Let’s recognize the Mansfield Center (www.umt.edu/mansfield) for hosting the Asia Montana Energy Summit in Missoula last week. Dr. Abraham Kim and his staff organized and managed an impressive array of local, statewide and foreign speakers. The accolades end there.
The event was touted as a frank discussion about “important trends and developments that will shape the future of Montana.” Here’s what actually happened: energy industry polluters talked among themselves about how to maximize fossil-fuel extraction to push Montana to the top of the ladder of global climate offenders. In separate rooms, those alarmed by the world’s climate predicament talked among themselves about how to inhibit fossil fuel extraction and move Montana to become a renewable energy champion.
While outside a peaceful rally of speakers and climate-change realists gathered, a general session took place inside the Dennison Theater on the impact of energy markets in China, on coal shipments to Korea, and the market for nuclear energy development. Climate came up only when the moderator finally asked a question from the audience. The response from the panelists was less than thoughtful.
If Mike Mansfield were alive today things would have been different. An honest, forthright man, he would have pointed out that there is no longer any debate about the harmful effects of the excess carbon in our atmosphere. Avoiding the subject would not have been possible. He would have pointed to the hypocrisy of allowing major contributors to our crisis discussing how to “benefit” Montana by further degrading our climate. Mansfield would have brought the discussion where it should be: how does Montana become a leader in energy development while addressing climate change?