Let us take a moment to commiserate with Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Petrobucks), the honorable and self-funded public servant who innocently entered Tuesday’s Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing on the proposed wind moratorium, not realizing that he was about to suffer a case of first-degree hurt fee-fees.
The dastardly perpetrator: Paul Burns, head of VPIRG, testifying against the moratorium. He faced an unfriendly audience; three of the five Senators on the committee are co-sponsors of the moratorium bill. (Way to pack the panel, John Campbell!) Senators confronted him with a comment he’d made earlier, to the effect that supporting a wind moratorium was equivalent to rejecting the reality of climate change. As Peter “Marathan Man” Hirschfeld* of the Vermont Press Bureau reported, “The senators didn’t appreciate his tone.”
*Hirschfeld, now the VPB’s sole reporter, somehow managed to cover the wind hearing, the Democrats’ campaign finance press event, AND the death-with-dignity hearing, all in a single day. Whew!
Galbraith asked Burns if it wasn’t possible to believe in climate change and still oppose ridgeline wind development. Burns’ reply, in Hirschfeld’s words: “It’s difficult to know which is worse – not believing in climate change and opposing wind because you think it’s unnecessary, or believing global warming is real and fighting against wind anyway.”
After another back-and-forth, Galbraith advised Burns to “consider adopting a more civil tone,” and added,
“I guess there are at least three flat-earthers here in this committee, in your view. I wouldn’t characterize your position in an extreme way … And you owe to be respectful to people on the other side and not characterize them in such an extreme way.”
Mmm, yes, “respectful to people on the other side.” Let’s consider that.
Paul Burns and his colleagues in the Vermont environmental movement have been ruthlessly pilloried by the Tinfoil Hat Brigade of the anti-wind crowd. VPIRG, VNRC, the Sierra Club, and the other pro-wind environmental groups — who spend long hours for low pay trying to defend our environment — have been accused of selling out their principles to some sort of vaguely defined Blittersdorf/Iberdrola big wind cartel.
Those accusations extend to, of all people, Bernie Sanders. In a comment thread below the VTDigger article on Bernie’s opposition to the moratorium, he is accused of being “energy-illiterate, on the take from Big Wind, or both” (Mary Barton), “violat[ing] truth and public trust” and “attempts to manipulate through outright misrepresentation of facts” and cronyism (Peggy Sapphire), doing favors for the wind industry and not knowing “how wind energy actually works” (Will Amidon), “a raging hypocrite” (Ellin Anderson) and of selling out for a campaign contribution from David Blittersdorf (our ol’ buddy Patrick Cashman).
“Respectful,” indeed. The vast majority of the vituperation in this debate has come from the anti-wind crowd.
Now, let’s talk about corruption and the appearance thereof, in the person of Peter Galbraith. Here we have a wind-moratorium supporter who made a huge pile of money — as much as $100,000,000 — from oil fields in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Which probably makes him Vermont’s biggest fossil-fuel magnate.
Hmm, and he supports the wind moratorium.
I’m not saying he’s corrupt, but I am saying there’s a hell of a lot more appearance of corruption in his case than in Bernie’s.
There’s also the question of how Galbraith landed this incredibly lucrative deal. The former diplomat was an adviser to Kurdish leaders in Iraq from 2003-2005, a time when he was an influential voice in the American debate over the Iraq War and an advocate of Kurdish separatism. During that three-year period, he also had business dealings with oil companies in Iraqi Kurdistan. The biggest deal was with a Norwegian oil company; it gave him a 5% stake in a very productive Kurdish oil field.
Galbraith told the Boston Globe that there was no conflict of interest because he was working as a private citizen at the time and besides, “The business interest… was consistent with my political views.”
Yeah, it’s nice when you can cash in bigtime on your political views.
In a way that Bernie Sanders has never done. The anti-wind crowd demonizes Bernie, not because they have any evidence, but simply because he disagrees with them. And the anti-wind crowd eagerly accepts the support of Galbraith, in spite of his vast oil wealth.
As for Galbraith, he’s throwing stones and he appears to live in a glass house.