Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore is under attack from his putative climate allies with a newly released documentary taking on one of the sacred cows of the environmental movement: green energy.
“Planet of the Humans,” released this week free of charge on YouTube to coincide with Earth Day, argues that replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy is not only a pipe dream, but that solar arrays, wind farms and biomass are doing enormous damage of their own to the environment.
The blowback from the left was immediate. Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking films “Gasland” and “Gasland Part II,” called on activists, scientists and others to sign a letter “demanding an apology and an immediate retraction by the [film’s] producers, director and other advocates.”
“It was very difficult to write this letter, because Michael Moore has always been a hero of mine,” Mr. Fox said, but argued that the latest documentary was “a blatant affront to science, renewable energy, environmental activism and truth itself.”
Written, directed and narrated by veteran environmentalist Jeff Gibbs, the film also accuses the green movement of selling out to corporate America, taking shots at leading figures such as former Vice President Al Gore, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, former Obama green-jobs adviser Van Jones, the Sierra Club, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
“The only reason we’ve been force-fed the story ‘climate change plus renewables equals we’re saved’ is because billionaires, bankers and corporations profit from it,” Mr. Gibbs said in the 100-minute film.
Mr. Moore, the film’s executive producer, has admitted in interviews that he “thought solar panels lasted forever” and “didn’t know what went into the making of them,” referring to rare-earth minerals like quartz and the fossil fuels used in production.
He told Reuters that he used to support electric vehicles, but “I didn’t really think about, where is the electricity coming from?” More than 62% of the U.S. utility-scale power grid is run on natural gas and coal.
Free-marketers are unlikely to endorse the film’s proposed solutions — population control and drastic reductions in consumption — but that doesn’t mean they haven’t enjoyed seeing Mr. Moore reiterate their talking points on green energy’s drawbacks.
Quipped the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell: “‘Planet of the Humans’ should really be titled, ‘The Luddite Left Eats the Climate Industrial Complex.’”
“If global warming is really a problem, the solution can’t possibly be windmills, solar panels, burning biomass, and battery storage,” said Mr. Ebell, director of the CEI Center for Energy and Environment. “Climate and energy realists like CEI have been making these points for years, but now that leaders of the extreme anti-human, anti-industrial environmental fringe have reached the same conclusions, perhaps more people will start to pay attention.”
Heartland Institute senior fellow Anthony Watts, who runs the skeptical Watts Up With That website, hailed the film as an “epic take-down of the left’s love-affair with renewables by one of the left’s most known public figures.”
Meanwhile, there was plenty of outrage on the left over Mr. Moore’s betrayal.
Penn State climatologist Michael E. Mann, creator of the much-debated “hockey stick” graph of global warming, called it “another polemic from Moore, but this time attacking climate action rather than the misdeeds of the right.”
“Michael Moore’s prescription (shunning renewable energy) will insure a far LESS healthy planet,” tweeted Mr. Mann, who holds a Ph.D. in geology and geophysics. “It’s a travesty for people to be viewing his error-riddled polemic at a time when we need to focus on REAL climate solutions.”
Others on social media blasted Mr. Moore as a “blowhard,” “rich white guy,” “misinformed” and “dishonest.”
“Michael Moore bringing together the white male small-population racists and the white male ecomodernist ultra-growth bros to attack solar and wind on Earth Day is just such a pure 2020 story,” tweeted science writer Ketan Joshi.
Bowling for biomass
No Michael Moore film would be complete without gotcha moments, and “Planet of the Humans” has its share, including details on Mr. Gore’s financial ties to green energy, Mr. McKibben waffling on 350.org’s funding sources, and Mr. Jones, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. McKibben skirting questions on biomass.
Mr. McKibben issued a statement Thursday emphasizing that he changed his mind years ago about “large-scale biomass,” a renewable-energy source that involves logging and burning vast swaths of trees at power plants to produce electricity.
“I am used to ceaseless harassment and attack from the fossil fuel industry, and I’ve done my best to ignore a lifetime of death threats from right-wing extremists,” said Mr. McKibben. “It does hurt more to be attacked by others who think of themselves as environmentalists.”
The film slams the Koch brothers, who are invested in renewables, but most of the criticism is devoted to bursting the left’s green-energy bubble. A concert billed as running on renewables is actually plugged into the grid. Acres of desert brush and trees are leveled for gigantic solar projects.
In a scene at the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in the Mojave Desert, co-producer Ozzie Zehner says that while solar energy is renewable, the array itself was built using fossil-fuel infrastructure.
“You use more fossil fuels to do this than you’re getting benefit from,” said Mr. Zehner, a visiting scholar at Northwestern and author of 2012’s “Green Illusions.” “You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend.”
In his letter, Mr. Fox called the assertion “patently untrue and ridiculous,” accusing the film of using outdated information and making unfair, misleading attacks on “movement leaders” and “important local campaigners.”
The Oscar-winning producer of films such as “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and “Roger and Me,” Mr. Moore said he decided to release the film online because of the uncertainty about when theaters would reopen following the coronavirus closures.
Whether Mr. Moore’s conversion changes any minds on the left remains to be seen, but Power the Future Western states director Larry Behrens said he doubted it.
“The fact that the problems of the green agenda are so plain that even Michael Moore can figure it out is little comfort to those who support our workers and a strong economy,” Mr. Behrens said. “Sadly, even if Moore can plead temporary sanity, advocates of the socialist green agenda are still moving forward trying to destroy energy jobs across our country.”
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