˜Grassroots Opposition to Clean Energy Reform Bankrolled by Foreign Oil, Petro-Governments

This is a Think Progress repost.

Saudi Arabian oil fieldClean energy legislation passed by the House, now pending in the Senate, faces fierce opposition from the proprietors of fossil fuel companies, and much has been reported on how domestic oil and coal companies have flooded the debate with money, lobbying, and misinformation. These opponents of clean energy reform claim to be “standing up” for American jobs and security. However, according to an investigation by ThinkProgress, many of the lobbyists and right-wing operatives engineering the attacks on clean energy reform either work directly for petro-governments, or work for companies in the business of importing foreign oil:

– Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, the region of the country producing much of its crude oil, is registered with the Carmen Group as its representative in DC. The Carmen Group is run largely by lobbyist David Keene, who also manages the American Conservative Union. Keene has lobbied against clean energy reform and used his conservative organization to generategrassroots” opposition to legislative efforts to move away from a fossil fuel based economy. Although the extent to which the Carmen Group “provide[s] general representation before the United States Congress” is unclear “” as Justice Department disclosures indicate “” the Nigerian state has lavished Carmen group lobbyists with $903,450 in payments since 2006. According to a report produced Monday by the State Department, Nigeria is at risk of becoming a haven for terror and extremism. In the past, Keene, the coordinator of the CPAC convention, has been caught auctioning off conservative grassroots support to his corporate lobbying clients for as much as $2 million dollars.

The lobbyist-run front group Americans for Prosperity is perhaps the most active anti-clean energy group in the country. In addition to working furiously to orchestrate anti-clean energy themed tea parties, Americans for Prosperity is running anti-clean energy legislation ads, anti-climate change science ads, and is even barnstorming around the country with anti-clean energy “hot air” rallies. The organization was founded and is bankrolled by David Koch of Koch Industries, a major refiner of oil. Through Koch Industry subsidiaries “” Koch Supply & Trading and Flint Hills Resources “” Koch imports crude oil from a variety of foreign sources, including from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

Currently, FreedomWorks is focusing their energy activism on supporting the status quo reliance on fossil fuels. Throughout 2009, as FreedomWorks leader Dick Armey organized tea party opposition to clean energy reform, he simultaneously worked for the lobbying firm DLA Piper on the account of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. According to disclosure forms filed with the Justice Department, the UAE paid Armey’s lobbying firm at the time to help maintain the “development of UAE energy resources, which represent about 10 percent of global oil reserves.”

Oil companies have attempted to demonstrate popular support for fossil-fuel dependence by hosting “Energy Citizen” rallies around the country, where employees of oil companies are bused in for large events. The “Energy Citizen” website claims that converting a clean energy economy would mean “less energy independence.” Ironically, the main sponsor of the Energy Citizen effort is the American Petroleum Institute, which is a trade association for companies like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Sunoco. These companies, in turn, are highly dependent on foreign oil imports “” from countries including Algeria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Venezuela. For perspective, Exxon Mobil imports 27%, Valero 29%, and Chevron 36% of its oil from Persian Gulf countries alone.

As a report by Rudy deLeon and Dan Weiss has argued, “America’s dependence on foreign oil transfers U.S. dollars to a number of unfriendly regimes, while robbing the United States of the economic resources it desperately needs for domestic development and American innovation.” It is alarming, though, that American lobbyists “” funded by foreign oil “” are working furiously to continue the status quo that is putting the nation’s security at risk.

19 Responses to ˜Grassroots Opposition to Clean Energy Reform Bankrolled by Foreign Oil, Petro-Governments

  1. Leif says:

    Gosh. What a big surprise!

  2. Roger says:

    Yes, and what have we mostly-complacent, cocky, comfortable, carbon-spewing U.S. citizens done who are s-l-o-w-l-y shooting ourserves in the foot by continuing to do so little in response? Almost nothing! So, it’s time for REAL grassroots support for clean energy reform!

    A VERY Short, 21-Year History of the U.S. Climate Movement, 1988-2009–a New Englander’s Perspective–But With Presumed Lessons for All of Us:

    1988-2005: Jim Hansen testifies before Congress; Bill McKibben writes “The End of Nature;” Ross Gelbspan writes “Boiling Point;” Al Gore presents a slide show about the risks of rapid climate change. A few bright citizens begin to get concerned. Lots of people confused.

    2006: “An Inconvenient Truth” is released; Bill McKibben decides to lead a march from Ripton to Burlington, VT, adding actual motion to the movement. More bright citizens get concerned; lots of people confused.

    2007: Hundreds of climate protesters march across MA on a 9-day “Interfaith Walk for Climate Rescue;” Bill McKibben’s StepItUp campaign leads to more than 1400 individually-organized climate actions in all 50 U.S. states. More people concerned; lots of people confused.

    2008: Climate-concerned citizens, and others seeking change from the anti-science GWB administration, help elect Barack Obama president. We finally see progress; more people concerned; lots of people confused.

    2009: Hundreds of climate groups are working on millions of emails, letters, phone calls, visits to Congress, etc; orchestrates 5200 climate actions in 181 countries; awareness of the science grows; hopes pinned on Copenhagen crash; more people concerned; many confused.

    2010 Suggestion: For everyone who is concerned about the climate: let’s, for ONCE, all concentrate on doing ONE thing, focused on ONE powerful person, in ONE place, on ONE day, at ONE time! Focusing is important, for both clear vision, and for the concentration of power.

    ONE possibility would be to focus on inviting all concerned citizens to visit President Obama at the White House, on Earth Day (April 22), at 1 P.M. We could perhaps call this a Citizens’ Climate Congress (CCC).

    We could ask President Obama to focus on: 1) making sure that our many misinformed Americans become informed about the reality and seriousness of climate change, and 2) the need for him, and Congress, to show real, world leadership on solving the dangerous problem of climate change.

    My two cents, and also our plan! Talk, comments, tweets, and millions of diffuse actions have been fine–up until NOW. Now is the time for all good climate activists to come to the aid of their country.

    Don’t be left out. Make your reservations now! We’ll see you there.

    PS: Yes, we’ve calculated the carbon cost; it will represent a TINY fraction of a percent of annual U.S. GHG emissions–a small price to pay for preserving a livable climate for our children and grandchildren.

  3. James Newberry says:

    According to observations and analysis by Dickens of Rice University, Oppenheimer of Princeton and Pagani of Yale the ancient sea bed shows that a CO2 equivalent above 400 is an atmosphere representing a past geologic age when ice caps did not exist. We are at 430 ppme now. This would seem to indicate that the planet will respond by melting seven million cubic miles of land ice and completely submerging all coastal cities.

    The mining industries of fossil and fissile materials will spend billions to control public policy in the face of clear and present danger. Perhaps we should make corporate lobbying illegal. Revolutionary yes, but revolution is the principle the US was founded on.

  4. Richard says:

    Roger and James,

    Both excellent ideas.

    Count me in for the march on DC. Perhaps 1Sky and Repower America could get on board. Others?

  5. David Smith says:

    Let me get this straight. Despotic foreign powers working with American companies to subvert the interests of all Americans (security, health, safety)and to create non-productive chaos in the American political system and undermine the workings of government. All this for what seems to be corporate self interest.

    Did I get it right? Doesn’t this sound a little un-American, dangerously un-American.

  6. mark says:

    Oil from the United Arab Emirates. I just read something about that outfit:

    “1. According to a report this January in The National, last year “the UAE became the largest foreign purchaser of US defence equipment with sales of $7.9bn,

    2. video tape smuggled out of the United Arab Emirates shows a member of the country’s royal family mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails….

    The Sheikh begins by stuffing sand down the man’s mouth, as the police officers restrains the victim.

    Then he fires bullets from an automatic rifle around him as the man howls incomprehensibly.”

  7. Berbalang says:

    Roger at #2: Putting all our effort behind one thing strikes me has a really bad idea. It makes a more convenient target for the deniers to put their efforts by creating an “all-or-none” situation.

  8. Leif says:

    “All or none?” No.
    “All” or a bigger “all” next round. Unless of course you see failure as a viable option!

  9. Chris Dudley says:

    It is really the difference between the cost of production of oil and its price that provides a large surplus of cash for the oil exporters. And, it is the difficulty in producing oil domestically that requires a high price for oil if we are going to have domestic production. For example, to see much activity in the Bakken Formation oil fields in North Dakota, we need oil to be over $50/barrel. Some of the oil exporters can produce oil at a cost of $7/barrel. It is the cost of production of the marginal barrel of oil, the stuff we produce, that sets the price of oil and provides a lot of extra cash to arm our enemies in the wars we are fighting. If we cut consumption to the point where only cheap to produce oil was in demand, the price would fall and funding for arms would dry up. We would have to sacrifice domestic production except for stripper wells and such.

    But, is that a sacrifice? If we wait until all the cheap-to-produce oil from foreign sources is consumed, there remains demand for oil as a raw material for polymers and that sort of use can support a very high oil prices without economic damage (or much in the way of emissions). So, if we want to maximize royalties that we get for domestic oil production, we should wait until we are no longer the marginal barrel producer and the price of oil is much higher before producing it to make plastics and such.

    Cutting demand now and ending our use of oil as a fuel should maximize our long term profit and minimize the ability of oil exporters to fund our enemies by eliminating their profit margin.

  10. Mike#22 says:

    Slightly OT, but Michael Tobis wrote yesterday “In a democracy, the goals of malicious pseudo-science are different. The sowing of doubt about important results that people are otherwise inclined to dismiss is the goal. In that case, the objective is not to replace science, but simply to present an appearance of a scientific alternative”. The schematic is brilliant.

  11. SecularAnimist says:

    I hope that Joe will give some thought to this article the next time he is inclined to refer to the deniers, delayers and obstructors as “anti-science ideologues”.

    They are NOT ideologues. They are bought-and-paid-for shills for the fossil fuel corporations and the petro-dictatorships. Their opposition to phasing out fossil fuels has NOTHING to do with “ideology” and EVERYTHING to do with ruthless, rapacious, relentless GREED.

    Their fake, phony, so-called “conservative” pseudo-ideology, like their fake, phony so-called “skeptical” pseudo-science, is just fodder for weak-minded, ignorant Ditto-Head Tea-Baggers.

    [JR: Well, it takes a village to stop climate action.]

  12. mike roddy says:

    I seem to recall that there are laws against foreign countries bribing our members of Congress. Funneling money to lobbyists and front groups accomplishes the same thing. This is especially outrageous in view of the fact that most of these governments are ruthless dictatorships. Why is this being allowed to happen?

    A bigger problem, of course, is us. Most Americans get hysterical when someone suggests a $1 per gallon gasoline tax, which could be a small first step toward clean energy powered electric cars. This is partly because of Madison Avenue and our cratering educational system, but it’s also intellectual laziness, which has a lot of causes.

  13. Mark Shapiro says:

    As enraging as this information is, it bears repeating constantly: defenders of dirty energy also defend petro-dictators and those awful petro-states. Those defenders include Inhofe, Barton, Will, etc.

    A sad aside: the world’s biggest oil burner is our very own Department of Defense. We burn a lot of crude projecting power globally. It is part of what Chalmers Johnson calls the “Sorrows of Empire”.

  14. DJ Scarlett says:

    We need to pass HR 1835 ASAP. Switching from oil to natural gas will put more dollars into the US economy and allow time for research and development in hydrogen fuel, wind and solar energy. We need a transition fuel. The general public must be convinced that reducing our reliance on foreign oil is in our own best interest. We can put plenty of pressure on our elected officials. We just need to get off our complacent asses.
    As an aside, I have to roll my eyes when someone tells me they are switching to driving a hybrid; it does us no good to switch to hybrid cars if over 70% of our electricity is still coming from coal.

  15. espiritwater says:

    Roger, Count me in. Good idea. However, I think there needs to be unending demonstrations this year in which we demand that Obama become the leader we glimpsed before the elections and actually stop climate change. One or two protests won’t work. We need continuous action to defeat the Greedy Deniers. During Vietnam war, protesters protested daily, night and day– even when chased by police with billy clubs. They didn’t give up until the war ended. We need to do the same.

  16. espiritwater says:

    The arctic sea ice is so thin scientists couldn’t even stand on it! recent photos of the arctic look like a waste land. If we don’t stand up to the fossil fuel industry this year, then I think it’s over….

  17. Leif says:

    A bit off topic not. Cheep, efficient, stationary energy storage developed by EXXON in the 70s.
    Should have awareness of it at least I think.

  18. Roger says:

    Richard (4) and espiritwater (16): Thanks for your support. We’ll see you + more in WDC on Earth Day, April 22nd at Barack’s place at 1 PM.

    Richard, we have been in touch with 1Sky, Repower America,, Greenpeace and others about the idea for a large, focused action where everyone cooperates–on a huge Citizens’ Climate Congress.

    Berbalang (17), and espiritwater, this doesn’t mean that we don’t also do some other things during the year–it’s just to unify all on ONE day!

  19. Roger says:

    Correction: Berbalang (7).