The Heat Is Online

The Fossil Fuel Lobby's Smear Campaign

When The Heat Is On was published in 1997, it generated a number of industry attacks.

After an initial effort to discredit the book failed, Western Fuels, along with a leading industry-funded "greenhouse skeptic," S. Fred Singer, accused Gelbspan of resume fraud. On websites and in politically conservative publications, industry representatives declared Gelbspan had never been a co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, as he claimed.

In fact, in 1983 as special projects editor of The Boston Globe, Gelbspan conceived a project, selected a team of reporters, directed the reporters and edited the resulting series of articles. That series won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984.

The Boston Globe acknowledged Gelbspan's role in the project by printing his photograph and a brief biography under a headline reading: Profiles of Globe Staffers Who Won Pulitzers."

The Mayor of Boston sent Gelbspan an official letter congratulating him on the Pulitzer Prize.

The newspaper's Board of Directors passed a resolution specifically congratulating the editors of the prize-winning series.

When the industry campaign surfaced, the lead reporter on the Pulitzer Prize-winning series (who had since moved to the Wall Street Journal) wrote a letter to The Washington Times denouncing the campaign and confirming Gelbspan's role.

That effort at character assassination followed an earlier effort by the fossil fuel lobby. Soon after its publication, the book was excerpted in The Washington Post and several other papers. It also received favorable attention in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Boston Globe and a number of other media outlets.

A week after it was excerpted in The Washington Post, the Western Fuels Association, a disinformation arm of the coal industry, took out full page ads in the Sunday Post and The Washington Times denouncing the book. The ad implied that the book's publisher had purchased space in the news pages of The Washington Post where it had been excerpted.

"It takes deep pockets to buy space comparable to what Gelbspan received from The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to pump sales of his book." according to the Western Fuels ad of June 1, 1997.

When that attempt fell flat, the industry critics launched their accusations of resume fraud regarding the Pulitzer Prize.

That campaign of character assassination has tainted their reputations far more than the author's. Gelbspan is very proud to have been a member of the Boston Globe team that won a Pulitzer Prize, and he is proud of the constructive influence the series had on the civic life of Boston.