Exclusive: BP worked with FreedomWorks, Chamber to build phony ˜grassroots support for more drilling

BP has long touted itself as a “green” company interested not only in oil and other fossil fuels, but in renewable energy like wind and solar. But as Rebecca Lefton reported on ThinkProgress last week, BP barely invests anything in clean energy “” most of its green campaign is actually just a massive advertising gimmick to conceal the truth about the company.

While BP has spent hundreds of millions building its brand, it has offshored the dirty work of promoting expanded drilling to right-wing front groups and trade associations. In a 2007 PowerPoint presentation obtained by ThinkProgress, BP appears to have been interested in fighting to open up protected waters to new offshore drilling. The presentation, organized by the BP-funded front group “Consumer Energy Alliance,” was delivered at the American Gas Association’s marketing meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The presentation calls for a five-year plan to build grassroots support to open wide swaths of both the East and West coasts to new drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf:

– Slide 5 depicts a map of “undiscovered technically recoverable resources on Federal OCS” along the East coast, from Maine to Florida, and on the West coast, from Washington to California.

– Slide 7 notes that expanding OCS access “provides univeral benefits to all sectors.” The page pitches the campaign to aid both the oil and natural gas industry.

– Slide 9 lists the 5 year plan “strategic priorities,” including “military/veterans groups,” “energy consumers,” “editorial boards/letters to the editor,” and “academia & think tanks.”

– Slide 14 lists the groups involved in doing grassroots outreach. Under “affiliated groups,” FreedomWorks “” a right-wing “grassroots” group that helped plan the tea parties and continues to lobby aggressively against clean energy reform “” is listed along with the 60 Plus Association, the American Conservative Union, and others. U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute are some of the trade associations involved. Slide 14 also shows that BP is one of the member companies supporting the campaign.

BP-CEA slide

Trade associations openly represent the needs of industry, so many industry groups like API have delicately tried to defend offshore drilling, but without explicitly defending the actions of BP. However, FreedomWorks portrays itself as simply a citizen-based group. In reality, FreedomWorks has a long history of orchestrating public support for its corporate and lobbyist backers.

This is a Think Progress Repost by Lee Fang.

6 Responses to Exclusive: BP worked with FreedomWorks, Chamber to build phony ˜grassroots support for more drilling

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Green? R&D? Blah, blah, blah!

    Are the large (correction: incredibly enormous!) oil and gas companies actually “green” or actually trying to become substantially more so?

    If you are still wondering at all, you don’t have to wonder for very long.

    Despite all of their PR hype that they are green, that they genuinely want to be more green, and that they “get” green …

    Consider this:

    In 2009, BP spent about one fourth of one penny on total R&D for every dollar of sales. In other words, let’s say you bought something from them for one dollar, just to make things simple. They got one dollar from you. Of that dollar, they spent about one fourth of one penny on total R&D. (Take a penny from your pocket and imagine cutting it into four equal pieces. BP spent one of those little pieces on R&D.)

    Now, realize this: That’s the amount they spent on TOTAL R&D, including all of the normal sorts of R&D that oil companies do, having to do with oil production, refining, additives, chemicals, refinery processes, and so forth. In other words, most of that small piece of one penny is spent on conventional oil and gas stuff. What very small portion of that small piece of that little penny is actually spent on clean alternative energy sources? Who knows?! The one thing you can say for sure is that it’s very, very, very small.

    Does that sound like a company that is trying to become green or that is responsibly addressing what the scientists are telling us about our need to dramatically reduce our reliance on hydrocarbon-based energy sources? Not a chance.

    And consider the long-term world energy projection that they include on Page 13 of their 2009 Annual Report. (You can get to it from their website.)

    The projection (which they use as a basis for describing and supporting their strategy and prospects), which goes to the year 2030, shows this:

    It shows the worldwide use of oil as huge and increasing. (In other words, the amount in 2030 is larger than the amount in 2020, and so forth.)

    It shows the use of natural gas as large and growing.

    It shows nuclear energy increasing slightly, but still small.

    It shows hydroelectric power as being teeny now and teeny in 2030.

    It shows the world’s use of coal as huge and still growing. Again, the amount in 2030 is greater than in 2020, and so forth.

    It shows the energy from “biomass and waste” as increasing but still fairly modest by 2030.

    It shows the energy coming from “other renewables” as a tiny sliver, even by 2030.

    In other words, the projection that BP seems to be using to support and explain its strategy and prospects, and the needs for things like drilling and so forth, paints a picture that would be a disaster relative to what scientists say we should be doing, given the climate change problem.

    The time is long past to be wondering whether companies like BP and ExxonMobil are being sincere and whether they are moving responsibly in the right direction. Read their annual reports and look at the numbers. Be analytical. Compare some of the rhetoric with what the numbers actually say. If someone smiles at you, tells you that they love you, tells you that they care, and gives you a small box of chocolates, but then they steal your car, step on your feet, lie to you, and pour sludge into your back yard, do you think they actually “love” you according to any genuine definition of the word? Probably not.

    By the way, in 2009, ExxonMobil spent roughly one third of a penny on total R&D for every dollar of sales. (The actual number is roughly 0.35 cents per dollar.) So, if you gave them a dollar, they took a penny of that and cut it into three little pieces, and then spent one of those little pieces on R&D. And, again, that’s TOTAL R&D. The amount they spent on R&D on renewables was certainly only a small portion of that.

    These facts (and many other revealing facts) are in their annual reports, plain and simple. They paint a very disturbing picture, unless of course your overriding goal is to get rich quick, at the expense of the Earth, future generations, other species, and the rest of us. But, if we all sit around and wonder, and express frustration, nothing’s gonna change. It’s time for things like boycotts. To ExxonMobil and BP, it seems that the only thing that speaks is money.



  2. Andy says:

    Jeff, thanks for adding that information in your comment. The part about BP’s world energy projection through 2030 is particularly revealing. It certainly shows where they place their final priorities!! Oil and coal forever, and ignore the consequences…

    This whole BP disaster has been shockingly revealing.


  3. Roger says:

    It was great seeing you in DC on Earth Day. Thank you so much for joining in on our White House request for Obama to be a leader on climate change. He needs to start with informing misinformed Americans about the reality, seriousness and urgency of dealing with climate change NOW.

    Your comment above is great, as usual. I would just add one thing to help put oil company R&D spending into perspective. That is to say, by comparison, that the level of R&D spending for a company that is on the cutting edge of a developing technology (such as energy is today) may be roughly 100 times, yes ONE HUNDRED TIMES, as much as what BP and ExxonMobil are spending on R&D: i.e., 25 to 30 cents of every dollar in revenue!

    Imagine how far along we (and they) could be towards a sustainable, clean energy future if the oil companies would truly think of themselves as “energy companies,” and spend 10 to 100 times more on new energy R&D than they do now.

    As a matter of fact, as you well know, companies in mature industries, such as the oil industry are supposed to be securing their future on behalf of their shareholders by “harvesting” their mature business sectors (such as oil) and investing in the less mature, “emerging” sectors (such as renewables). Astute managers and stockholders are well aware of this classic strategy. It is commonly used to maintain the long-term viability of a company that is facing maturity.

    Thanks again for all you do in support of encouraging climate education and action. Now we just need to get Obama speaking out more about this.

    Our chant: “Hey Obama, lead the nation, give us climate education!”

    Warm regards,


  4. Roger says:


    OT, I finally got my hands on your new book, “Straight Up” tonight, on the way back from the Henry Kendall memorial lecture (about climate geoengineerign) at MIT. I’ve been meaning to get a copy for weeks.

    From Introduction to Index, the book is superb! I hope you’ll be able to personalize it on one of your future trips to greater Boston.


    PS: The geoengineering lecture confirmed what we all know: this sort of thing is for use when all else fails, i.e., when we fail to take rational human action soon enough to preserve a livable climate.

  5. I blogged on a similar issue to that which Jeff describes in his comment regarding the projections and scenarios upon which BP bases its business.

    BP’s response to shareholder action against its tar sands projects reveals that its business plan is based on the IEA’s Reference Scenario. That scenario, by the IEA’s own admission, leads to climate disaster. In the IEA’s own words…

    But these Reference Scenario trends have profound implications for environmental protection, energy security and economic development. The continuation of current trends would have dire consequences for climate change. (…) taking us towards a concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in excess of 1000 parts per million (ppm) of CO2-equivalent (CO2-eq). This, the outcome of the Reference Scenario, would almost certainly lead to massive climatic change and irreparable damage to the planet.

    BP (and all the oil companies are basically the same) is clearly working on the assumption there will be no action to control GHGs and prevent climate disaster. Business as usual…