Oil Lobby to Fund Campaign Against Obama's Climate Change Strategy
Email from American Petroleum Institute outlines plan to create
appearance of public opposition to Obama's climate and energy reform
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 August 2009
The US oil and gas lobby are planning to stage public events to give
the appearance of a groundswell of public opinion against legislation
on climate change strategy, according to campaigners. that is key to
A key lobbying group will bankroll and organise 20 ''energy citizen''
rallies in 20 states. In an email obtained by Greenpeace, Jack
Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute (API),
outlined what he called a "sensitive" plan to stage events during the
August congressional recess to put a "human face" on opposition to
climate and energy reform.
After the clamour over healthcare, the memo raises the possibility of
a new round of protests against a key Obama issue.
"Our goal is to energise people and show them that they are not
alone," said Cathy Landry, for API, who confirmed that the memo was
The email from Gerard lays out ambitious plans to stage a series of
lunchtime rallies to try to shape the climate bill that was passed by
the house in June and will come before the Senate in September. "We
must move aggressively," it reads.
The API strategy also extends to a PR drive. Gerard cites polls to
test the effectiveness of its arguments against climate change
legislation. It offers up the "energy citizen" rallies as ready-made
events, noting that allies - which include manufacturing and farm
alliances as well as 400 oil and gas member organisations - will have
to do little more than turn up.
"API will provide the up-front resources," the email said. "This
includes contracting with a highly experienced events management
company that has produced successful rallies for presidential
However, it said member organisations should encourage employees to
attend to command the attention of senators. "In the 11 states with
an industry core, our member company local leadership - including
your facility manager's commitment to provide significant attendance
- is essential," said the email.
Greenpeace described the meetings as "astroturfing" - events intended
to exert pressure on legislators by giving the impression of a
groundswell of public opinion. Kert Davies, its research director,
said: "It is the behind the scenes plan to disrupt the debate and
weaken political support for climate regulation."
The rally sites were chosen to exert maximum pressure on Democrats in
conservative areas. The API also included talking points for the
rallies - including figures on the costs of energy reform that were
refuted weeks ago by the congressional budget office.
The API drive also points to a possible fracturing of the US Climate
Action Partnership (Uscap), a broad coalition of corporations and
energy organisations which was instrumental in drafting the
Waxman-Markey climate change bill that passed in the House of
Representatives in June.
Passage of the legislation is seen as crucial to the prospects of
getting the world to sign on to a climate change treaty at Copenhagen
Five members of Uscap are also in API, including BP which said its
employees were aware of the rallies. Conoco Phillips, which was also
a member of the climate action partnership, has also turned against
climate change, warning on its website that the legislation will put
jobs at risk, and compromise America's energy security. The company
is also advertising the energy rallies on its website, urging
readers: "Make your voice heard."
However, Shell, also a member of both groups, said it did not support
the rallies. Bill Tenner, a spokesman, said: "We are not
© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited
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