Source: Gordon Tomb

In western Pennsylvania of mid-20th century, large numbers of people earned livings by mining, transporting, and burning coal. Coal was converted to coke to make steel and shoveled into home furnaces for heat.

My father worked at a coal-fired power plant for 42 years, raising four children and buying new Chevies and finally retiring with the money he made. One of my summer jobs in college was hauling coal in a tri-axle dump truck. Eventually, I came to appreciate how coal fueled the Industrial Revolution that gave millions prosperity and long life spans to levels not previously realized in human history.

Over the last decade, I witnessed the development of Pennsylvania’s natural gas deposits reduce electric bills, provide thousands of good-paying jobs, and generate billions of dollars in royalties and tax revenues.

Given this background, is it any wonder that I would have been supportive of President Donald Trump’s energy policies? In my view, Trump sought to restore reason to the regulation of fossil fuels. I suppose I could have focused on the negative effects of coal, oil, and gas. I could have ignored the positive results of their use. However, for me, that would have been irrational and absurd.

Well, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) apparently thinks otherwise. He is calling for an investigation into the “climate corruption” of the Trump administration, according to E&E News. Without a scintilla of evidence, the senator gratuitously raises the specter of bribes for supposedly lax regulation. Outside the world of politics, this would be dismissed as a baseless smear.

Just as troubling for me is his intimating corruption — or at least bad behavior — in disputing progressive claims about global warming when he calls for a presidential commission to explore “climate denial,” according to the article. This suggests wrongdoing in believing that current global temperatures are not novel, that human activity is not leading to climatic disaster and that schemes to manipulate warming and cooling range from silly to economically destructive.

Now, here I am an advisor to the CO2 Coalition, an organization that touts the salutary effects of carbon dioxide and warmth: accelerated plant growth, longer growing seasons, fewer cold-induced deaths, and so on. These are well-established facts, not by any means fringe opinions. Yet, in Sen. Whitehouse’s world the statement of these simple truths could call for punishment for me and others with similar fact-based opinions. Are public shaming, imprisonment, or reeducation camps in our future?

As far as the charge of corruption is concerned, Whitehouse might choose to have an introspective look into the mirror to examine his own ties to radical environmental dark money groups. His recent plea for contributions from Demand Justice and League of Conservation Voters reveal that he and his cronies are willing to accept money in the same manner that he decries from those who oppose his economically crippling climate schemes. Of course, we know he won’t, so let us wonder aloud:

What connection might there be between millions of dollars from green energy groups to the Biden presidential campaign and the president’s cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline? The cancelation kills 11,000 jobs and switches the transportation of oil to rail — a means of shipment that is less safe and would increase the amount of CO2 emissions that they say they are trying to reduce. Who could possibly be pleased by Biden’s action but green extremists hungry for a fossil scalp? What else makes sense?

From a legal point of view, the E&E News story provides some comfort from Jonathan Adler, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, who says that the fact that somebody who used to work for an industry believes that certain types of regulations are too costly to be justified is not corruption.

Of course, a critical difference between Mr. Adler and Sen. Whitehouse is that the former merely teaches law while the senator passes laws. And that could be quite uncomfortable to those whose thoughts are contrary to the senator’s.