Who is Lawrence Solomon, and what is Energy Probe?

Lawrence Solomon was kind enough to popularise my name. So its time to return the favour, and ask, “who is he”? And indeed, what is “Energy Probe”?

If you read the wiki entry on EP only a few hours ago, you would have found that Energy Probe is a Canadian non-governmental organization which promotes alternatives to polluting coal and nuclear power.[1] Energy Probe’s executive director, Lawrence Solomon, is a prominent environmentalist… Now I admit that it is possible to be an environmentalist and also a frothing-at-the-mouth GW septic, but I don’t think LS has managed that trick. And oddly enough, it turns out that the text was written by… Solomon.

So I tried to find some sources about Energy Probe, and essentially failed. They look very much to me like a pro-property rights right-wing pro-coal astroturf group, possibly one with a better history. Their first principle is We work for environmental sustainability by promoting property rights (private or communal), markets, the rule of law, the right to know, accountability through liability, cost and risk internalization, economic efficiency, competition, consumer choice, and an informed public.

So… if anyone knows anything about them, preferrably with a good source to back it up, do let me know.

[Update: Thanks to all those who commented and/or mailed. Probably the most interesting thing about all this is the lack of info about him, which is curious for “Canadas leading envirnomentalist”. I’ll stick with the astroturf theory for the moment. Also worth looking at is Cloak of Green -W]

[Late 2016 update: Ryan O’Connor, author of The First Green Wave: Pollution Probe and the Origins of Environmental Activism in Ontario (University of British Columbia Press, 2015), contacted me; I’ll quote him: Essentially, Solomon joined Energy Probe (EP) in the late 1970s as a volunteer. Energy Probe was at this point a semi-autonomous sister project of the slightly older Pollution Probe (PP), which is one of Canada’s oldest and most reputable environmental activist groups. Solomon made himself useful as a volunteer and it turned out he had a knack for fundraising. When Pollution Probe and Energy Probe formally severed their relationship and became completely autonomous organizations circa 1980, Lawrence was one of the leading proponents of EP separating. (Members of PP were unaware that EP intended to separate until they were presented with the fait accompli.) Lawrence was from the beginning an advocate for using market solutions in environmental issues, and used his influence over the years as a guy that could raise money for the group to shift EP’s formerly pragmatic approach to one that was in line with his thinking. Now the organization is renowned in Canada as, more or less, a libertarian think-tank.]

36 thoughts on “Who is Lawrence Solomon, and what is Energy Probe?”

  1. This is a bit peculiar. AFAICT Energy Probe is a lapsed enviro group, the name of which Solomon pirated. See this cached page. It sounds as if way back when EP was a spin-off of Pollution Probe, which is a legitimate enviro group.

    I would imagine that PP cares about this somewhat because of the name similiarity, so it seems likely they know something. Their contact email is pprobe@pollutionprobe.org.


  2. The really funny thing is that Energy Probe is run out of a coffee shop, with which it shares an address and phone number. The coffee shop supposedly provides financial support.

    I kind of have to wonder what customers of the “Green Beanery” think they’re supporting.


  3. Miguelito, you say more about yourself then you do about Solomon when you label the National Post Canada’s print version of Fox News. Nothing wrong with the NP, unless an alternative viewpoint to stale leftist ideology offends you.

    About Lawrence Solomon: he was born in 1948, resides in Toronto, Ontario, is a past member of the City of Toronto Planning Board, and previously often wrote on urban issues. Is also director of Urban Renaissance Intstitute. He recently had another book published called “Toronto Sprawls: A History” which is available at http://www.amazon.ca.

    Other then his print articles, Solomon seems to keep a low profile, however a picture of him is available at the link:



  4. Nothing wrong with the NP, unless an alternative viewpoint to stale leftist ideology offends you.

    THIRD WORLD KLEPTOCRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I like that phrase.

    The really funny thing is that Energy Probe is run out of a coffee shop, with which it shares an address and phone number. The coffee shop supposedly provides financial support.

    More intriguingly, this group apparently runs a whole family of websites all sharing the same admin and fax number (says whois).

    “Energy Probe Research Foundation is one of Canada’s largest independent think tanks, with 17 public policy researchers […]”



  5. http://www.eprf.ca/eprf/ofcrental.html

    225 Brunswick looks to be a house leased out for office space and etc..

    Also associated with the Urban Renaissance Institute, the “Next City Gallery”, and also with a very short lived magazine called “The Next City”. I remember it on the shelves of TO bookstores in the 1990s, and then being gone. Very much a trendy righty approach to Urban Issues.

    Energy Probe, whatever it might have been, is now probably LS, a couple of friends, a fax machine and a website.


  6. Frank: “More intriguingly, this group apparently runs a whole family of websites all sharing the same admin and fax number (says whois).”

    At the bottom of that web site they admit something.
    The contact email address is webadmin, which is we-bad-men, right?


  7. Here’s some info: There’s an article by Thomas Walkom about Larry Solomon which was posted at the Energy Probe website. Mentioned by me (posting as VJ) at DeSmogBlog here: http://www.desmogblog.com/national-post-ducks-correction-repeats-slander#comment

    If you search DeSmogBlog for “Solomon” and for “Energy Probe”, you will find various posts about him. Some links in the comments were lost when DeSmogBlog changed its formatting.

    When googling “Walkom” and “Energy Probe” you will find several hits, including this one:

    I don’t know anything about this website; but the Walkom article is appended to this long post.


  8. Folks – Suppose you discovered that Solomon was a child molester and a cannibal. Would that have any bearing on the quality of his arguments? I’m not defending him; I’m not familiar with his work. But apparently, that’s not relevant.

    [Errr, did you read the post? The question is, what should his biog on wiki say? If he was a known cannibal, clearly that should be in his biog -W]


  9. > Suppose you discovered that Solomon was
    > a child molester and a cannibal.

    We’d like to know when he stopped that, then.
    Or did you mean “if he were …”?


  10. I would suggest that Solomon’s right-wing rhetoric and environmental concerns are in fact quite consistent. Hopefully, one day greenies will learn that the wealth of a society is strongly correlated with environmental stewardship. Just consider how green issues are important voter issues in times of plenty, and how quickly they drop from the radar as soon as the economy takes a dive. If you need further proof go visit a landfill in a 3d world country, and compare it to a landfill in NA or Europe.

    People are always in favor of the environment – but they wont care about it if they have more pressing concerns, like feeding themselves.

    This is also a much better alternative to greenies than the fascist who cry of overpopulation and who suggest that we should “cull the herd”.


  11. There are sincere, “free-market environmentalists” out there, people who believe common law actions like nuisance and tort claims are somehow more free-market than direct regulation. I personally knew Terry Anderson from PERC back when he lectured at Stanford:


    He’s a nice guy who believes every word he says.

    Of course, these people are used by evil powers.

    The astroturf question is whether the sincerity is just a veneer or represents an alternative movement. I wouldn’t call PERC an astroturf group based on my limited knowledge. As to Energy Probe, I know nothing directly, but that simply claiming to be free market environmentalists doesn’t automatically make them an astroturf group.


  12. I would suggest that Solomon’s right-wing rhetoric and environmental concerns are in fact quite consistent.

    As written, I would have to agree with that, although I get the feeling we might not actually be in agreement.


  13. I tracked down the paper Solomon uses. It doesn’t say what he says it says

    Big surprise, I know.

    It’s this one, and they conclude:

    However, NPP increased by more than 1% per year in Amazonia alone, which accounts for 42% of the global NPP increase between 1982 and 1999. This result cannot be explained solely by CO2 fertilization. We suggest that increases in solar radiation, owing to declining cloud cover in these predominantly radiation-limited forests, is the most likely explanation for the increased tropical NPP (28, 29). Because there is no evidence of trends in rainfall or streamflows (30) concurrent with these declines in cloud cover in this region, it is likely that rainfall patterns have changed. (page 1562, footnotes omitted)

    That tactic was like the old Greening Earth Society tactics. Or see-oh-too on a bad day.




  14. If, like me, you are not interested in giving a slice of your $4.95 to the WSJ, American Forests 96.n1-2 (Jan-Feb 1990): p.p48(3). appears likely to be identical.


  15. Dano
    Actually I believe Solomon used the following paper, which references the one you quote, and which anyone can download:


    Solomon says in his piece:
    “The results surprised Steven Running of the University of Montana and Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA, scientists involved in analyzing the NASA data. They found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth’s vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometres — enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines. When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square metre of land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year.
    Why the increase? Their 2004 study, and other more recent ones, point to the warming of the planet and the presence of CO2, a gas indispensable to plant life”
    Solomon takes several quotes almost verbatim from that 2004 paper which says..
    “The somewhat surprising result is that overall global NPP increased by 6.2% during this period,with 25% of global vegetated area showing significant increases and only 7% showing decreasing trends…..the Amazon basin accounted for 42% of the increase in global NPP. These trends in NPP are a biospheric response to recent changes in global climate, including higher temperatures, longer temperate growing seasons, more rainfall in some previously water-limited areas, and increased radiation (a result of reduced cloudiness) in regions such as the Amazon basin”

    Now since NPP is a direct measure of the conversion of CO2 to Carbon and the global warming (or climate change) is supposed to be coming from the increased CO2 anyway, then Solomon is only stating the bleeding obvious. That CO2 is a natural fertilizer is also bleeding obvious and it is used as such in greenhouses.

    Now while it’s true that the authors couldn’t quite bring themselves to say that the planet is greening because of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere (though they actually said “not solely” which one could easily interpret as “mostly”) but I personally fail to see which other mechanism might be causing it and other NASA researchers have certainly been less coy. But what might be your alternative explanation Dano? Coincidence? I realize how odious you find Mr Solomon and the Greening Earth society but do you find the obvious truth odious too? You can call this result a negative feedback if you like. I wonder if it is included in the IPCC scenarios. One can also probably conclude that while a lot of warming may of course be bad for the planet, a little warming clearly seems to be good for it. Now are we going to get a lot or a little?

    [The obvious other mechanism is that its got warmer -W]


  16. William
    I think you missed the point that if it got warmer because of CO2 then CO2 is still the mechanism. Of course if you are saying it was the sun instead….

    [I thought LS was saying that CO2 was good because it was fertlising the plants directly? -W]


  17. The IPCC does take into account plant fertilization as a negative feedback. They also conclude that higher temperatures and precipitatin will reverse this, and then the soil will become a net emitter of CO2.

    From WGI, box 10.1
    “One of the possible ‘climate surprises’ concerns the role of the soil in the global carbon cycle. As the concentration of CO2 is increasing, the soil is acting, in the global mean, as a carbon sink by assimilating carbon due to accelerated growth of the terrestrial biosphere (see also Section However, by about 2050, a model simulation suggests that the soil changes to a source of carbon by releasing previously accumulated carbon due to increased respiration (Cox et al., 2000) induced by increasing temperature and precipitation. This represents a positive feedback to the increase in atmospheric CO2. While different models agree regarding the sign of the feedback, large uncertainties exist regarding the strength (Cox et al., 2000; Dufresne et al., 2002; Friedlingstein et al., 2006). However, the respiration increase is caused by a warmer and wetter climate. The switch from moderate sink to strong source of atmospheric carbon is rather rapid and occurs within two decades (Cox et al., 2004), but the timing of the onset is uncertain (Huntingford et al., 2004). A model intercomparison reveals that once set in motion, the increase in respiration continues even after the CO2 levels are held constant (Cramer et al., 2001). Although considerable uncertainties still exist, it is clear that feedback mechanisms between the terrestrial biosphere and the physical climate system exist which can qualitatively and quantitatively alter the response to an increase in radiative forcing.”

    From WGI, 10.4.1

    “There is unanimous agreement among the models that future climate change will reduce the efficiency of the land and ocean carbon cycle to absorb anthropogenic CO2, essentially owing to a reduction in land carbon uptake. The latter is driven by a combination of reduced net primary productivity and increased soil respiration of CO2 under a warmer climate. As a result, a larger fraction of anthropogenic CO2 will stay airborne if climate change controls the carbon cycle. By the end of the 21st century, this additional CO2 varies between 20 and 220 ppm for the two extreme models, with most of the models lying between 50 and 100 ppm (Friedlingstein et al., 2006). This additional CO2 leads to an additional radiative forcing of between 0.1 and 1.3 W m-2 and hence an additional warming of between 0.1°C and 1.5°C.”


  18. William
    He said “Their 2004 study, and other more recent ones, point to the warming of the planet and the presence of CO2, a gas indispensable to plant life”. So both, in unknown proportions, which is fair.

    As is fashionable, they modelers try to present model results as if they were oracles of the future rather than investigative tools which are highly dependent on initial assumptions. It is exceedingly trivial to produce a model that suggests exactly the opposite. I see the seer-saying switch date is 2024, at which point the NPP will start to decline rapidly. At the moment though it is safe to say that the NPP is rising rapidly. Do none of you ever get suspicious of the omnipresent pessimism even in the face of obvious good news? Would we assume that a rapid decrease of NPP due to a cooler trend would then be followed by a rapid increase in NPP as the trend became even cooler? No we wouldn’t! So if the reverse corollary is patently absurd, why does no-one consider the absurdity of the postulation of rapid decline of plant growth by 2024 in the face of real data which suggests the opposite? Is this not just another extremely unlikely worst-case scenario?


  19. James,

    You asked if the IPCC scenarios include these factors. They do.

    If you want to make policy decisions based on science and not ideology, the models are the best place to start. If you want a better model, I suggest you commission Halliburton to build a time machine and a new planet. That way you can run all the experiments you want.

    The difference between reality and fantasyland is that in reality, there are ideal conditions. Raising temperatures, precipitation, and CO2 indefinately is not going to continue to give better and better results.

    WG2 concludes that higher CO2 and temperatures are, on balance, good for crops between 1-3 degrees of additional warming. Of course, “on balance” means that tropical areas and a lot of drought sensitive areas are going to get screwed in the deal. A kind of “redistribution of agricultural wealth.”

    As for the “omnipresent pessimism,” the models say that Antarctica should be gaining ice. It isn’t. It’s losing ice. We are following the worst case scenario for sea level rise. The models didn’t expect 2007 Arctic sea ice conditions for another 50 years. The worst case scenario did not project current conditions until around 2025.


  20. cce
    Yes I should have thanked you for the info. Antarctica should be gaining ice? You must mean the second generation of the models because I could have sworn the first lot said Antarctica would lose ice. Of course, that’s what we do with models – test and modify them against reality and we shouldn’t rely on them until they are so tested. Of course it’s fair enough to make a what-if, worst-case scenario based on models but it’s really going too far describing that as “reality”. I thought Antarctica was showing pretty much no overall change apart from the odd natural calving. Mind you, I remember everyone panicking about the ozone hole melting the Antarctic by letting in extra radiation. Now the ozone hole is supposed to have a cooling effect – or perhaps none at all. Ho hum.. Nature doesn’t seem to cooperate too well with our predictions does she? We keep having to do an about face. Those NASA researchers were “surprised” at the greening of the planet too. You’d think some folk would learn from this and not be so cocky with their speculations.

    [AFAIK, all the GCMs predict that Antarctic will gain mass from net P-E over the next century or more, because its cold there. GCMs don’t include calving, of course. But most people don’t expect calving to significantly increase soon. So I’m really not sure which model you mean. As to ozone, I’m sure you’re well aware that no scientific papers made the assertions you’ve made; but that the popular press may say anything -W]


  21. William
    Surely the first generation of GHG-dominated climate models predicted ice-loss in Antarctica didn’t they?

    [I’m not really sure what you’re talking about. If you mean the IPCC-1990 generation models, they didn’t have full oceans only mixed layers, so couldn’t do transient studies only equilibrium -W]

    Of course they don’t now because obs show that Antarctic climate is rather special. I was only underlining that all models must be, and are, continuously improved in line with actual obs. But since there is still much to learn about Antarctica’s climate, what the models say about it is currently rather moot. But the point was, with respect to the greening planet, since the current obs for NPP say it increases in a warming world, any model prediction that it will reduce is very speculative indeed and not to be relied upon.

    “Ozone Hole Recovery May Reshape Southern Hemisphere Climate Change And Amplify Antarctic Warming”
    “Computer Models Show Major Climate Shift As A Result Of Closing Ozone Hole”
    Maybe we’ll be changing those models back to warming mode again!

    re this quote from Jonathan Shanklin, “We think that within the next 20 years we are likely to see an ozone hole perhaps as big as the present one over Antarctica but over the North Pole.”
    I suppose this means we can expect cooling in the Arctic to offset the warming up there too! Yet more good news?

    Also would it not be more accurate to say that certain scientists will say anything to the popular press? Usually one or two are quoted in every story. Of course most of these false prophets err on the catastrophic side. Beyond the peninsula, proper studies show that the Antarctic appears to be stable and has been so for about 50 years but the press, aided and abetted by some irresponsible scientists, tell a tale of melting much greater than expected – which cce has clearly read. Heres the reality:
    It’s not curbing sea level rise but it’s not adding to it either. Of course there is always a back-up disaster to report when the first fails to emerge – as per BTW1 above. Science was alway like this in every field. Everyone wants their name in the paper.


  22. To use the words of Thomas Knutson, James G recalls

    the question of Ellsaesser: “Should we trust models or observations?” In reply we note that if we had observations of the future, we obviously would trust them more than models, but unfortunately observations of the future are not available at this time.


  23. Kids: global warming is real – or not. Scientists agree, but deniers are super-well organized and Joe-butthead watches and hears news, but seldom “reads” print material (aka books). You and I need not be worried cuz we won’t be here, but your kids’ kids’ kids will be! Curiously, LS blogs against nuclear energy which ‘scientists’ agree is good, long lasting and cost effective … save me money, save the planet – or fry in hell, my generation will still live the good life. In 2010, I don’t care, but somewhere along the line the planet (humans, animals, plants, yadda, yadda) will bite the bullet we are firing today. Are you ready to align with a bonafide ‘columnists’ or scientists who (as we all know have a difficult time explaining science to “us”) or die! … the science is clear, the fossil fuel industry (and LS) would have us believe otherwise. WAKE UP!


  24. I thought these points may be of interest:

    1)Solomon’s book, The Deniers, is published by Richard Vigilante Books, a staunchly conservative publisher that has also published the books of Ana Coulter (conservative pundit) and whose

    2) A listserv posting on Solomon’s organization – of particular interest is the article attached in the appendix from the Toronto Star…

    3) Solomon’s organization, the Energy Probe Research Foundation (but has numerous sub-units) acknowledges the conservative Canadian Donner Foundation as a donor and it has been reported that the organization received up to $1.6 million from the foundation.


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