NPR takes on ‘clean coal’ astroturfers

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, organizers of those town hall meetings protesting any overhaul of health insurance can take this next story as a big fat compliment.

Big oil and coal companies are using their trade associations to organize what would appear to be grass roots protests against the climate bill working its way through Congress. I said appear to be. Marketplace’s Steve Henn has more.

A good story from NPR’s Marketplace (audio here, text below).

STEVE HENN: The American Petroleum Institute is big oil’s lobbying muscle in Washington. And the group is planning a long hot summer for dozens of members of Congress.

Earlier this month, API’s president sent a memo to members asking them to help turn out hundreds of employees for protests in more than 20 states. The aim — to undermine support for the Climate Change bill in Congress.

DAN LASHOF: Any time a trade association tries to portray their activities as grass roots activity when it’s clearly being orchestrated by corporate headquarters, that raises very serious questions about making sure that the public really understands what is going on.

Dan Lashof directs the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says many groups are attempting to pass off corporate opposition to the bill as a grass-roots uprising. Earlier this summer, a lobby shop working for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity or ACCCE…

LASHOF: Fabricated letters to members of Congress, literally forged letters.

From local chapters of the NAACP and other civil rights groups…

LASHOF: Opposing climate legislation in the House, and it turned out that those organizations had not sent any such letters.

ACCCE apologized and fired the lobbyists. But Lashof is equally disturbed by another part of this story. Many companies that belong to the American Petroleum Institute and ACE say publicly, at least, that they support legislation to combat climate change.

So he wonders why their trade representatives are actively opposing it. Tom Williams is a spokesman for Duke Energy. His company has left other trade associations over this issue. But…

TOM WILLIAMS: I think Duke Energy has been a moderating influence on the membership of ACCCE overall.

And still other firms are playing both sides of the aisle. For example, BP’s spent millions creating a green corporate image, but it’s working with American Petroleum Institute on rustling up employees for the upcoming protests.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

For more, see “Leaked memo: Big Oil manufacturing ‘Energy Citizen’ rallies to oppose clean energy reform.

5 Responses to NPR takes on ‘clean coal’ astroturfers

  1. David Levy says:

    This is a risky strategy for the oil industry – other astroturf efforts and risible ads (remember – “Carbon Dioxide – we call it life” from CEI?)
    So why are oil companies reverting to 1990s style carbon war tactics?
    I outline three reasons in my Climate Inc. blog post Carbon Wars II: The Sequel

    (1) they are getting out of renewables, so need to protect their carbon intense business (2)cap and trade was only a compromise, and now they smell weakness in the administration, and (3) they want to shift costs to other sectors.

    Why the oil industry did not fix cap-and-trade to their liking earlier in the process is also a perplexing question…

  2. RunawayRose says:

    Reply to #2: I saw this posted on DailyKos and ordered a copy. When it gets here I’ll have a look and comment on it. If it’s good, my representatives and one of my senators (the one who isn’t Chuck Grassley, why waste money on him) will get copies.

  3. Phil Eisner says:

    Big Oil has a simple strategy: Advertise to the public that your company is green and is trying to be greener. I.e., we are good guys. Behind the scenes, work to prevent the reduction of oil use by supporting lobbying efforts against ACES. At the same time maximize energy efficiency in their own plants to save money. If this strategy involves being a liar, so be it. Better a liar than a pauper.

  4. Phil .. right you are ..The hilarious advertising statement that big oil now pushes is something like “we want to reduce CO2 in our fuel combustion”

    Well good luck with that.