This post originally appeared at the Wonk Room.
Glenn Beck, the conservative ideologue whose show is mocked by fellow Fox News anchors, recently attacked plans to modernize our electric grid. After Carol Browner, President Obama’s climate and energy adviser, said that a smart grid means “we can get to a system where an electric company will be able to hold back some of the power so that maybe your air conditioner won’t operate at its peak, you’ll still be able to cool your house, but that’ll be a savings to the consumer,” Beck argued that would lead to “one-world government” with “Czar Browner” in charge of everyone’s air conditioners:
I can’t wait for the 97 degree day in August when Czar Browner in Washington decides it’s in my country’s best interest to make sure I’m not cooling my house … There’s no way the government would turn down the air conditioning at the wrong place and kill someone.
On Fox News, Beck snorted, “Gosh, that would be great if I could just keep turning the air conditioner up and the government won’t let me do it. That’s fantastic.” Watch it:
In reality, Browner was describing demand-side management technology, the kind of grid modernization that corporate executives from Wal-Mart’s Lee Scott to American Electric Power’s Mike Morris have called an essential advance. Our antiquated power grid, a national embarassment which threatens our energy future, needs to be upgraded to a digital network just as the analog phone system gave way to the Internet.
Beck’s rant assumes that an “electric company” and “the government” are one and the same. In fact, eight-four percent of the United States retail electric power market is provided by private companies. Over 120 million customers are served by the private market, versus 21 million served by public utilities, most of which are small municipal entities. The concept that Carol Browner would have control over a national thermostat is frankly bizarre:
During his diatribes on his Fox News show and his radio program, Beck also called cap-and-trade — which would establish a multi-billion-dollar private market in pollution allowances — “one of my favorite socialist ideas.” Although global warming is increasing the deadly heat waves that worry him so, Beck further claimed “the only thing that has become incredibly clear on the science of climate change is that they can’t decide whether to call it global warming or call it climate change.”
It’s not surprising that someone who can’t tell the difference between capitalism and socialism doesn’t understand much about science either.