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Grenfell Tower Tragedy lesson: regulations save lives (the lesson Koch operatives don’t want US to learn)

June 20th, 2017 · 3 Comments

Climate Denier RoundUp guest post.

The Grenfell Tower fire is a tragedy that should not be something we have to address. It is not something Carbon Brief should have to fact check. But here we are.

As Carbon Brief explains, The Daily Mail and other conservative outlets have pushed a theory that the fire was due to insulation installed primarily to meet green goals for reducing energy use.

This is false. Per Carbon Brief, savings on utility bills was the primary reason for the insulation upgrades, not pro-environment regulations.

But even the dozens of lives lost aren’t enough to stop some using tragedy to advance the Koch’s anti-regulatory agenda.

Enter Megan McArdle, a Bloomberg View columnist who thought it’d be a good idea to “‘well yeah but” a literal towering inferno.” McArdle’s subhead reveals why people are aghast at the heartlessness of her piece: “Perhaps safety rules could have saved some residents. But at what cost to others’ lives? There’s always a trade-off.”

Don’t bother reading the rest–it’s not worth the time or headache. But do remember this callous indifference to human life next time she writes a defense of Exxon or condemnation of climate “alarmists.”

Also remember that McArdle’s views are probably never going to differ from those of the Koch brothers, for a number of reasons. While she’’s been a columnist for a while at respectable outlets like Bloomberg and even the left-leaning Atlantic, her Koch-nections run deep.

For one, she’s married to Peter Suderman, who, before becoming features editor at Koch-funded Reason Magazine, worked for the Koch’s Freedomworks and CEI. We’ll give McArdle the benefit of the doubt that her husband’s paycheck has nothing to do with her opinions and is only an unusual coincidence.

However, a look at McArdle’s professional history shows significant Koch influence. A media transparency outfit called the SHAME Project took some time to track McArdle’s connections to the Kochs over the course of her career. The outfit itself appears (admittedly) somewhat sketchy and out-of-date, but they’ve collected an impressively in-depth list of McArdle’s conflicts of interest with plenty of legitimate-looking citations, beginning with her training at the Koch’s Institute for Humane Studies journalism program, to which she returned in 2011 as a guest lecturer and instructor. The SHAME page points out that McArdle is also a frequent attendee and moderator of Koch-network events, including her duties MCing the 50th anniversary of the Institute for Humane Studies, and was praised by them for her work “re-branding the Republican party.”

To get back on topic, one need not look far for a refutation of this particular example of anti-regulatory ideology. In fact, you can stay within the Koch operative world to find it! Michael Bastasch, just 48 hours after writing a post about how the fires were fueled by green energy rules, wrote that the US is unlikely to see a fire like this.

The reason? Bastasch doesn’t say it outright, but he does paraphrase a fire expert who said that the “U.S. localities have developed strict fire safety testing programs and building codes to mitigate fire risks.”

In other words: regulations.


Update: Related, The Grenfell Tower disaster gives Britain’s ‘bonfire of regulations’ a whole new meaning.

Although it’s still too early for final conclusions, all of the preliminary evidence shows that the fire began in one apartment and then spread with unprecedented speed thanks to the cladding, a form of insulation recently added to theoutside of the building.  This particular type of cladding was flammable, and in other countries, including the United States and Germany, there are clear regulations forbidding its use on high-rise buildings. The company that worked on Grenfell Tower nevertheless put it on the building’s exterior, either because (and this is still a point of debate) there weren’t such regulations in Britain, or because they were easily violated.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Egan // Jun 21, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    What kind of power plants have been revved up to meet the massive power demands of the current heatwave in the Southwest?

    Clue – – 4-letter word starting with “C”.

    That this polluting energy source, which you are so enamored with, is today’s reserve doesn’t mean that it can/should be tomorrow’s … And, well, with pretty low capacity figures, there is coal available to ramp up — high cost, high polluting, but available.

    PS – High temperatures decrease a photovoltaic solar cell’s output by between 10 and 25 percent, Stuart Fox, a vice president at the green energy company CivicSolar, told The San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday.

    Yup … while the specifics of 10-25% are open to lots of variation (brand, technology, temperature), yes, heat reduces PV productivity … example of why system-of-systems, rather than single-point, energy system/solution is required.


  • 2 John Egan // Jun 22, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    “That this polluting energy source, which you are so enamored with, is today’s reserve doesn’t mean that it can/should be tomorrow’s … And, well, with pretty low capacity figures, there is coal available to ramp up — high cost, high polluting, but available.”

    You really don’t get it – do you?

    I am not “enamored” with coal, I just believe that the transition is not as simplistic or as moralistic as you believe. Climate activists have pushed the Democratic Party so far out of the mainstream, that Dems lose to some pretty sorry-ass Goppers – at the state and federal levels.

    You give Climate activists far, far more credit than they, themselves, see as viable — with very few D candidates engaging on climate issues. Just how aggressive was “climate’ in the 2016 Presidential race. Lots of Clinton engagement, no … (right, No). And, look at the public polling — much more favorable to climate science & D position that Trump/GOP denial. Actually, I would suggest that (far) more serious climate action/discussion would have garnered votes. Look at the pupularity AND job creation that comes from wind/solar/energy efficiency, for example …

    Coal is only one example – – KXL another – – which may have lost the Senate and puts the Senate Dems in a serious bind come 2018. How much progressive energy legislation do you expect to come out of the current Senate, eh?

    The Midwest – possibly including Minnesota, too – may be increasingly lost to Democrats at both state and federal levels. It certainly look bleak if you look at governors, state legislatures, and state congressional delegations. Although some union leadership remains supportive of the Dems, rank & file are overwhelmingly hostile.

    Are the Republicans going to help? Of course not, but they certainly don’t go around telling railroad and power plant workers that they are like Nazi murderers. Yeah, the Hansen comment was over the top,

    Here is what Hansen said — amid 59 pages of comments:

    If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains — no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species.

    That is not how you represent it above. And, the comment is worth more serious consideration — whether you agree with crematoria analogy or not — than misrepresenting it provides. See this:

    By pushing a distortion of that comment, you contribute to the distortion of the debate.

    but the tone of Dem discourse is pretty clear – at least to working people.

    You advocate putting the cart before the horse over and over again.

    Lots of my written work demonstrates the falsehood of this as yet again you attack me …

    People who drive twice as far to make half as much are not going to take kindly to activists arguing that gas prices should double. If people are making 50% more in real terms, then they will gladly pay more for new energy structures, but to pretend that renewables will be a silver bullet and then people get much higher bill is the kiss of death. (See Europe)

    1. You blaming renewables for pricing when the analysis of the actual market dynamics (including taxes, etc …) does not make such a clear picture.
    2. That pricing argument doesn’t
    3. Once again, you are putting the blame for all the world’s woes on those who are fighting to set the path to avoid catastrophe.
    4. And, the personal blaming of me is pretty disgusting.

    And when moral finger-pointing is included, they will response with their own finger pointing. Just sayin’ – ya know?

  • 3 John Egan // Jun 23, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Adam, Adam –

    May I borrow one of your “Sighs”?


    I’ll tell you what is disgusting – a supposed progressive person defending a leading climate activist


    who used obvious Holocaust comparisons

    1. There is no question that there is a direct comparison to Holocaust.
    2. “Comparisons” — what multiple examples?

    aimed at persons in the mining, transportation, and energy industries.

    At ‘persons’ — who did he name?
    You are aiding in the taking this to extremism …

    Beyond odious. And Hansen’s non-apology referencing his “death trains” statement?

    “There is nothing scientifically invalid about the above paragraph. If this paragraph makes you uncomfortable, well, perhaps it should.”

    Which was actually a doubling-down.

    But if you think I am the one with the problem of misrepresentation, then you are really drinking the Kool-Aid. Misrepresentation> Where do you get off the bus? It is, yet again, an example of people on the left screaming about someone using “Obamabot!” while lather their speech with “Fascist!”, “Racist!”, or in the case of climate issues, “Denier!” Sorry, but people in mining, transportation, and energy knew EXACTLY who Hansen was targeting with his comment.

    And let’s not forget that Hansen’s analogy is hardly the first attempt to draw parallels with the Holocaust – since that was the purpose from the outset with the coining of “denier”.

    1. Assertion of ‘purpose’ seems remote …
    2. “Denial” has a pretty clear definition — and there is basic denial of science, the scientific method, etc …

    Are climate issues the only thing that is screwing the Democratic Party – handing over political power in 2/3s of the states and all branches of the federal government to a bunch of GOP loonies? Nope. But the modus operandi of climate activists is replicated by other Dem core groups. The pattern is one of moral superiority, finger-wagging or worse at all those who do not understand the intellectual and ethical superiority of such-and-such a position.

    How much effort is expended — across the ‘climate activist’ world — of seeking paths to communicate.

    You lay blame, 100%, on ‘climate activists’ without discussing the reality of the $Billions spent by fossil fuel industry to distort debate. Right, it is the ‘climate activists’ who are at fautl.

    It reminds me of nothing more than the WCTU and Prohibition. And you know how successful that was. Gore lost precisely because of this. People run for the exits if they are in earshot or otherwise just yawn and flip the channel.

    It is too early to tell, but it appears unlikely that the Dems will retake the House in 2018. And the Senate landscape looks bleak. A half dozen Dem senators might get a pink slip – many from state with high fossil-fuel production or usage – WV, ND, MT, OH, IN, MO. Obviously, climate will not be the only or the most important issue. Bu it will play a role in further alienating the broader electorate.

    Again, zero energy spent to discuss how the polluting industries are spending fortunes in deception and manipulation to protect their profits?

    And, again, zero laying out what would make sense in terms of climate policy propositions that could help address climate change while attracting those voters — which, by the way, does represent a huge amount of my material: as you well know but have never engaged with in a substantive way.

    We can collect our wagers then.

    WTF is the ‘wager’ here? That the political map, in the Senate, is against the Democratic candidates, that voter suppression makes the D position that much worse, that Koch/Putin/etc will spend $Bs to help get GOP kakistocrats elected, …?

    PS –
    Let’s see – you stated years back that my ideas were Neanderthal and I say that you put the cart before the horse. (Which could be rural American up until about 1950) And I am supposedly the person who has attacked the other? Get real.

    You are pissing in my house and whining that I am the one attacking you?