On the January 27th edition of CNN’s “In the Money,” panelists Jennifer Westhoven and Christine Romans were all steamed up about big business’ role in climate change.
“How genuinely environmentally conscious can some of these big oil companies be?” asked CNN’s Jen Rogers, prompting laughter from Westhoven and Romans as she continued: “you see these ads … these beautiful ads … with birds flying around that land on some oil rig … and just makes you think, is this just spin or is this for real?”
Kevin Vranes, principal consultant for Point 380 , quickly joined the one-sided joke: “Yes, it’s hard to be a green oil company, isn’t it?” Vranes pointed the finger at several big companies including Nestle (VTX:NESN ), BP (NYSE:BP ), Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) and Shell (NYSE: RDS-B ) for not doing their part to fight against climate change. “Greenwashers” was the term he used to describe corporations, implying they are out to brainwash the public into believing they are environmentally conscious. The companies weren’t represented during the bashing session, however.
Interestingly, the CNN hosts didn’t explain Vranes’ employer, Point380 . Point380 is a consulting firm working to help companies manage and lower their greenhouse gas emissions. It would be bad for business indeed if it turned out all the hype about global warming was just a bunch of hot air.
He saved his so-called worst offender for last. Vranes claimed that Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM ) was the “poster child” for stalling action on climate change and actively working to confuse the public on the issue. Neither Westhoven nor Romans questioned Vranes’ assertions. Additionally, neither of the show’s hosts mentioned Exxon Mobil’s efforts to combat global warming. Currently, Exxon Mobil is investing $100 million into the “Global Climate and Energy Project .” The project, which researches low greenhouse gas emissions technology, will be led by Stanford University.
Romans, a regular on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” exulted: “There was a time when we would say ‘global warming’ on television and would be inundated with, like, conservative think tanks and conservative … conservative oil-industry-tied groups whose only job was to try to change the wording ’global warming’ to ‘climate change’ or to get it into something that didn’t suggest that Americans were doing it or that consumers were doing it and that energy companies had any kind of say in it … so we’ve really come a long way on this debate, haven’t we?”
Vranes agreed, saying those who question whether mankind is the primary source of global warming are “at the fringe.” He added that those “at the fringe” get “more media attention than they deserve.” Westhoven agreed with Vranes that the scientific evidence for human-caused global warming was overwhelming.
“You talk about a tipping point, right, there’s all that scientific evidence and then you see things like when people just can’t ski for the winter, and you hear about polar bears coming in and drowning because there’s no ice for them to be on, and it sort of starts to shift a little bit in terms of the public’s mind,” Westhoven said.
Neither Westhoven nor Romans questioned Vranes about his comment that global warming skeptics are “at the fringe.” A recent Business & Media Institute report highlighted the very real presence of these individuals. One example is Meteorologist James Spann , who believes in global warming and wants to reduce carbon emissions but disputes that manmade factors are the primary cause of climate change.
Secondly, neither anchor pointed out that Vranes was contradicting his previous statements about the nuances of global warming. While he seemed very black and white on the show, an article  appearing in the Houston Chronicle less than a week before painted a different picture. The article quoted Vranes as saying, “Some of us are wondering if we have created a monster.” Vranes’ “monster” was those individuals so convinced on issues of climate change that they become “oversold” and miss the uncertainties inherent in climatic cycles.
Vranes noted these uncertainties have not been properly communicated to the public. In the same article, Vranes responded to this statement - “global warming is the most carefully and fully studied scientific topic in history” - with exasperation: “When I hear things like that, I go crazy.”