oil addiction that has us acting like a crack-house junkie rolling old ladies for drug money. Our jones for petrodrugs has not only superheated the planet, it has embroiled us in the Mesopotamian quagmire and made America a pariah among civilized nations, damaging the cause of democracy across the globe.

Our deadly carbon dependence is the result not just of subsidies, but of a deliberate criminal effort by the oil companies and auto manufacturers to subvert the free market and rig the system in favor of their products. Between 1920 and 1955, General Motors, Standard Oil, Firestone and others financed a front company that systematically bought up and destroyed electric streetcars in forty-five American cities, including New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Los Angeles. In an illegal conspiracy to eliminate mass transit, they tore up the rail lines or buried them beneath asphalt tarmac from oil refineries, replacing clean, efficient streetcars with more costly and filthy diesel buses. During the Truman administration, the Justice Department successfully prosecuted GM and the oil companies for antitrust conspiracy, but following their convictions a friendly judge allowed them to walk, slapping one executive with a $1 fine. The crime was done.

In 2003, the Justice Department didn’t even bother to investigate automobile manufacturers who maneuvered to kill the electric car. After suing California to repeal a rule mandating the production of cleaner vehicles, GM recalled every one of its EV-1s, its popular all-electric car, and sent them to a demolition yard to be crushed. GM also sold its stake in the car’s nickel battery system to none other than Texaco – a company with a vested interest in keeping the innovative technology under lock and key.

The truth is, we have designed a perverted market system that rewards oil companies, carmakers and other polluters for bad behavior, allowing them to dispose of their wastes into the publicly owned air for free. But new technologies and materials and the mounting anxiety over global warming give more cause for hope than ever before. With a little tinkering we can reconfigure and rationalize the market so that it punishes bad behavior (releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere) and rewards good behavior (reducing pollution and conserving energy). Such a move would unleash the extraordinary entrepreneurial energies of our nation so that every American could profit by devising and implementing their own solutions to global warming. With a rational marketplace, new materials and technologies would allow us to rapidly rerun the playbook strategies that nearly liberated us from oil in the 1980s. Within two decades we could get off imported oil completely – this time for good.

If we really want free markets in America, all direct subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry should be eliminated. In addition, indirect subsidies or “externalities” – the hidden costs of global warming – should be accounted for through a carbon tax. By taxing pollution instead of productivity, America could spur a wave of technological and commercial innovation that would rival the Industrial Revolution, harnessing the power of the profit motive to solve the greatest crisis facing our planet.

Given the clout of the oil industry, however, it will take time and enormous political will to implement a tax on carbon production. Fortunately, there are ways we can foster the immediate adoption of cleaner and more efficient energy technologies – without pissing off the oil industry and its powerful political allies, all eager to stall reform. Here are six modest, tried-and-true mechanisms we can implement to quickly foster free-market solutions to global warming:

Feebates California is considering imposing a $2,500 fee on Hummers and other low-efficiency automobiles – and then rebating that money to drivers who choose to purchase more efficient cars like hybrids. This cross between a fee and a rebate motivates manufacturers to develop less-polluting vehicles and is a perfect example of how to give consumers an incentive to conform their self-interest to the public interest, turning every driver into a guerrilla warrior in the battle against global warming.

Cap and Trade One of the most effective tools for harnessing markets to save civilization is a mandatory cap on planet-warming pollution – one that begins by cutting emissions now and then reduces them eighty percent by 2050. Establishing mandatory limits in all industrial sectors would create a huge market for products and technologies that use less energy and emit far less carbon. In addition, companies that figure out how to cut their emissions to below their limit will earn credits that can be sold to those companies that can’t meet their quota, creating a powerful incentive to actually beat the pollution limits. California, New York and a dozen other states are already experimenting with various cap-and-trade systems, recognizing that if they level the playing field with marketwide limits and smart incentives, the market will respond. Clean Incentives Revenues from the sale of carbon credits under the cap-and-trade system should be used to create market-based financial incentives to speed the development and adoption of promising new technologies. Europe has created a gold rush in solar energy by promising to buy energy at premium pricing from homeowners who generate power from rooftop panels. All across Europe, citizens are scrambling to cover their roofs and homes with solar collectors and transform their residences into mini power plants. “Everyone is becoming an entrepreneur,” says Bill McDonough, an architect who has received three presidential awards for his sustainable designs. Connecticut already offers a rebate of up to $46,500 for homeowners who go solar, and Congress could boost the rapid expansion of existing technologies by providing similar incentives for solar water heaters, residential wind turbines, geothermal systems, modern electronic lighting and improved insulation. Incentives could also help Detroit convert to electric cars and encourage consumers to replace aging automobiles, washing machines, air conditioners and refrigerators.

Decoupling Utilities currently make money only by producing and selling us more electricity – giving power companies little incentive to promote energy efficiency. California, however, has decoupled profits from energy sales, creating a new kind of market that rewards efficiency. Utilities make money not by selling power but by helping consumers use it more productively in their homes. The result: Californians use almost half as many kilowatts as other Americans. “We’ve been able to keep energy demand flat for thirty years with a rapidly growing population, while the average per-capita energy consumption for the rest of the nation has soared by fifty percent,” says Tom King, CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric. “And we haven’t even made a dent in the potential that’s out there – we can go beyond anything anybody’s ever projected.”

Net Metering California also took an early lead in this area, allowing homeowners who install solar panels or wind turbines to sell their excess electricity back to the utility. The electric meter actually spins backward when the home is generating more electricity than it consumes, and customers are billed only for the net amount of energy they consume from the utility’s grid. “Our objective is to give every homeowner the incentive to turn their house into a clean-energy power station,” says King. “We can not only replace gasoline and dramatically reduce carbon emissions, but we’ll also have a grid that is more decentralized and hence more resilient.”

Performance Standards The quickest way to improve the energy efficiency of appliances, cars, trucks and buildings is to establish minimum standards based on the current state of technology. Rather than prescribing specific solutions, performance standards harness the market by establishing targets and rewarding companies that create the best emissions-cutting technology. The government has successfully done this for energy-intensive appliances like refrigerators, which now consume seventy-five percent less energy than they did twenty-five years ago.

We also need strong standards to keep some very bad technologies from rushing into the market under the banner of energy efficiency. A particularly ugly aspect of the current coal rush, for example, is the desire of the industry and its servants in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to build a new breed of refinery that would liquefy coal to replace gasoline. Advocates claim that liquid coal is clean, but the process results in nearly twice as much carbon pollution per gallon as gasoline. And whatever the process, why would we want to create an entire new industry dependent on an energy source that is procured by blowing up mountains in Appalachia and strip-mining the West?

What would happen if we created a truly free market, one in which alternative energy could compete on an equal footing with oil and coal? In 2004, physicist Amory Lovins answered that question. In a study co-funded by the Defense Department, Lovins and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute detailed how the United States can completely wean itself off all oil – and create a much stronger economy – by 2050.

The transition from oil outlined by Lovins would occur in two stages. First, half of our current demand for oil can be eliminated simply by using oil twice as efficiently. We’ve already done this once – doubling our efficiency since 1975 – and we can do it again simply by encouraging the adoption of existing technologies. Then, the remaining half of our oil demand can be replaced with a combination of natural gas and advanced biofuels. The result would not only end our oil addiction completely, it would also lower our energy costs to the equivalent of $15 a barrel – a quarter of what we currently pay.

The study by Lovins shows how – with a one-time investment of $180 billion – we can completely retool the automobile and aviation industries, create greener and more energy-efficient buildings and foster a modern biofuels industry. Even assuming that the price of oil drops by more than half by 2025, Lovins shows that going oil-free would net Americans $70 billion a year – an impressive return on our initial $180 billion investment! At the same time, we would not only reduce the threat posed by global warming, we would also generate a million new jobs – three-quarters of them in rural and small-town America.

There is no shortage of technology and innovation waiting to be unlocked and put to use by the market. We already possess the high-performance plastics, ultralight steel and carbon-fiber composites needed to reduce the weight of cars and trucks – a move that would cut fuel consumption in half while improving auto safety. This is not the Jetsons’ stuff: Opel has already produced a prototype carbon-fiber roadster that does 155 miles an hour and gets as much as 94 miles per gallon. And within the next five years, Toyota and General Motors are expected to market “plug-in” hybrids that will enable drivers to travel at least 150 miles on a single charge. “It’s a no-brainer for most drivers,” says former CIA director James Woolsey, who views global warming and energy dependence as the number-one threat to America’s national security. “And the only infrastructure you need is an extension cord in your garage.”

A green revolution is also taking place in building construction. In Lower Manhattan, according to city officials, every new construction project valued at more than $25 million is being built on environment-friendly principles. More than 500 mayors of American cities have passed or pledged to pass green standards for new development, and developers who once fought such moves now recognize that they can quickly recover any added costs of green development through energy savings, higher rents and higher resale values. Indeed, the advantages of building green are now so widely recognized that the nation’s top real estate manager, Steven Roth of Vornado, recently told an industry group, “If you build a new building that is not green, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Even more dramatic is the potential that already exists for unlocking more energy from natural gas. According to Lovins, we can save half the natural gas we currently use – while cutting its cost to as little as one-tenth its current price – simply through more efficient use. Two-thirds of the savings will come from conserving electricity during peak hours – by relying on existing technology like the so-called “intelligent grid,” which can dim lighting and turn off hot-water heaters in millions of homes and offices on hot summer days. The remaining third will come from switching to more energy-efficient devices, many of which are already on store shelves.

Even making a few modest changes in our homes could dramatically curb carbon pollution. Widespread use of new LEDs – light-emitting diodes that are brighter, longer-lasting and ten times more efficient than conventional bulbs – could eliminate up to ten percent of U.S. electricity demand. An even simpler innovation – switching to cold-water laundry detergent – would eliminate enough CO2 each year to meet eight percent of the U.S. target under the Kyoto treaty. Using existing off-the-shelf technologies, Lovins estimates, would cut natural-gas costs by $50 billion every year – displacing demand for foreign oil without building a single new natural-gas terminal or coal-burning power plant.

Finally, a marketplace freed from oil subsidies would tap the energy wealth of biofuels already in use around the world. Brazil has eliminated two-fifths of its gasoline demand with ethanol produced from sugar cane, and American farmers have the capacity to produce 4 million barrels a day of cellulosic ethanol without touching an acre of farmland, simply by harvesting switchgrass that protects topsoil, wildlife habitat and water purity. According to Lovins, the combination of advanced biofuels, fuel- efficient cars and better use of natural gas could create more than enough energy to end America’s oil imports from all OPEC countries by 2025. By 2050, when all the gas-guzzling cars and trucks currently on the roads will be reduced to scrap metal, we can completely eliminate oil as a fuel source.

Aggressive action by the federal government could speed up our transition from oil faster than even the most optimistic predictions outlined by Lovins. If, for example, we made national investments in hydrogen fuels, which are more than twice as efficient as hydrocarbons, America could actually export energy from the Great Plains – the “Saudi Arabia of wind.” The Dakotas alone have sufficient wind to make all the hydrogen necessary to run every car and truck on the road in America, at nearly triple the efficiency of gasoline. At the Napa Valley summit, business leaders watched a presentation by John Woolard of BrightSource Energy, which builds large-scale solar power plants. With a level playing field, he boasts, “we’ll be able to power the entire United States on less than one percent of our total land.”

But the challenge facing us today is not one of gambling on unproven technologies, or even of choosing among wind or solar or hydrogen or switchgrass as the best way to reduce global warming. Our challenge is to create a rational marketplace – one that serves the broader interests of our nation by unleashing the innovative power of American entrepreneurs to transform our energy economy. Done right, this transformation will not only curb global warming, it will create an engine of sustainable economic growth for generations. By enabling current technologies to compete with oil, America can triple the efficiency of our cars, trucks and planes, cut our demand for oil and natural gas in half – and walk away more prosperous for our efforts. “Energy independence is possible – and if done correctly, it can fuel economic growth,” says King, the PG&E executive.

This new energy economy will not only save the planet from overheating, it will create jobs in the process. “We need to build a trillion solar panels,” says McDonough, the award-winning architect. “There are four jobs installing solar panels for every manufacturing job in creating them. The Chinese can’t capture those jobs, because the energy is inherently local. The Chinese can’t steal our photons.”

A new wave of innovation is already taking place all across America. Lee Jensen, a dairy farmer in Elk Mound, Wisconsin, is converting cow manure from his family’s farm into enough electricity to power 600 homes. Brian Fairbank, a ski resort operator in Hancock, Massachusetts, is building a commercial wind turbine near the summit of Jiminy Peak – a first for a ski resort. And thousands of pioneering homeowners and businesses have installed energy-saving windows, solar panels and compact fluorescent light bulbs, while buying up hybrid-electric cars as fast as they roll off assembly lines.

One of the only Americans left behind in this rush of innovation is George W. Bush. The president continues to insist that improving fuel efficiency would hamstring the American economy and give an economic advantage to China, which is exempted from the global-warming reductions laid out in the Kyoto treaty. To the contrary, boosting fuel standards would give us the economic advantage. Efficiency is strength – that was the lesson Detroit didn’t learn when Japan used energy-efficient cars to conquer the American automobile market. In 1970, U.S. automakers had eighty-six percent of the domestic car market, and the Japanese had three percent. Today, Japan has forty percent, while Detroit is at forty-two percent and declining.

Unlike our government, China understands the connection between fuel efficiency and a strong economy. Beijing has already passed efficiency standards for automobiles that are so high that many American-made cars can no longer be legally sold in China. Thanks to our inefficiency, we risk losing a market of 1.3 billion people.

Rather than using the industrial growth in China and India as an excuse to keep polluting, America should seize the economic opportunity that these emerging markets represent. To support its rapid industrialization, China is building a new coal-fired plant every week – generating unprecedented levels of pollution that threaten the entire planet. If we unleash the innovative power of our own market, the United States could be in a unique position to produce the technologies that China will need to avoid destroying itself.

“They are locked on a gerbil wheel,” says Alan Salzman, a venture capitalist with VantagePoint, which is investing heavily in climate-saving technologies. “They have to keep up their growth rate of eleven percent to produce enough jobs every year to avoid political unrest. If we don’t figure out the technologies that allow them to hopscotch a carbon-based economy, we face an eco-apocalypse.”

Texas Chainsaw Management

May 14, 2007

Vanity Fair

Spinning the revolving door between government and business as never before, the White House has handed more than 100 top environmental posts to representatives of polluting industries. The author provides a biographical sampler–and describes a devastating rollback of three decades of progress.

by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. May 2007

The verdict of history sometimes takes centuries. The verdict on George W. Bush as the nation’s environmental steward has already been written in stone. No president has mounted a more sustained and deliberate assault on the nation’s environment. No president has acted with more solicitude toward polluting industries. Assaulting the environment across a broad front, the Bush administration has promoted and implemented more than 400 measures that eviscerate 30 years of environmental policy. After years of denial, the president recently acknowledged the potentially catastrophic threat of global warming, but the words have no more meaning than the promise to rebuild New Orleans “better than ever.”

Most insidiously, the president has put representatives of polluting industries or environmental skeptics in charge of virtually all the agencies responsible for protecting America from pollution. Some egregious officials are now gone, often returning to the private sector whose interests they served. But the administrators who remain in place continue to carry the torch—people such as Mark Rey, a timber-industry lobbyist appointed to oversee the U.S. Forest Service; Rejane “Johnnie” Burton, at Interior, a former oil-and-gas-company executive in Wyoming, who has failed to collect billions on leases from oil companies active in the Gulf of Mexico; and Elizabeth Stolpe, a former lobbyist for one of the nation’s worst polluters, Koch Industries, who is an associate director (for toxics and environmental protection) at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

This trend is consistent across all of the departments of government that pertain to the environment: the Department of Commerce (which regulates fisheries); the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and the Interior; the E.P.A.; and even the relevant divisions of the Justice Department. More than 100 representatives from polluting industries occupy key spots at the federal agencies that regulate environmental quality. The revolving door between business and government—turning the regulated into the regulators—has never before spun so fast. And as a consequence environmental protection has been advancing backward on a broad front.

Consider Jeffrey Holmstead, who for four years was a top official in the E.P.A.’s Office of Air and Radiation. Before going to the E.P.A., Holmstead had worked for the law firm Latham & Watkins and represented one of the nation’s largest plywood producers, seeking to diminish pollution controls. In 2004, Holmstead ushered through new regulations exempting wood-products manufacturers from air-pollution rules governing formaldehyde. According to the Los Angeles Times, Holmstead’s new rule “relied on a risk assessment generated by a chemical industry-funded think tank, and a novel legal approach recommended by a timber industry lawyer.”

Or consider the career of Camden Toohey, who in 2001 was appointed to be the special assistant for Alaska by Gale Norton, the secretary of the interior from 2001 to 2006. Toohey, who was previously the executive director of Arctic Power, the chief lobbying group in the campaign to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, oversaw Interior’s Alaska operations until resigning, in January of 2006, to take a job at Shell, where Norton now serves as senior legal adviser.

And then there is Charles Lambert, a former lobbyist for the beef industry, now a deputy undersecretary at the Department of Agriculture responsible for marketing and regulatory programs. In June 2004, The Denver Post reported on an exchange between Lambert and Representative Joe Baca, a California Democrat, at a hearing on the issue of mad-cow disease:

“Is there a possibility that [the disease] could get through?” …
Lambert answered, “No, sir.”
“None at all?,” Baca asked.
“No,” Lambert replied.
“You would bet your life on it—your job on it, right?”
Lambert answered, “Yes, sir.”
The disease was discovered in the U.S. six months later.

Reports in The New York Times and on 60 Minutes have highlighted the case of Phillip Cooney, who was the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. His job was to advise the president on the environmental implications of decisions that he makes. Cooney’s previous job had been as the chief lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. His preoccupation during his four-year White House stint, according to news accounts, was combing scientific documents issued by the various federal agencies in order to remove damaging statements about the oil industry and the coal industry. He suppressed or altered several major studies on global warming in order to protect the interests of his former clients. After the Times revealed the alterations, in 2005, Cooney left his job and went to work for ExxonMobil.

It can be a fine thing to have businesspeople in government, when the objective is to recruit competence and expertise. But high-ranking officials such as the ones cited here, and scores of others, have entered government service not to serve the public interest but rather to subvert the very laws they are charged with enforcing.

Under the Bush administration, the big polluters, as the author and activist Jim Hightower has pointed out, have eliminated the middleman. “The corporations don’t have to lobby the government any more. They are the government.”

The Top 12

Ann Klee (2001–6), general counsel, E.P.A.; counselor to Interior secretary Gale Norton
Prior to her government appointments, Klee was a partner at Preston Gates & Ellis, where she worked for clients from the transportation, mining, timber, and waste-management industries on cases involving the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and Superfund.

J. Steven Griles (2001–4), deputy secretary, Department of the Interior
While employed at Interior, Griles, a former lobbyist for coal, oil, and gas interests, negotiated payments of over $1 million from National Environmental Strategies, a lobbying firm in which he had had a principal interest. Griles’s tenure was described by an inspector general as an “ethical quagmire.”

Lynn Scarlett (2001–present), assistant secretary, then deputy secretary, Department of the Interior
Scarlett was previously president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank. In a 1997 article she wrote, “Environmentalism is a coherent ideology that rivals Marxism in its challenge to the classical liberal view of government as protector of individual rights.”

Gale Norton (2001–6), secretary, Department of the Interior
Norton served two terms as Colorado attorney general before joining a Denver law firm, where she represented numerous developers and lobbied for NL Industries, a paint manufacturer which has been the target of a dozen lawsuits alleging lead poisoning and has been a defendant in lawsuits involving 75 toxic-waste sites.

Richard Stickler (2006–present), assistant secretary, Mine Safety and Health Administration
As reported by The Charleston Gazette, Stickler “worked for BethEnergy Mines of Pennsylvania for 30 years, worked briefly for Massey and then headed Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Deep Mine Safety from 1997 to 2003, when he retired. Stickler’s mines had accident rates twice the national average.”

William Wehrum (2005–present), acting assistant administrator, E.P.A.
Wehrum is a former Latham & Watkins lobbyist specializing in Clean Air Act issues. He was involved in crafting lenient rules for power-plant mercury pollution in which a dozen paragraphs were taken from a Latham & Watkins memo.

James Connaughton (2001–present), chairman, Council on Environmental Quality
Previously a partner at Sidley & Austin, Connaughton represented General Electric and arco in their Superfund toxic-waste fights with the E.P.A.

Jeffrey D. Jarrett (2006–7), assistant secretary, Department of Energy
Prior to his work in government, Jarrett spent 13 years in the coal-mining industry. In March, he returned to the private sector when the Coal Based Generation Stakeholders Group hired him as its executive director.

Francis S. Blake (2001–2), deputy secretary, Department of Energy
Blake played a key role in formulating Bush’s controversial Clear Skies legislation, meeting with dozens of energy-industry lobbyists in closed-door sessions. Blake has since been named chairman and C.E.O. of Home Depot.

William Gerry Myers III (2001–3), solicitor, Department of the Interior
Myers has compared federal land-use regulation to “the tyrannical actions of King George.” After leaving Interior, Myers rejoined Holland & Hart, where he represents several extractive-industries clients.

Rebecca W. Watson (2001–5), assistant secretary, Department of the Interior
Watson had a lengthy legal career helping mining- and timber-industry clients. She has ties to the anti-environmental groups Defenders of Property Rights and the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

Thomas Sansonetti (2001–5), assistant attorney general, Department of Justice
In previous stints at Interior, Sansonetti was involved in the Exxon Valdez settlement and the infamous spotted-owl litigation. He has worked as a lobbyist on behalf of mining and energy interests.

Additional reporting by Brendan DeMelle.

Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-governmental organization that promotes clean water throughout the world.

Michael Bloomberg

January 14, 2007



I’ve long argued that one of our most critical environmental issues is the challenge of making our cities attractive, enriching and safe places to live. The best cure for destructive sprawl is to build cities people don’t want to abandon, places where they can live healthy, fulfilling lives in densities that don’t devour our landscapes, pave our wilderness and pollute our watersheds, air and wildlife. To achieve this, we need to invest in urban schools, transportation, parks, health care, police protection, and infrastructure that makes cities great magnets with gravity sufficient to draw back the creeping suburbs.

There is a moral as well as an environmental imperative to attend to landscapes that are home to so many. For more than 8 million New York City residents, the environment is not a Rocky Mountain meadow with pronghorns grazing beside an alpine stream. It’s their transit system and office buildings, the parks where their children play.

No one understands this better than New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, 66, who has not only worked to make his city livable but has also promised to make it a global model of sustainability. Mayor Bloomberg realizes that a better future for New York will not be constructed on jobs or housing alone. It must also include cleaner air, safer drinking water, more green spaces and a healthy, accessible Hudson River.

In addition to protecting the local environment, he has promised to make New York a paradigm in the fight against global warming. His visionary PlaNYC commits New York to plant 1 million trees, slash greenhouse gases 30% by 2030 and achieve the cleanest air of any big city on the continent. Mayor Bloomberg has stepped into the breach left by a Federal Government that has abdicated all leadership on global warming. With his pragmatism and boundless energy, he has shown that a city can be both great and green. If that idea can make it here, it can make it anywhere.

Kennedy is senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council

Why The American Press Does Not Want You To Read this Article

December 20, 2005

My manifesto (printed below)ran in USA today as a full-page ad in the weekend issue April 24-26. The broadside is partially a jeremiad on press suppression of the thimerosal issue – the debate that CBS reporter Sharyl Atkinson calls “the most censored and misreported story”of the century. Ironically, my manifesto had already run afoul the Kafkaesque industry taboo that one national reporter has characterized as “a borglike impenetrable cocoon” Before we ran it as a full-page ad, opinion editors at virtually all of the nation’s leading papers rejected a shorter version of the same article. These include; USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Gannett, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Newark Star-Ledger, the New York Post, the Washington Post, the CNN website, the Bergen Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Miami Herald, the Austin American Statesman, the Raleigh News and Observer North Carolina, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the so-called alternate press: Salon, Slate and the Huffington Post. Sadly, even Mother Jones has swilled the pharma kool-aid.(Kudos to Alternet for having the courage to print it) I’m not sure that USA Today would even have run this as an advertisement. Our misgivings on that front lead us to submit it to the paper’s ad department a few minutes before the paper’s 3 o’clock deadline on Thursday, April 23 along with a $48,000 check in the hopes it would slip by their censors.

On April 19, almost a week before the USA Today advertisement ran, Huffington Post-which has a standing policy against publishing stories on vaccine safety or critiques of corruption at CDC’s vaccine division-mistakenly printed a favorable review of the film Trace Amounts by one of its writers, nine year HuffPo veteran,Tamar Abrams. Thirty minutes after the article went live on the Huffington Post site, the publisher disappeared it. On the same day, Huffington Post ran a sophomoric propaganda rant by actress , Kristen Bell, a acting as spokeswoman for a big Pharma, championing thimerosal. Bell explained that multi-dose vaccines preserved with neurotoxic mercury are more economical for the drug companies then mercury free single dose inoculations. (This explanation is unlikely to hold much water with the parents of brain injured children.) Bell assured the public that, although thimerosal is a word “which doesn’t sound harmless” it’s nevertheless safe to inject into pregnant women and little babies. Bell repeated Eli Lily’s long discredited canard that the ethylmercury in thimerosal is less persistent in the body than methylmercury in vaccines. Of course,the science says exactly the opposite. A 2012 Italian study found that the ethylmercury in thimerosal is 50 times more toxic than Methylmercury to human cells.

The extraordinary censorship on this issue is an old story. Dan Schulman of the Columbia Journalism Review published a bewildered expose of this media scandal in 2005.

“Journalists agree that the thimerosal story is one of the most explosive they’ve ever encountered. . . . Some reporters who have portrayed this as an ongoing scientific controversy have been discouraged by colleagues and their superiors from pursuing the story. A reporter for a major media outlet, who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, told me that covering the thimerosal controversy had been nearly ’career-ending‘ …. The reporter has decided against pursuing stories on thimerosal, at least for the time being. “For some reason giving any sort of credence to the side that says there’s a legitimate question here—I don’t know how it becomes this untouchable story, I mean that’s what we do, so I don’t understand why this story is more touchy than any story I’ve ever done.”

On June 28, 2005, a group of world renowned scientists lead by Dr. Ezra Susser, Chair of the epidemiology department at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and other department members including Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a highly regarded neurologist, Mady Hornig, along with the epidemiologist Michaeline Bresnahan sent a letter to the New York Times chiding the paper for its practice of marginalizing scientists and others who explored the connection between thimerosal and brain injury.

“Whether mercury in any form (or any of several factors recently introduced to our environment) has anything to do with autism can and should be resolved with rigorous studies and respectful discourse, not moral indictments and denunciations.”

The New York Times refused to print the letter.

I have my own extensive experience with press censorship.
To take just a few of the many examples; in the weeks prior to the August 2014 publication of my book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, many respected science writers – Phil Plait of Slate, along with Laura Helmut, who is director of Science Writers Guild, Steven Salzberg at Forbes, and Jeffrey Kluger at Time –all published scathing reviews. The weird thing was that none of these writers ever read my book or talked to any of its authors. At the time, we had no copies to send to reviewers. Unwilling to wait to publish their critiques ,and not being conversant with the science ,these writers resorted to straight vilification. They called me a “conspiracy theorist,” a “crackpot,” “anti-science,” “anti-vaccine,” and so on. Since then, I’ve been attacked as a “villain” by the New York Post and have been referred to as a “notorious anti-vaxx celebrity crank.” Other papers published highly personal attacks on me by vaccine industry insiders like Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. William Schaffner, posing as independent health experts. Schaffer diagnosed me as a psychologically troubled “true believer”. As usual, neither writer identified his financial entanglements with the vaccine industry. Keith Kloor of the Washington Post said I’d “done as much as anyone to spread unwarranted fear and crazy conspiracy theories about vaccines.” Time called me “anti-science” and “disreputable”.

The highly personal and vitriolic nature of these attacks is a symptom of the unwillingness of journalists to read the science. Like Kristen Bell they simply parrot CDCs assurance that Thimeresol is safe.Unfamiliar as they are with the studies and unable to carry on a debate on the merits,acrimony, and name-calling become their substitute for argument.

Oddly, I’ve published editorials in almost all of those forums over the years, but none of them will allow me to publish anything if it involves the T-word.

T.V. is even worse.CBS news caster,Sharyl Atkinson calls “frightening”the kneejerk censorship by the TV networks “As an investigative journalist and parent of a fully vaccinated, healthy child, I had no interest in the vaccine-autism story. But when I was assigned to investigate a vaccine injury story for CBS News, I simply followed the facts (as my profession dictates) and was stunned by what I learned over the course of the first year from scientific studies, researchers and—most importantly—government insiders too afraid to speak publicly. When I simply did my job, I and my producer ultimately met with a resistance more formidable than any we had faced to date. Other journalists covering the story in the early 2000’s spoke of similar resistance and were ultimately stopped.

The vaccine-autism controversy is actually a sadly typical story with pangs of familiarity: government conflicts of interest, inappropriate corporate influence, propaganda and media malfeasance. But because of the grip powerful interests have on the medical community, government, media and public information, the story is not treated the way the facts dictate. It is, as I was told by a respected government scientist, the “third rail” that nobody dare touch.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the vaccine-autism issue is the most censored and misreported news story of significance in the past 15 years. The “tell” comes when one considers the daunting combination of factors: the propaganda campaign designed to marginalize and discredit an entire body of peer-reviewed, published science linking thimeresol to a wide variety of neurodisorders, including autism (and the researchers who publish it); the bullying tactics employed against parents whose children have suffered injuries as well as the journalists who dare to report on it factually; the news media’s repeated, false insistence that science has disproven a link; the government’s complicity in the disinformation campaign; and the pharmaceutical-vaccine lobby’s big money advertising influence with the news media and politicians.

The story of vaccines and autism is one of Congressional hearings scheduled, then quietly cancelled behind closed doors by the vaccine lobby; secret meetings by vaccine company lawyers and vaccine industry PR officials with news network executives and managers; government officials lobbying the news media behind the scenes to shape—or better yet stop—news reporting and much more.

History will look back at the news media’s complacency and complicity on this critical issue and will judge us harshly. As well it should”
That’s why we had to pay to publish the USA Today ad. If you take the time to read it, you will be reading information that every newspaper and every television news department in America doesn’t want you to know.

America’s anti-torture tradition

December 17, 2005

Los Angeles Times

By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. is an environmental lawyer and a professor at Pace University Law School.

IT IS NICE THAT the Bush administration has finally been pressured into backing a ban on cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. But what remains shocking about this embarrassing and distasteful national debate is that we had to have it at all. This administration’s newfound enthusiasm for torture has not only damaged our international reputation, it has shattered one of our proudest American traditions.

Every schoolchild knows that Gen. George Washington made extraordinary efforts to protect America’s civilian population from the ravages of war. Fewer Americans know that Revolutionary War leaders, including Washington and the Continental Congress, considered the decent treatment of enemy combatants to be one of the principal strategic preoccupations of the American Revolution.

“In 1776,” wrote historian David Hackett Fischer in “Washington’s Crossing,” “American leaders believed it was not enough to win the war. They also had to win in a way that was consistent with the values of their society and the principles of their cause. One of their greatest achievements … was to manage the war in a manner that was true to the expanding humanitarian ideals of the American Revolution.”

The fact that the patriots refused to abandon these principles, even in the dark times when the war seemed lost, when the enemy controlled our cities and our ragged army was barefoot and starving, credits the character of Washington and the founding fathers and puts to shame the conduct of America’s present leadership.

Fischer writes that leaders in both the Continental Congress and the Continental Army resolved that the War of Independence would be conducted with a respect for human rights. This was all the more extraordinary because these courtesies were not reciprocated by King George’s armies. Indeed, the British conducted a deliberate campaign of atrocities against American soldiers and civilians. While Americans extended quarter to combatants as a matter of right and treated their prisoners with humanity, British regulars and German mercenaries were threatened by their own officers with severe punishment if they showed mercy to a surrendering American soldier. Captured Americans were tortured, starved and cruelly maltreated aboard prison ships.

Washington decided to behave differently. After capturing 1,000 Hessians in the Battle of Trenton, he ordered that enemy prisoners be treated with the same rights for which our young nation was fighting. In an order covering prisoners taken in the Battle of Princeton, Washington wrote: “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren…. Provide everything necessary for them on the road.”

John Adams argued that humane treatment of prisoners and deep concern for civilian populations not only reflected the American Revolution’s highest ideals, they were a moral and strategic requirement. His thoughts on the subject, expressed in a 1777 letter to his wife, might make a profitable read for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld as we endeavor to win hearts and minds in Iraq. Adams wrote: “I know of no policy, God is my witness, but this — Piety, Humanity and Honesty are the best Policy. Blasphemy, Cruelty and Villainy have prevailed and may again. But they won’t prevail against America, in this Contest, because I find the more of them are employed, the less they succeed.”

Even British military leaders involved in the atrocities recognized their negative effects on the overall war effort. In 1778, Col. Charles Stuart wrote to his father, the Earl of Bute: “Wherever our armies have marched, wherever they have encamped, every species of barbarity has been executed. We planted an irrevocable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measure will be able to eradicate.”

In the end, our founding fathers not only protected our national values, they defeated a militarily superior enemy. Indeed, it was their disciplined adherence to those values that helped them win a hopeless struggle against the best soldiers in Europe.

In accordance with this proud American tradition, President Lincoln instituted the first formal code of conduct for the humane treatment of prisoners of war in 1863. Lincoln’s order forbade any form of torture or cruelty, and it became the model for the 1929 Geneva Convention. Dwight Eisenhower made a point to guarantee exemplary treatment to German POWs in World War II, and Gen. Douglas McArthur ordered application of the Geneva Convention during the Korean War, even though the U.S. was not yet a signatory. In the Vietnam War, the United States extended the convention’s protection to Viet Cong prisoners even though the law did not technically require it.

Today, our president is again challenged to align the conduct of a war with the values of our nation. America’s treatment of its prisoners is a test of our faith in our country and the character of our leaders.

An Ill Wind Off Cape Cod

December 16, 2005

The New York Times


As an environmentalist, I support wind power, including wind power on the high seas. I am also involved in siting wind farms in appropriate landscapes, of which there are many. But I do believe that some places should be off limits to any sort of industrial development. I wouldn’t build a wind farm in Yosemite National Park. Nor would I build one on Nantucket Sound, which is exactly what the company Energy Management is trying to do with its Cape Wind project.

Environmental groups have been enticed by Cape Wind, but they should be wary of lending support to energy companies that are trying to privatize the commons – in this case 24 square miles of a heavily used waterway. And because offshore wind costs twice as much as gas-fired electricity and significantly more than onshore wind, the project is financially feasible only because the federal and state governments have promised $241 million in subsidies.

Cape Wind’s proposal involves construction of 130 giant turbines whose windmill arms will reach 417 feet above the water and be visible for up to 26 miles. These turbines are less than six miles from shore and would be seen from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines will steal the stars and nighttime views. The noise of the turbines will be audible onshore. A transformer substation rising 100 feet above the sound would house giant helicopter pads and 40,000 gallons of potentially hazardous oil.

According to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the project will damage the views from 16 historic sites and lighthouses on the cape and nearby islands. The Humane Society estimates the whirling turbines could every year kill thousands of migrating songbirds and sea ducks.

Nantucket Sound is among the most densely traveled boating corridors in the Atlantic. The turbines will be perilously close to the main navigation channels for cargo ships, ferries and fishing boats. The risk of collisions with the towers would increase during the fogs and storms for which the area is famous. That is why the Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises, which transport millions of passengers to and from the cape and islands every year, oppose the project. Thousands of small businesses, including marina owners, hotels, motels, whale watching tours and charter fishing operations will also be hurt. The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston estimates a loss of up to 2,533 jobs because of the loss of tourism – and over a billion dollars to the local economy.

Nantucket Sound is a critical fishing ground for the commercial fishing families of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. Hundreds of fishermen work Horseshoe Shoal, where the Cape Wind project would be built, and make half their annual income from the catch. The risks that their gear will become fouled in the spider web of cables between the 130 towers will largely preclude fishing in the area, destroying family-owned businesses that enrich the palate, economy and culture of Cape Cod.

Many environmental groups support the Cape Wind project, and that’s unfortunate because making enemies of fishermen and marina owners is bad environmental strategy in the long run. Cape Cod’s traditional-gear commercial fishing families and its recreational anglers and marina owners have all been important allies for environmentalists in our battles for clean water.

There are those who argue that unlike our great Western national parks, Cape Cod is far from pristine, and that Cape Wind’s turbines won’t be a significant blot. I invite these critics to see the pods of humpback, minke, pilot, finback and right whales off Nantucket, to marvel at the thousands of harbor and gray seals lolling on the bars off Monomoy and Horseshoe Shoal, to chase the dark clouds of terns and shorebirds descending over the thick menhaden schools exploding over acre-sized feeding frenzies of striped bass, bluefish and bonita.

I urge them to come diving on some of the hundreds of historic wrecks in this “graveyard of the Atlantic,” and to visit the endless dune-covered beaches of Cape Cod, our fishing villages immersed in history and beauty, or to spend an afternoon netting blue crabs or mucking clams, quahogs and scallops by the bushel on tidal mud flats – some of the reasons my uncle, John F. Kennedy, authorized the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961, and why Nantucket Sound is under consideration as a national marine sanctuary, a designation that would prohibit commercial electrical generation.

All of us need periodically to experience wilderness to renew our spirits and reconnect ourselves to the common history of our nation, humanity and to God. The worst trap that environmentalists can fall into is the conviction that the only wilderness worth preserving is in the Rocky Mountains or Alaska. To the contrary, our most important wildernesses are those that are closest to our densest population centers, like Nantucket Sound.

There are many alternatives that would achieve the same benefits as Cape Wind without destroying this national treasure. Deep water technology is rapidly evolving, promising huge bounties of wind energy with fewer environmental and economic consequences. Scotland is preparing to build wind turbines in the Moray Firth more than 12 miles offshore. Germany is considering placing turbines as far as 27 miles off its northern shores.

If Cape Wind were to place its project further offshore, it could build not just 130, but thousands of windmills – where they can make a real difference in the battle against global warming without endangering the birds or impoverishing the experience of millions of tourists and residents and fishing families who rely on the sound’s unspoiled bounties.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental lawyer and professor at Pace University Law School.

Heated battle

September 24, 2005

Global warming creates huge hurricanes: RFK Jr.

New York Daily News


Global warming has made hurricanes worse. Virtually all accepted climate models say warming ocean-surface temperatures amplify the intensity (though not necessarily the frequency) of hurricanes and other storms. Hurricanes are giant engines fueled by heat, and warm water is steroids for storms. Records indicate that this summer may have been the hottest on record, and both Katrina and Rita have behaved as the models predict: forming in the Atlantic, moving over Florida as Category 1 storms and morphing into Category 5 upon hitting the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The jury on global warming has come in. In 2001, more than 2,000 climate scientists from 100 nations announced a worldwide scientific consensus that global warming is upon us, that it’s caused primarily by industrial emissions and that its impact will be catastrophic. The only remaining global warming skeptics within the scientific community are a tiny group of industry financed scientists popularly known as “biostitutes.” But you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the mercury is headed. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1995, with Northern Hemisphere temperatures this decade the highest in 2,000 years. The polar ice caps, permafrost and glaciers are disappearing on every continent. Fresh water supplies are dwindling, and deserts are growing. Oceans are rising. Heat waves, fires and droughts are decimating agricultural and timber lands. Recent reports have underscored the connection between global warming and hurricanes. A study from MIT in the journal Nature found that over the past 50 years hurricane wind speeds have increased by 50% and their duration by 60% – in lock-step with rising global temperatures. That study found that storm destructiveness has doubled in the past 30 years with the fastest increase in the last decade as global warming accelerated. A September 2004 study in the Journal of Climate also predicted that Gulf Coast storms will grow more ferocious as global temperatures rise. Thanks to global warming, Katrina and Rita are harbingers of much worse to come. Kennedy teaches law at Pace University and is counsel to the environmental group Riverkeeper.

Agencies Lack Credibility

July 5, 2005

USA Today

By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The success of our vaccine program rests firmly on the credibility of public health agencies. But the once sterling reputations of agencies such as the CDCP, FDA and the IOM have been badly damaged by the release of transcripts of secret meetings that show government officials conspiring with the pharmaceutical industry to hide the damning results of data showing dramatic increases in neurological disorders among children exposed to thimerosal.

The CDCP’s efforts to repair the damage have been hampered by its claim to have lost the original data, and its defiance of federal laws and congressional requests requiring it to allow independent scientists or the public to review federal vaccine safety data.

Meanwhile, several principal authors of the four European studies the CDCP primarily relies on to defend thimerosal have close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Those connections weren’t disclosed, in violation of peer-review ethics. The CDCP was aware of those facts, encouraged the studies and lobbied to get them published.

Those studies are all catastrophically flawed. Most glaringly, before banning thimerosal, Denmark registered only autistics who were hospitalized — one fifth of the afflicted populations. After the withdrawal of thimerosal, Denmark began counting out-patient autistics in its registries. The resulting spike in raw numbers therefore made it appear that autism rates actually increased after the withdrawal of thimerosal.

Clever use of this deceptive data by the study authors allowed the CDCP to make the case that thimerosal was not linked to autism. Furthermore, the European studies involved children exposed to a fraction of the thimerosal concentrations used in America.

The CDCP has selectively ignored hundreds of biological, toxicological and epidemiological studies linking thimerosal to a wide range of neurological disorders, relying instead on its reputation and its faith that journalists are too busy to read the science.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is president of Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental group, and the author of Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country.

Studies on Autism

July 2, 2005

New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “On Autism’s Cause, It’s Parents vs. Research” (front page, June 25):

The thimerosal debate does not pit parents against science but against public health authorities who rely not on science but on the reputations of their agencies to exonerate thimerosal — a mercury-containing preservative once used routinely in vaccines — despite scientific proof that it causes brain disorders.

The four European studies that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine principally rely upon (cited in your accompanying graphic) to defend thimerosal were written principally by vaccine industry consultants and employees without revealing the bias of their authors. They are all flawed.

Most glaringly, before banning thimerosal, Denmark registered only autistics who were hospitalized, one-fifth of the afflicted.

After the withdrawal of thimerosal, the Danish government began counting outpatient autistics. The spike in raw numbers made it appear that autism rates increased after the withdrawal of thimerosal.

Clever use of this deceptive data by the study authors allowed the Institute of Medicine to make the case that thimerosal was not linked to autism.

Furthermore, the European studies involved children exposed to a fraction of the thimerosal concentrations used in America.

The institute selectively ignored the hundreds of biological, toxicological and epidemiological studies linking thimerosal to the wide range of neurological disorders, including autism.

This flawed science is the slender reed upon which the entire defense of thimerosal rests.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. White Plains, June 27, 2005

Robert F. Kennedy Jr