Horner lives near Charlottesville but works for the Washington-based public-interest group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he is a senior fellow at CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment. A lawyer by training, his previous books include Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism.
In an interview in Richmond on January 11, Horner said Power Grab is “about the latest excuse to impose the statist agenda on the American economy, the latest vehicle to make people live the way that a certain class demands we live, the class says there are too many people – sorry, too many other people – taking up too much space using too much stuff with too much liberty because they might use it.”
In the book, Horner cites quotations by key policymakers in the Obama administration – including environmental policy advisor Carol Browner, former “green jobs czar” Van Jones, and even the President himself – and explores what they meant when they said those things “and how they plan to go about that agenda.”
Horner’s intended readers include “all of those who are wavering, those who nod at the cocktail party level,” and say, “Oh, sure, we have to do something and after all, this is something, therefore we must do this.”
“I want people to start thinking this through,” he said.
“Do they really want people to have the option to reject certain lifestyle choices, or do they want those choices to be moved from the individual to the state? That, frankly, is what this is about.”
During the interview, Horner repeated several times something that then-candidate Barack Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign: “We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times.”
Horner’s reaction to that? “I don’t know how much plainer it could have been expressed by somebody pushing this organization of society.”
In researching and writing his book, Horner tried to go back to original source material.
“I started by trying to figure out what are they doing that requires further explanation, because when the president says things like that and they sort of fall on dead ears, they get around the blogosphere then they move on.”
Horner wanted to bring these quotations out of a musty archive and make them part of the current debate over energy and environmental questions.
“How do we put the meat on the bones of what this means to you, as a matter of policy? How does the state decide whether or not you can drive what you want? How do these folks see the state deciding where you keep your thermostat?”
Horner pointed out that “these are senior elected and appointed officials who really believe it is their business, not yours, what you drive, how much you eat, what you eat, and where you keep your thermostat.”
Once he decided what he was looking for, he then “went about getting quotes to say, who are you going to believe? Which time are they lying, essentially? When they say this is really their objective or when they airbrush it away?”
To find the truth, Horner said, he “went through the proposals. I went through the admissions of the greens, the assertions of the greens, the records before they were in office of what they said, the statements of their allies, the people who say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, the green jobs agenda is just our way to make sure we have those resources to provide the energy we need.’”
The green activists, he said, “might actually believe that, but it depends on what the meaning of the term ‘need’ is. They think you need much, much less than you think you need.”
He dug up statements from people who said things like “providing people the energy they need would be like giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
Some of his sources “were videotaped discussions at rallies. Some were statements made in long-ago speeches. Some were in outlets that most of the public would never consider reading because it was intended for a particular audience.” His book, he says, now gives “a broader audience the opportunity to hear what Van Jones was saying back before he was Van Jones.”
For the green activists, he discovered in his research, including activists who now serve in the Obama administration, “it always comes back to transforming this country, [which] they see as so deeply flawed. [It] comes down to there are just enough of them, way too many of you and me, we use too much stuff, take up too much space, we have too many freedoms, and darn it, we want to use [them], and they don’t think that’s right.”
The book, he noted, comes with dust-jacket recommendations from talk show host Mark Levin, Spanish environmental economist Gabriel Calzada, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and both Stephen Moore and John Fund of the Wall Street Journal.
“Even before it came out,” Horner said, Power Grab “got its best reviews. I have to say that there were so many of us writing so much about ‘you have to pay attention to this statement and this evidence.’ There were a lot of us. We may have gotten lost in each others’ arguments.” This book, he says, helps cut through the clutter.
(A substantially shorter version of this article appeared on Examiner.com as "Charlottesville writer Christopher Horner examines environmental ‘Power Grab'.")