Trump's Top Energy Aid: Former Koch Lobbyist, Peddled Climate Denial for Decades
By Steve Horn
Mike Catanzaro, President Trump's recently minted top energy aide, has officially begun his first week on the job at the White House. He was hired to move policy measures through federal energy and environmental agencies in a synergistic way.
A long-time oil and gas industry lobbyist who has spent his career passing in and out of the government-industry revolving door, Catanzaro actually got his start as a writer. Working for the conservative newspapers Human Events and Evans-Novak Political Report, Catanzaro's views on climate change—and climate denial—were on full display in articles published during his formative years as an up-and-coming conservative star.
DeSmog has reviewed articles found in the Human Events archives, no longer found on the publication's website and they shed new light on Catanzaro and his views as Trump's right-hand man on climate, energy and environmental policy.
Catanzaro's articles, obtained through the University of Wisconsin Libraries System, purport that mainstream U.S. environmental groups are driven by Marxist ideology and that global warming is a "liberal concept" (as opposed to a scientific reality). They also reveal him writing puff pieces on organizations such as the climate change-denying Heartland Institute and individuals such as prominent climate denier Fred Singer.
In March 2001, Catanzaro wrote an article titled Energy Secretary May Be Barrier to Sound Energy Policy about then-President George W. Bush's U.S. Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, which covered O'Neill's views on what he referred to as "global warming" (in scare quotes). Catanzaro found O'Neill's posture on climate problematic, as O'Neill wanted the Bush administration's policy to be "grounded in science."
Citing O'Neill's "alarmism," Catanzaro wrote that there is a "lack of consensus on whether global warming is occurring or what its impact on climate and weather might be." Yet that same year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its more than 1,000 page assessment, assembled and reviewed by hundreds of scientists, cataloging evidence for exactly such a scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate and some of the resulting impacts.
"Natural and human systems are expected to be exposed to climatic variations such as changes in the average, range and variability of temperature and precipitation, as well as the frequency and severity of weather events," wrote the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Systems also would be exposed to indirect effects from climate change such as sea level rise, soil moisture changes, changes in land and water condition, changes in the frequency of fire and pest infestation and changes in the distribution of infectious disease vectors and hosts."
Good Things Usually Happen
In a 1997 profile of the Heartland Institute, one of the pioneering nodes of the climate change denial and anti-environmental machine, Catanzaro described the free-market think tank as a place where "good things usually happen."
"The most important subject the institute is dealing with right now is environmentalism," he wrote. "Of particular interest … is global warming and Heartland has been ahead of the curve in unraveling some of the confusions and obfuscations spewed by left-wing environmentalists on that very issue."
Though funded by wealthy donors and corporations including ExxonMobil, Catanzaro wrote that "Heartland remains a testament to the power and influence of the grassroots."
Catanzaro would, later in his career, become a lobbyist for Koch Industries and other companies such as Noble Energy, Devon Energy, Encana Oil and Gas, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Hess Corporation. The Koch network has led the way in funding climate denial in recent years and has used "astroturf" techniques or seemingly grassroots movements which are in reality fronts for corporate interests.
In January 1998, Catanzaro penned an article about naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions emanating from Yellowstone National Park's geysers. Pointing to a study published in December 1997, his piece was titled, If the World is Warming, Blame Old Faithful.
The study he cited said that Yellowstone's geothermal features emit 4.4 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of about 10 medium-sized coal-fired power plants. Even with coal-fired power plants in decline in the U.S. today, there are still 363 plants open for business and located in the U.S., according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. That would be the greenhouse gas equivalent of 36 Yellowstones, according to the study cited by Catanzaro.