Such erosion, in turn, has helped give special interest groups such as the oil and coal lobbies an outsized voice in the media and in government bodies such as the North Carolina Legislature, he said.
Droz and his allies in the state capital, of course, don't see it this way. In Droz' view, he is the one fighting the hegemony. He's the one railing against forces trying to bend science to what he sees as an unnecessary and costly agenda – namely, a low-carbon future.
"It almost comes down to religion, effectively," Droz said, in an interview conducted in the sunroom of his Morehead City home, which overlooks the tranquil waters of the Bogue Sound.
"It starts off with a basic premise of, if it's green, it's good. But that's preposterously stupid, to make such a broad generalization."
And so Droz, with a master's degree in solid-state physics, who worked for a time for General Electric and other tech companies, made a mint in the 1970s and '80s due to successful real estate investments and retired at the age of 33, has come to play a fundamental role in shaping North Carolina's energy and climate policies.
Among the North Carolina legislation Droz has advocated for, three bills in particular stand out.
- H819 – The most famous and well known, this bill gained national attention when it sought to prevent the use of any computer modeling in predicting future sea-level rise. A watered-down version was eventually passed into law and prevents the state from taking any action on sea-level rise until 2016.
- H484 – Also passed into law, this bill tightened the requirements for obtaining a permit to construct wind-energy turbines by requiring developers to take into account potential impacts on military radar and flight paths.
- H298 – Stuck in committee since April, this bill would have repealed the state's renewable energy requirement seeking to increase the use of power sources such as wind energy. The state standard partly funds those sources through increased rates on electric bills – the "reverse Robin-Hood" effect Droz refers to in his presentations.
Before Droz and his wife of more than 40 years, Elaine, moved to North Carolina, before he found himself working alongside groups whose only interest in the environment, many argue, is how best to profit from its exploitation, the couple was living in the Adirondacks. Droz maintained his primary residence in New York State until 2009, though he and his wife purchased a rental property in Emerald Isle, N.C. in 1984 that they own to this day.
Sierra Club activist
In that former life Droz was a member of the Sierra Club and advocated for stricter state water-quality regulations.
His first major environmental campaign would, today, likely see him on the same side as the green and pro-environmental activists who are now his harshest critics.
Bottling companies were coming into his beloved Adirondacks and purchasing small pieces of property so they could gain access to the region's most precious natural resource – clean groundwater.
Droz lobbied for laws that prevented this type of resource-mining in the "world-class" place where he grew up.
Of the Adirondacks, he said, "it's a leading example in the world in how to have and preserve a huge area."
Growing up in the largest state park in the Lower 48 instilled a lifelong love of both nature and science.
And that first campaign set the tone for future efforts: Droz spent an extensive amount of time researching and educating himself on matters he did not yet fully understand (See the sidebar: From the Mac Wars, a political warrior emerges).