The Heat Is Online

API Plans Bogus "Citizen" Rallies to Fight Climate Legislation


Greenpeace uncovers "astroturf" campaign to challenge US climate bill


Leaked email reveals that American Petroleum Institute is planning a series of rallies to protest against Waxman-Markey bill

BusinessGreen, Aug.  17 2009


The scale of the challenge faced by the Obama administration as it seeks to secure support for the Waxman-Markey Climate Change bill was again underlined late last week. It emerged oil and gas industry lobbyists are planning a nationwide campaign designed to create the impression of widespread grassroots opposition to the legislation.

A leaked email  obtained by Greenpeace USA reveals that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is preparing a series of "Energy Citizen" rallies over the next few weeks, intended to heap pressure on key senators ahead of the crucial Senate vote in late September.

Greenpeace accused the API of engaging in "astroturfing"  the controversial tactic of creating the illusion of a largely spontaneous grassroots protest that has in fact been organised by corporate-backed groups. The practice has been widely accused of undermining President Obama's efforts to pass universal healthcare legislation and environmentalists are increasingly concerned that his climate change programme could face a similar fate.

In the email, API president Jack Gerard urged the group's member companies to encourage staff to attend the planned rallies and to also extend invites to " all vendors, suppliers, contractors, retirees and others who have an interest in our success".

He stresses that attendees will have to do little more than turn up, explaining that API will provide all the "up-front resources" and has appointed "a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups" to manage the events.

The email also calls on member companies to not disclose details of the planned events, urging them to "please treat this information as sensitive and ask those in your company to do so as well& we don't want critics to know our game plan".

The plans will be of particular concern to the Obama administration as the API includes several members of the US Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP), a business group that supports the Waxman-Markey bill and had managed to sign up a number of influential oil and energy firms.

In a letter to Gerard, Greenpeace USA executive director Phil Radford requested clarification on the extent to which those API members that are also committed to US-CAP were involved in the development of the Energy Citizen rallies.

"It would logically appear that the Energy Citizen campaign's objective is to defeat climate change regulation," he wrote. "This goal runs contrary to several prominent API members' public support for climate action, namely Shell, BP America, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Siemens. These companies are all a part of the pro-cap-and-trade US Climate Action Partnership, which has publicly supported the Waxman-Markey bill& Can you explain the contradictory objectives of supporting cap and trade on one hand and working to defeat it on the other? And also reveal if any API members opted out of the Energy Citizen effort?"

ConocoPhillips has already distanced itself from US-CAP, however, and a spokesman for Shell told the Guardian newspaper that it would not be taking part in the rallies.

The revelations further highlight the intense battle on Capitol Hill surrounding the climate change bill and come just days after it emerged a Capitol Hill lobbying firm, Bonner & Associates, had been involved in sending fake letters  to legislators protesting against the proposed legislation.

They also follow new research from the Center for Public Integrity, which found that 460 new business and advocacy groups began lobbying on climate chan ge issues in the run-up to the House vote on Waxman-Markey in June. The surge in interest took the total number of registered parties lobbying around the bill to more than 1,100.



Oil industry split on climate law protests


Financial Times, Aug, 14 2009


A rift has broken out within the US oil industry over a controversial plan to deploy thousands of workers in so-called "energy citizen" rallies protesting against imminent climate legislation.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the US oil industry, has written to member companies asking them to "move aggressively" to stage up to 22 gatherings.

It has strong support from key members such as Exxon, which has warned that the legislation could put businesses employing millions of workers "at a disadvantage" with global competitors.

But the plan threatens to expose splits in the API as some members belong to another group, the US Climate Action Partnership, which supports many of Barack Obama's environmental policies.

Shell, which has been a key member of the UCAP, has argued that tackling climate change is "the pro-growth strategy." Other companies which belong to UCAP include General Electric, Siemens, BP America and ConocoPhillips.

Yet all these companies simultaneously provide funding to the API.

"The truth is that the API is all over the place on this issue, there is nowhere near a unanimous view," said one oil industry source. Some members saw imminent environmental laws as "the work of the devil" while others took a more progressive view, he said.

The secret memo was passed to environmental group Greenpeace despite the entreaties of author Jack Gerard, president of the API, to "treat this information as sensitive ... we don't want critics to know our game plan."

According to one source, the letter came from an API member who was "unhappy with the concept".

Greenpeace criticized the stunt as a cynical "astroturf" campaign, arguing it would predominantly feature energy workers rather than "grassroots" citizens.

But the API said workers would not be hired to attend or bussed in: "I don' know whether they'e required to go there,"said spokesman Bill Bush. " doubt that seriously."

The action, which has support from 60 other industry groups -- nging from the American Trucking Associations to the National Association of Manufacturers -- may invoke comparisons with recent protests against the Obama administration over healthcare.

The rallies are designed to protest against "unsound energy policy" such as tax increases on the industry and the Waxman-Markey bill, which will create a carbon trading scheme and force energy groups to produce some renewables. The API has told members it will provide the logistics for the rallies.

The memo says that a turnout of several hundred employees at each rally will be crucial: "In the 11 states with an industry core, our member company local leadership is essential to achieving the participation level that Senators cannot ignore."

Mr. Bush said he believed the memo was genuine. Asked whether the employees of API member companies attending the rally would identify themselves as part of an industry effort, he said: "I don't think anyone's going to be carrying signs saying they're from this organization and that organization."

Greenpeace has written to the API to ask why it is fighting climate change regulation when several of its members have expressed public concerns about the issue.

Asked whether he was aware of dissent within the group, Mr. Bush said: "I don't know I can answer very well --  have 400 members or thereabouts, and we have an awful lot of issues that we talk about and work on. And every single thing we've done does not include every single member."

Meanwhile Greenpeace also criticised the API's repeated claim that Waxman-Markey will drive gasoline prices to $4.

The research on which this claim is based -- by the Heritage Foundation -- says this will not happen until 2035, a quarter of a century from now.

The API is planning rallies in cities including Houston, Detroit, Anchorage, Philadelphia and Nashville as well as many smaller conurbations. Greenpeace claimed that many of these featured congressmen in vulnerable seats.

( C )  The Financial Times Limited 2009