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The Carbon-Civilization Combustion Complex

By Evaggelos Vallianatos - posted Thursday, 16 April 2015

On October 10, 1989 the Chicago Tribune published my article on climate change. I argued that "lowering the Earth-threatening heat" would probably be the consequence of protest and action by peasants and city people, not state intellectuals and corporations.

About six months later, on April 20, 1990, the Wall Street Journal reprinted a fragment of my article in which I denounced the behavior of fossil fuel companies. Energy corporations, I said, are blinded by greed. They threaten the Earth with unimaginable ills: rising temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread impoverishment of the natural world and human destruction of epic proportions. It would be foolish to assume that the same companies would sacrifice their profits for a less threatened, much less, safer world.

I was also critical of the propagandists of the carbon-civilization combustion complex. Like the military-industrial complex, this new condominium includes the military, oil, automobile, and electricity industries – owners, politicians, economists, academics, and bought-and-sold think tank lobbyists. I accused them of making up science to cover up corporate crimes against nature and human beings.


I was then working for the US Environmental Protection Agency. The result was immediate. The day the Wall Street Journal printed the excerpts from my article, April 20, 1990, EPA was "celebrating" Earth Day. That was also the day I found an official "letter of reprimand" on my desk threatening me with "removal."

The EPA official who signed the letter of reprimand (and almost certainly other senior EPA managers) conspired with the Wall Street Journal in order to have me fired because I dared link the oil companies to climate change.

In addition, on September 4, 1990 Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana) wrote to William Reilly, administrator of EPA, asking him whether or not my views were private or represented those of EPA. At the end of September, Linda Fisher, a Republican political appointee at EPA, assured Senator Burns that I wrote as a private citizen.

Even before Senator Burns was outraged with my article, on July 9, 1990, another senior EPA official, Lewis Crampton, associate administrator from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal in which he explained my article was my personal opinion. Crampton said my article was a "fanatical diatribe against capitalism as an earth-heating, destructive, suicidal system."

Despite all this effort to "remove" me from EPA, Reilly dismissed all allegations against me and I retired from the EPA in 2004.

Nevertheless, Crampton accused me of fanaticism. But who is fanatic? Science tells us that burning petroleum, methane and coal is dangerous because the resulting gases heat the Earth. But why, and despite that danger, are companies in a frenzy of selling fossil fuels for maintaining wasteful and toxic systems of war, agriculture, energy and urban living?


Now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is warning us of unequivocal anthropogenic climate change.

A recent book, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (Columbia University Press, 2014), shines light on this perplexing question. Oreskes and Conway bring to this small book of science and science fiction an admirable record of history of science writing, which made possible "Merchants of Doubt," their magisterial book on the corruption of science and climate change.

The fictional historian reports from the Second Peoples Republic of China in the year 2393. His account covers 1988 to 2093, especially the Great Collapse and Mass Migration of the years 2073 to 2093.

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About the Author

Evaggelos Vallianatos is the author of several books, including Poison Spring (Bloomsbury Press, 2014).

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