The Uintah Basin Energy Summit takes place this week, and the controversy’s started even before the program begins. That’s because Wednesday’s keynote speech is being given by prominent climate change denier, Marc Morano.
He’s a conservative blogger who’s made a career of disputing climate science and the people who take it seriously. His ideas – and in-your-face style — are included in the 2015 film,Climate Hustle.
“I think it’s good to get information from all sides” says Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee, whose county is hosting the two-day conference. “This is an energy summit. There’s science out there on both sides of this, and I’m anxious to see what his presentation is and see where that goes.”
McKee says extractive industries account for 60 percent of his county’s economy and 50 percent of its jobs.
That’s a big reason why the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration is a conference sponsor, according to the organization’s deputy director Kim Christy.
“We definitely don’t feel it’s out of line with our responsibilities in managing our portfolio,” he says.
The state Office of Energy Development, which is also sponsoring the conference as a show of support, noted in a statement: “ our views on climate change do not align with those of Mr. Morano.”
Both agencies say they had no role in selecting the speakers.
Meanwhile, others doubt the value of Morano’s message. Utah State University physicist, Rob Davies, describes Morano as a “paid confusionist” and sees the keynote speech as a missed opportunity for the energy industry and eastern Utah.
“They deserve really good information as to what the potential changes are and why,” says Davies. “And I just can’t see someone like Marc Morano bringing constructive, good information to those communities on this topic.”
That’s a view shared by Barry Bickmore, a Brigham Young University geologist.
“They’re just bringing in somebody who can give them a really good sales pitch for what they want to hear,” says Bickmore. “In a way, though, it’s sad because they could be preparing for the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels.”