Business booster Bray Cary takes a step foward on global warming, but a step back on solutions

November 1, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

If it was surprising to see the ultra pro-business State Journal newspaper editorialize that West Virginia needs to look “beyond coal,” it was even more shocking to read the promo for this past weekend’s edition of Decision Makers, Bray Cary’s television talk show:

I would implore you to watch this weekend’s Decision Makers.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this may be our most important show ever.

We’ll learn the dire truth about global warming and that a planet in peril demands action.

This is an issue that transcends political rhetoric and media talking points. Quite simply, we must act now to address climate change.

Wow. Check that out again — “our most important show ever” and “a planet in peril demands action.”

That was certainly enough for me to check out the show — though I admit I watched it online:
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And indeed, there was some terribly important stuff in this show, which featured a lengthy interview by Bray Cary of Charles Bayless, a West Virginia native and former energy executive who has been giving talks about global warming.

Now, for Coal Tattoo readers from out of state, know that Bray Cary’s media empire, known as West Virginia Media, is pretty pro-business editorially, and often so in its news coverage as well.  They’ve been all over the “War on Coal,” with Bray himself comparing EPA’s veto of the Spruce Mine to something that might happen in Iran and Venezuela. The State Journal at one point employed one of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s political operatives as an energy columnist, without making clear what was an obvious conflict of interest. On the other hand, the State Journal continues to publish the remarkable work of reporter Pam Kasey, who consistently does some of the best energy journalism in West Virginia. It’s also worth noting that one of the most powerful moments in the recent campaign by local activists here in the Kanawha Valley to get rid of the  methyl isocyanate stockpile at the Bayer chemical plant was when the State Journal editorialized against the company’s actions.

So it’s an important development — a remarkable one, really —  for Bray Cary to devote an entire show to Bayless, an electrical engineer, MBA and law school graduate, explaining the scientific consensus that the world is getting warming, that human activities are to blame, and that the results of those climate changes are going to be big problems for the human race. Cary himself said of the show:

Global warming — there’s no more important topic to the world, and especially to West Virginia. It’s just so important that we have that conversation.

And Bray Cary himself declared:

Is there really global warming and what causes it? There’s a lot of debate about whether global warming is occurring or not, but unfortunately for the deniers, none of that debate is in the scientific community.

And Bayless warned that there’s little time left to act:

We’ve got to do something. I’m very pessimistic about our ability to do anything … It may be too late already.

When Bayless talked about the potential release of tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases from the permafrost in the Arctic, Cary responded:

If that’s in fact true, I mean, we’re sort of doomed as a society.

Then they got into what should be done about this … Bayless started off talking about conservation, something none of us like to hear, but that is clearly an important part of the picture. But then Bayless and Bray Cary went into kind of a “defend coal” mode, 

Bayless made this perfectly understandable point:

There’s a lot of psychological stuff behind [our inaction], but it’s hard for governments to take action when the costs are here and now in West Virginia, and the benefits are 50 years out on an island 4,000 miles away. But yet what duty do we owe all of humanity?

On coal, maybe not a lot … Bayless sticks to the notion that coal is a necessity, that we can’t do much right now — and that carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is the answer. Perhaps that’s true … but if so, the prescription offered ignores the fact that there are many questions about CCS that haven’t been answered. It ignores the fact that even the world’s top experts don’t think CCS is going to come online anytime soon, certainly not soon enough to made a big dent in the near future of carbon emissions. And, of course, it ignores the fact that coal industry supporters are doing everything they can to stop passage of national limits on greenhouse emissions — a necessary thing to make industry move ahead with the technology. (See here for my recent summary of CCS issues).

And not for nothing, but the discussion on Decision Makers, billed as one about science, didn’t mention some of the more interesting papers coming out in recent years suggesting that all of our energy needs could be met without coal and other fossil fuels in the not-so-distant future (see here and here).

I almost hate to bring all of this up, because for Bray Cary to turn an entire  show over to discussing the science of global warming is such a huge step forward for the debate here in coal country, especially given the state of  local media coverage and political discourse of such issues. Let’s face it, it is a lot easier for the coal industry and its friends in the business community to try to ignore this stuff when it’s just the Gazette writing about it. When their buddy Bray Cary jumps in, it’s tough for them to dismiss.

In the end, though, I was left baffled by Bray Cary’s repeated efforts to suggest that somehow all of this troubling and frightening information about global warming was being hidden from us by our government.  At one point, Cary asked:

Are our governments not being honest with use because they don’t know what to do about it?

But Cary probably really answered his own question, when he lamented that some viewers — perhaps his friends in the coal industry or the business community in general — wouldn’t be happy with this show:

We are going to get killed with emails — ‘how can you let some communist guy on there … ‘

Remember what happened when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama dared to discuss how a cap-and-trade program would force utilities to avoid building new coal plants without greenhouse gas controls?  Recall how then-Gov. Joe Manchin got elected to the U.S. Senate using a television ad where he literally shot a poor defenseless piece of climate change legislation? Is it any wonder that the media and most political leaders pretend there’s no such thing as global warming?

Maybe Bray Cary has also opened the door, even if just a little bit, toward a more rational discussion of global warming and coal’s future.

4 Responses to “Business booster Bray Cary takes a step foward on global warming, but a step back on solutions”

  1. Forrest Roles says:

    Ken,
    For reasons expressed in response to your post on CCS referenced above, scientific consensus that the earth is warming and CO2 emissions are a significant cause of that change does not, should not, and will not cause government action to reduce coal production in Appalachia. Any “duty owed humanity” is not furthered by unilateral sacrifice of our economy. Mr. Carey should know that.
    Forrest
    P.S. The suggestion that we may be entering a cooling period is as well based on scientific study and research as much of the speculation about the effect of warming.

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Forrest,

    You wrote:

    “The suggestion that we may be entering a cooling period is as well based on scientific study and research as much of the speculation about the effect of warming.”

    I would ask that you provide some references to scientific literature supporting this statement.

    Don’t know if you watched the show with Bray Cary or not, but certainly, he and Mr. Bayless did not argue for U.S.-only action.

    Ken.

  3. Forrest Roles says:

    Ken,
    The article was sited in my earlier post as is found athttp://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/06/14/6857473-solar-forecast-hints-at-a-big-chill.
    Forrest

  4. Charles Bayless says:

    Ken

    A couple of thoughts on my views of CCS. You and I both agree that Climate Change is probably the defining problem that will face the next generation and that cleaning it up now is a lot cheaper, even on a present value basis, than waiting and trying to adapt to the results in the future. But, except for Ontario, no one in North America is making any serious effort to address the problem.

    I believe that with a serious commitment to renewables, storage, conservation, nuclear and natural gas we can address the problem. But some things that sound simple turn out to be complex or impossible. My favorite line on this comes from Douglas Adams in A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where he says, “Flying is easy, just throw yourself at the earth and miss.” My view is that although we can address the problem scientifically we won’t address the problem politically and, CO2 emission will continue to increase. As you pointed out today, emissions were up 6% last year.

    People from political leaders to Joe Six Pack may talk a good game but as the saying goes,” Never confuse efforts with results” and we simply aren’t getting the results .Today coal furnishes close to one-half of our electricity and as an electric utility guy I just don’t see anything that leads me to believe we will be able to stop using coal. Further even if we were able to stop the rest of the world goes on. Every year China installs as many coal plants as England currently has in place.

    With our current lack of will, commitment and more importantly progress I believe that in 10 and 20 years we will still be burning coal and if we are going to burn it we had better get on with CCS for us and the rest of the world. I wish I could report that every jurisdiction is following Ontario’s lead, a conservation budget of 1.8 billion dollars and massive investments in wind, hydro, solar and nuclear but no one is. If that were true I would quickly join the people pointing out the problems with CCS. But until I see political will and results I will continue to push for second best as an alternative.

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