A Free-Market Energy Blog

George Shultz’s Climate Activism: A Note

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 19, 2019

During a visit to the [Wall Street Journal] … to discuss climate change with its editorial board in 2012, [George] Shultz had dropped mention of [the founder of Theranos] who he felt certain was going to revolutionize medicine with her technology.

George Shultz, a stalwart of the Republican Party given his posts in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, and his association with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has been a prominent activist for pricing (taxing) carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a quite Progressive, Democrat notion.

Did Statesman Shultz wake up one morning alarmed about the human influence on global climate? Is he doing this from his own sense of righteousness? Or was he lobbied hard and paid handsomely for his advocacy? This rhetorical question applies also to James A. Baker III, or Secretary Baker as he is called.

Shultz and Baker front the Climate Leadership Council (2017), which promotes a carbon tax where “all Americans” receive “dividend payments” to make the levy “revenue neutral.”

Leaving aside the political naivete of this proposal, and the problems with its “border adjustments” and its promise to “rollback carbon regulations that are no longer necessary” (what, to whom?), an item concerning Mr. Shultz caught my eye.

Selling Theranos (with climate on the side)

One of the greatest frauds in US business history, both philosophic and prosecutable, concerns the hyped fantasies of one Elizabeth Holmes and a “revolutionary” blood testing technology. Holmes’s Theranos, founded in 2003, reached a valuation of $10 billion before cascading bad news (its technology was faked) led the company to cease operations in September 2018.

The trial, which “is setting up to be the most extensive corporate prosecutions since executives at Enron were tried in 2006,” according to the New York Times, is expected to be set in early July. Holmes (who, ironically, is the daughter of former Enron executive Christopher Holmes), faces as much as 20 years in jail and major financial penalties, as does the Theranos COO Ramesh Balwani.

On page 175 of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (Alfred Knopf: 2019), author John Carreyrou reports on a visit by George Shultz, who joined Theranos board in 2011, to the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Wrote Carreyrou:

During a visit to the paper’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters to discuss climate change with its editorial board in 2012, Shultz had dropped mention of a secretive and reclusive Silicon Valley startup founder who he felt certain was going to revolutionize medicine with her technology.

Intrigued, the Journal’s long-serving editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, had offered to send one of his writers to interview the mysterious wunderkind when she felt ready to break her silence and introduce her invention to the world. A year later, Shultz had called back with word that Elizatbeth was ready…. The resulting piece ran in Weekend Interview [here]….

Climate and Theranos–Elizabeth and her Enron father–it’s an interesting world.


  1. Sean  

    The tax and dividend carbon tax has many fatal flaws, not the least of which is the cost of government administration. One that gets little mention however is the presumption that energy consumption is uniform on a per capita basis. However, it varies tremendously in rural vs urban areas, blue collar vs white collar jobs. It’s a tax transfer from the less well off to those better off which seems to be a hallmark of climate financial schemes.


  2. Russell Seitz  

    Mr. Bradley :

    The views on atmospheric science of Secretaries Schultz and Baker simply reflect the common wisdom of the administrations they served, as imparted by Presidential Science Advisors Keyworth, Graham and Bromley.

    That the White House took their views seriously is evidenced by President Reagan’s signature on the Montreal Protocol.

    While in office, both Baker and Schultz subscribed to a policy quarterly edited by Ambassador Owen Harries, The National Interest, which, though climate modeling was then still in its controversial infancy, published this cabinet-friendly introduction to the Climate Wars in 1990:



    • rbradley  

      In response: both were moderates who were pliable, yes … but both got paid big money to endorse a carbon tax, which is not moderate but radical.


  3. kakatoa  

    Years ago I was impressed with the role the former secretary played to reduce the number of nuclear bombs in the former USSR for use as fuel in nuclear power facilities after the wall came down.

    The Enron connection to Theranos reminds me a bit of the rather poor performance of some CSP facilities that somehow seem to get a free pass as far as technologies not meeting expectations (and/or needs) go.

    Brandon had an insightful group of suggesting reading yesterday – https://notesonliberty.com/2019/06/21/nightcap-499/

    that you might find of interest as evil is discussed/covered as well as nudges or not.


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