Niger Innis and CORE joined several black ministers in downtown Salt Lake City to protest Robert Redford and his environmental stands just before the start of the Sundance Film Festival. The ministers protested the notion that rich elites should bar drilling that would eventually secure low energy prices that keep poor families warm in the winter. Redford’s allies accused the ministers of selling out to oil producers:
On the eve of the Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Robert Redford got some very bad reviews today, not from movie critics but from black ministers. They came from around the country to attack his environmental views and to stand up in favor of oil and gas drilling.
Redford’s critics chose the Broadway Theatre in downtown Salt Lake, hoping to draw a few of the cameras that would normally be covering the film festival. The ministers said they were here to speak up for the poor, but critics claim that some of the organizations involved are actually fronts for industry. …
It’s a national coalition arguing that more drilling would lower energy costs for the poor.
Rev. Gerard Henry, president of the group “Speak Life!” said, “Being able to afford to heat your home with natural gas isn’t a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity. It can be a matter of life or death.”
The ministers, joined by Utah lawmaker Greg Hughes, attacked Redford. In our recent interview, he reiterated opposition to drill rigs near national parks and monuments. At the time of our interview, Redford said, “One rig one day is too much for that beautiful country.”
Of course, the response to Innis and the others in this protest on the issue would be that government should subsidize the cost of energy for poor families — which it already does through LIHEAP. However, that puts the poor in the position of dependency on handouts rather than true economic viability. What doesn’t get mentioned in this protest, or at least in this report of the protest, is the massive economic expansion that would accompany an effort to seriously boost American oil production — at least hundreds of thousands of new, good-paying jobs for some of the families represented by the protest.
Redford’s allies avoided the issue, though, by attempting to paint the ministers as sell-outs. In the report, they point to money contributed by Exxon for their efforts, which they claim is the entire reason for their protest. At least one of the groups gathered in Salt Lake City hasn’t taken a dime from oil companies, as is seen in the protest, and that’s more of a non-sequitur argument in any case. Are Redford’s allies saying that CORE, for one example, exists only to serve Exxon’s interests? That’s absurd. CORE has been around almost 40 years longer than the Sundance Institute, founded when Redford wasn’t quite six years old.
The real issue here is class, as one minister notes in the protest. We have a class of limousine liberals who can afford to pay high energy costs and who want to block oil production for their own aesthetic reasons, while the means to ensure low energy costs for decades and provide jobs for potentially millions of Americans sits unused. They prefer that America instead transfers hundreds of billions of dollars a year to foreign potentates for our energy needs, or better yet, that America greatly reduce our economy by hobbling our energy use — presumably on everything but the electricity that runs theaters and our DVD players. That’s the real economic hypocrisy at work in this story.