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I wish someone would make a calm, reasonable, and rational case that using less energy is a good idea. Radical environmentalists don’t want to make that case, screaming at the top of their lungs about how anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a “climate denier” whose every move is completely controlled by the oil companies, who rejoice in the ravaging of the earth. Then when nothing happens they scream even more loudly about how no one is listening, because, for radicals, every day is a day of rage.

For them, Jay Faison is someone who shouldn’t exist. He comes from a prominent North Carolina family, but made his own fortune creating SnapAV, a wholesale supplier of home electronics equipment. Like Bill Gates and Donald J. Trump, he used his father’s small fortune as the basis for building a large one.

Faison sold SnapAV for $175 million and used the money to endow the ClearPath Foundation, whose goal is to persuade conservatives about the need to do something about climate change. Steven F. Hayward discusses his ideas in a very interesting Weekly Standard article.

Hayward, a professor of government at the University of California (Berkeley)[1] explains that Faison, like most environmentalists, believes that climate change is happening and that something should be done about it. But unlike nearly all environmentalists, the ClearPath Foundation’s goal is to persuade Republicans.

Their first effort was to persuade Republicans that climate change is a problem through social media. The result bombed.

“The worst possible thing you can do in business is go against the market,” Faison says. “Environmentalists preach to Republicans. No one likes to be preached at. It doesn’t work in business, and it doesn’t work in politics. Climate change has become very tribal, but it’s a long-term issue. The problem with environmentalists is they think people will support pain now for benefits later.”

So ClearPath underwent an evolution. Although it calls itself a foundation, it’s actually a public charity that spends its money on its programs. Like most public charities, the ClearPath Foundation doesn’t have to disclose how much money it is spending on its programs. Moreover, there aren’t any financials (including an annual report) on their website. We should think of it as a self-funding think tank, but ClearPath should at least disclose as much information as other think tanks do—including its annual budget.

ClearPath does two things. It commissions polls, by Republican pollsters Whit Ayres and Kristen Soltis Anderson, and integrates the results with other polls about energy commissioned by the Pew Research Center, the University of Texas, and other respected organizations. They have an interesting feature on their website where you can search by state and some (but not all) congressional districts about voters’ opinions about energy. My state, Maryland, is the only one I know of where fracking has been banned by a Republican governor. According to ClearPath, 49 percent of Maryland residents favor nuclear power and 75 percent say they’d vote for a candidate who supports carbon restrictions.

Faison argues that any reasonable energy plan has to include coal and nuclear power. He says that coal companies are among his closest allies, as there will be a lot of coal plants being constructed in Asia, a region where Faison says, “80 percent of new energy assets are going to be built over the next generation,” and having these plants capture more carbon would be a good idea. Nuclear power, in his view, is tied down with antiquated rules that should be updated to reflect today’s realities. He notes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, unlike most Washington agencies, rarely approves anything. In this post from last year, he discusses entrepreneur Jack Devanney, who decided to build nuclear power plants in Asia because of the enormous amount of red tape in American bureaucracy which takes ten years and $100 million in fees to approve a reactor that, in Asia, would take four years to approve and build.

Faison also supports increased use of hydroelectric power. He notes in this New York Times op-ed from last year, co-written with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R—Alaska), that only three percent of the 80,000 dams in the U.S. currently generate power and that if 100 dams constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers on the Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas Rivers “would generate enough electricity for nearly three million more homes.”

Finally, it should be noted that the left is very suspicious of Faison. Writing in the environmental website Grist last year, Ben Adler declared that Faison’s ideas are “shtick the media loves” and that “Faison’s real goal isn’t fighting climate change. It’s supporting Republicans.”

Here’s a question environmentalists would prefer to answer: what matters to you more –actually trying to persuade Republicans or just screaming at them because you need someone to hate?

It’s too early to tell whether ClearPath’s way is the right one. But Hayward is persuaded that “Faison’s approach—encouraging innovation around current energy sources like nuclear, coal, and hydropower while seeking new energy technologies—may well turn out to be the most foresighted if serious climate disruption comes to pass.”  

[1] Steve Hayward, when he was working at the Pacific Research Institute, bought my first book, Angry Classrooms, Vacant Minds.

Photo credit: Third Way via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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