Why should this scientific hothead matter to Kentuckians? Because he's also set his sights on something vital to our state's economy - coal. In addition to his fiery rhetoric about the devils of big corporate oil, which he claims are willfully and knowingly distorting the truth about global warming, he is also calling for a complete moratorium on "coal-fired" energy plants.
While this may seem like a crazy man's tirade, there is grave cause for concern. After all, he's getting enough respect on Capitol Hill for Congress to grant him a podium.
Despite increasing scientific evidence that coal can be burned cleanly and efficiently and even be used to make liquid fuel, and several recent polls showing that 67 percent of Americans believe we should be drilling for our own oil, many in Congress are still intent on exploring other options.
In 2005, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made gas prices a centerpiece of her election year promises. But since she took over, gas prices have doubled. When pressed for solutions, Democratic leaders simply blame Republicans and then tout their recent misguided proposals.
To date they have floated four noteworthy ideas:
1. Litigation - Congress passed legislation paving the way for lawsuits against OPEC. Now here's a bright idea. Let's spend taxpayer dollars litigating the price of gas. In the meantime we'll saddle the exporters of oil with the added expense of defending themselves in court. With this ingenious plan we can simultaneously waste taxpayer dollars and raise the price of gas.
2. Legislation - The Warner-Lieberman bill which, thanks to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is currently stalled, would be the most sweeping cap and trade legislation in American history. Rivaling FDR's new deal in size and scope, it would create a labyrinth of regulations and taxation, effectively grinding our economy to a halt. Studies indicate that this complicated piece of legislation would raise gas prices by an inflation adjusted 53 more cents per gallon by the year 2012.
3. Taxation - Barack Obama and his colleagues are proposing the idea of placing a windfall profits tax on oil companies. How, exactly, will this encourage oil companies to invest in new technologies when more of their profits are being eaten up by taxation? They will simply pass the increased cost on to consumers.
4. Socialization - Instead of drilling for more of our own oil to ease supply demands, New York Rep. (D) Maurice Hinchey and some of his fellow congressmen are suggesting that the government take over the oil refineries in order to control supply. This move shows how truly out of touch they really are. The government cannot simply go into the refineries and turn the big red magic oil knob "up" and increase supply.
Three of these ideas will raise gas prices, not lower them. The fourth was inspired by the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. With these solutions as the backdrop, we must reconsider Kentucky's coal problem. Despite the advent of new technologies that would allow us to create clean fuel from coal, our leaders seem poised to turn their backs on all rational solutions to the energy crisis involving fossil fuels.
Thirty years ago, we would never have imagined that Kentucky's agricultural economy would be turned upside down by the tobacco settlements. Yet today we're still feeling the effects of the enormously influential anti-smoking lobby. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the environmental lobby is any less powerful.
Men like James Hansen are desperately seeking affirmation for their wild theories, and Kentucky could fall prey to their fanaticism. It may seem silly to think that this idea of putting big oil executives on trial for "crimes against humanity and nature" would ever come to fruition, but we've learned from the past that we cannot trust Washington just because an idea is illogical, especially if it could bring in wheelbarrows full of lobbyist cash.
Both Congressman Ben Chandler and Congressman John Yarmuth have voted consistently with the environmental lobby on many energy issues. Coal is next in the sights of the massive environmental movement. Can we trust our own representatives to stand up for us now?
Leland Conway is executive editor of www.conservativeedge.com and host of "The Pulse of Lexington" on 630WLAP. You can reach him for comment at Leland@wlap.com.