Science Guy Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown

The Five Changes of Climate Grief

National Geographic (2015)

Film Review

The Five Changes of Climate Grief is a humorous documentary in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a psychiatrist and Bill Nye the Science Guy plays himself as the latter grapples with climate denial (not the kind Exxon pays for but the personal kind all of us experience).

The main premise of the film is that all of us experience some degree of grief in confronting the enormity of the climate crisis. Thus all of us must work through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – as we collectively struggle to find a solution.

The video has some great footage of the ecological devastation caused by Canadian tar sands mining and processing , as well as beach front properties on the Florida coast that are already uninhabitable due to rising sea levels.

I was delighted to see the filmmakers expose carbon trading for the corrupt corporate-driven scam it is.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see that most states (including Oklahoma and Alaska) have plans in place to achieve 100% fossil-free energy production by 2050.

Parts of the documentary I objected to were the heavy promotion of electric vehicles (we can only produce sufficient renewable electricity for very wealthy people to own them) and the promotion of Guy McPherson as an expert in climate science. Recently McPherson, whose science background is in ecology, natural resources and evolutionary biology, has been making claims that catastrophic climate feedback loops will cause human extinction within the next six months.

The Greedy Bastards Who Gave Us Enron (and Bankrupted California)


Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Alex Gibney (2005)

Film Review

The subject of this documentary is the historic Enron collapse in September 2001.

The Enron scandal occurred prior to the blossoming of social media, and the corporate media deliberately minimized the criminal behavior that led to the collapse of the world’s largest energy company.  They blamed Enron’s demise on “bookkeeping irregularities.” This film tells a very different story.

When Enron, which was founded in 1985, went bankrupt it was the largest corporate bankruptcy in history. Its late founder, Ken Lay, was close personal friends with Bush senior, who engineered millions in federal subsidies to help launch the company. Lay subsequently donated heavily to Bush junior’s presidential campaign.

Trading Energy Like Financial Derivatives

A big proponent of corporate deregulation, Lay teamed up with Jeff Skilling in 1990 to transform energy production and delivery (natural gas and electricity) into financial instruments that could be traded like derivatives.

To manipulate their stock prices, Enron employed two novel (and illegal) bookkeeping practices. With the first, mark-to-market accounting, they recorded potential future profits as real time revenue. The second accounting scam involved creating hundreds of “subsidiaries” to hide $30 billion of Enron debt from investors and regulators. Each subsidiary was personally managed by Enron Chief Financial Officer Andy Fastow, who pocketed $45 million from one deeply indebted subsidiary.

These devious accounting schemes allowed Enron to conceal that their company was losing millions of dollars a year. They kept the company afloat via $25 million bank loans from all the major Wall Street investment banks, using their overpriced stock as collateral.

Enron Bankrupts California

Prior to seeing this film I was vaguely aware that Enron was responsible for the California power crisis in 2000-2001 and the $38 billion deficit that led California governor Gray Davis to be recalled and replaced with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had no idea of the criminal behavior behind the power crisis.

Enron’s purchase of Pacific Gas and Electric in the late nineties gave them total control of most of the state’s power generation and 26,000 miles of power lines. To drive up the cost of power, Enron’s unscrupulous energy traders caused rolling blackouts by “loaning” California power to other states and creating artificial shortages. They jacked the price of power even higher by deliberately shutting down regional power plants for “routine maintenance.” In this way, they succeeded in driving the cost of electricity from $30 per kilowatt to $1,000 per kilowatt.

Governor Davis declared a state of emergency while he pleaded with Bush junior and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to impose a price cap on California electricity. By the time Congress forced FERC to implement a price cap, California was $38 billion in the hole and the Terminator was the new California governor.

Management Screws Enron Employees

Even more scandalous was the decision by Enron management to freeze trading by employees as the stock price plummeted. This enabled all the top executives to dump their stock while 29,000 employees had their pension plans wiped out.

Andy Fastow pleaded guilty to fraud and embezzlement charges (receiving a $23 million fine and 10 years in jail) in return for testifying against Skilling and Lay.

Skilling would receive a 14 year sentence for insider trading. Ken Lay was also convicted of insider trading but died of a heart attack (2006) prior to sentencing.