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August 02 2012

20:09

What To Expect When You’re Electing: Mitt Romney’s Energy Advisors

In the last few months, the press has been drawing a lot of parallels between presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former Republican President George W. Bush. And they have plenty of reasons for doing so. Romney has already tapped many of the same Bush economic and foreign policy advisers, and rumors were swirling earlier this year that Romney would tap Bush’s energy advisers as well.

As it turns out, those rumors are true.

Climate Progress has compiled a list of people who have been tapped, or will likely be tapped, by Romney for his energy team. The roster is a virtual “Dream Team” of dirty energy industry representatives from the coal industry, the shale gas industry, the oil industry, mountaintop removal mining companies, and lobbyists - all of whom were close advisers and friends of George W. Bush.

The most terrifying name on the list is American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard. Climate Progress points out that Gerard has been a longtime supporter of Romney, and that Romney considers Gerard a close, personal friend. Gerard’s stated goals, goals that we have to assume he’ll pressure Romney to fulfill, include placing an oil lobbyist in every district in America, opening up all federal lands for oil drilling, and removing many existing safety regulations.


The pick for Romney’s chief energy adviser is Harold Hamm, the head of oil-shale company Continental Resources. As the 78th richest man in the world, Hamm already has a significant amount of power, but being a chief adviser to the President of the United States would give him all the power he needs. His top priority, and the priority he says a Romney administration would approve immediately, is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would provide a gigantic financial benefit for Hamm.

Then we have Tom Farrell from the coal industry, a Romney campaign adviser, who wants to roll back the Clean Air Act and restrict the EPA from regulating harmful mercury emissions.

David Wilkins, a tar sands lobbyist, handles Canadian oil issues for the Romney campaign. He is also a card-carrying member of ALEC, who has worked to create special legal loopholes for lobbyists to push anti-environmental bills.

Rounding out the team are lobbyists Linda Stuntz, Jeffrey Holmstead, Greg Mankiw, and Jim Talent, all working on behalf of sectors within the dirty energy industry. Collectively, they have pushed for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, opening federal lands to drilling (including offshore drilling in protected areas), and reducing pollution controls and taking away what little power the EPA has left to wield.

Romney has already proposed plans that would greatly benefit the industries from which his advisers came from, including an expansion of the oil industry tax breaks and subsidies, effectively raising the annual giveaway to about $8 billion a year (up from an estimated $4 billion a year). His tax break plan would give another $2.3 billion to the top five oil companies alone.

On top of that tax giveaway, Romney has also proposed a plan that would exempt income made overseas from U.S. taxes, which would be an enormous boon to the oil industry. Last year alone, Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips made a combined $76 billion overseas, and under Romney’s plan, they could bring that money back into the U.S. without having to pay a dime in taxes.

And at the same time he’s proposing these huge gifts to the dirty energy industry, he’s also touting a plan that would strip tax credits away from renewable energy projects, specifically the production tax credit for wind energy. Not only would this cripple that renewable energy sector, it would also cost the U.S. an estimated 37,000 jobs that are funded by that tax credit.

As I pointed out in part 2 of this series, Romney’s environmental policies as governor of Massachusetts were surprisingly progressive. But when he made the decision to run for national office, his policies fell more in line with the far right of the Republican Party, not unlike Senator John McCain during his bid for the Republican nomination. The fact that Romney is looking to the same energy advisers that served President Bush shows that his policies will likely shift even further, becoming almost indistinguishable from those of the dirty energy industry.

History is the best lesson for the future, and going forward, Mitt Romney needs to remember one very important number: 22. That was the percent of the American population that approved of George W. Bush when he left office, the lowest approval rating upon leaving office in the history of American presidential polling. If Romney chooses the same path as Bush, he could easily be looking at similar poll numbers in the very near future.

March 30 2012

17:50

Oil Industry Lobbyist / Mushroom Farmer Claims Family Farms Need Fracking

Because apparently the only way for small American farmers to sustain themselves is not with crops they produce, but by letting the good 'ole gas man tap the reserves under their land.

"Agriculture and industry go together, if you want prosperity in these little towns, you need balance, that's the story of my family."

So said Karen Moreau on Fox & Friends, refering to the New York moratorium on fracking. Moreua claims to be from the "last family mushroom farm" in Feura Bush, NY and was on the show to talk about how fracking would be an economic rainbow to many small farms in the state, if only those pesky regulators would stop getting in their way.

The story Moreau neglected to tell on Fox & Friends was that she's the executive director for the New York State Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute. Translation: less so "family farmer" and more so "industry lobbyist".

Moreau is the President and co-founder of The Foundation for Land and Liberty (FLL), a litigation organization formed to "protect private sector legal rights, so that land ownership remains a fundamental right derived from natural law".

The foundation is mainly a property rights group that formed to provide legal assistance surrounding development issues to land owners in the Adirondacks. Moreau has a background in law, specifically in agriculture and rural economic development. She has been previously caught spinning facts and forgetting pertinent information in her New York Post opinion articles.

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March 27 2012

18:48

Beginning of The End for Big Oil’s Billion Dollar Subsidies?

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez (N.J.) has introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to kill, once and for all, the billions of dollars worth of subsidies that are flowing from the federal government to the oil industry.

Under Menendez’s proposal, the $4 billion annual corporate welfare handed out to oil companies would instead be used to pay down the federal deficit and be re-invested into renewable energy technology.

Given the Republicans’ history of fighting for the oil industry and their subsidies, you would expect this bill to be dead on arrival. However, in an odd combination of arrogance and ignorance, Senate Republicans actually sided with Democrats in a vote to move the bill onto the floor for debate.

Republicans currently believe that any issue involving gas and oil is a home run for their party, so they’re banking on the issue actually helping them out, politically. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement about the issue:
  

“We’re going to use this opportunity to explain how out of touch Democrats are on high gas prices, and put a spotlight on the common-sense ideas Republicans have been urging for years — ideas that reflect our genuine commitment to the kind of all-of-the-above approach the President claims to support but doesn’t.”
 

McConnell’s comment demonstrates both the arrogance and ignorance of the Republican Party on the issue of gas prices.

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January 23 2012

02:15

American Petroleum Institute's Jack Gerard Fact Checked By Activists During Speech

Guest post by Connor Gibson, cross-posted from Polluterwatch.

Two days ago, President Obama denied the permit for the destructive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, much to the dismay of Big Oil's top lobbyist and propagandist. Speaking at the National Press Club to an audience dominated by oil, coal and nuclear representatives and lobbyists, American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard continued to lash out at President Obama over the pipeline decision. However, activists attending their event fact checked Jack's big oil talking points.

Shortly after asking the president, "what are you thinking?!" a group of activists stood and delivered a call-and-response "fact check" over Gerard's speech — see the full Fact Check video. After the event, PolluterWatch's Connor Gibson approached Jack Gerard on camera and repeatedly asked him how much the American Petroleum Institute (API) is spending on its new "Vote 4 Energy" advertising campaign (which, as Mr. Gerard has absurdly claimed, is "not an advertising campaign"). Jack refused to answer:

Vote 4 Energy, which was mocked by a parody commercial during its public release, is the American Petroleum Institute's newest money dump to pretend that most Americans support politicians who represent Big Oil more than their own constituents. Wrapping its talking points in patriotic rhetoric, API's real intent is to continue getting billions of taxpayer dollars each year to corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron, which rank among the most profitable companies in the world


Vote 4 Energy sets the stage for API to push its key priorities—unlimited offshore drilling, including in the Arctic, hydraulic fracturing for gas, pushing the rejected Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and keeping those massive taxpayer subsidies
 
On E&E TV yesterday, Jack Gerard was asked to address the fact that Keystone XL serves as a tool to export large amounts of Canadian tar sands to foreign markets after pumping it across the US. Rather than being able to echo API's dishonest claims of "energy security" through increased access to Canadian oil, Gerard was forced to acknowledge that Keystone XL could be used to boost foreign exports.
 
Despite a rocky week and an advertising campaign mocked by the spoof Vote 4 Energy commercial, Jack Gerard will continue working to increase Big Oil's influence on our election. Numerous API advertisements are airing across the country and API is holding "Energy Forums" in key states, peddling their energy lies to American voters. What voters should keep in mind is that Big Oil's Vote 4 Energy advertising campaign is really about a Vote 4 Big Oil.

 

Guest post by Connor Gibson, cross-posted from Polluterwatch

January 05 2012

02:36

API’s New ‘Vote 4 Energy’ Ad Campaign Is Thinly Veiled Election Year Bullying

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard today announced the oil and gas industry’s latest election-year scare campaign to threaten the demise of the U.S. economy unless Big Oil gets its every wish in Washington. This year the wish list includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, expanded offshore drilling on both coasts, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and more federal lands in the West to drilling, and smaller buffer zones between drilling operations and drinking water supplies.

What if Washington doesn’t comply by delivering Keystone XL and the rest of the wish list? Gerard, the oil industry’s chief bully, threatens “huge political consequences” for Barack Obama. 

You can almost set your watch to this industry’s tired plays on this front. If it’s January of a presidential election year, it must be time for the oil industry to threaten Washington politicians to ensure they continue to do the industry’s bidding. The threats are delivered in the form of outlandishly expensive advertising campaigns and punditry tours, aided by a captive media that serves its role as stenographer for the industry’s inflated jobs figures and misleading claims.

The API campaign is nothing more than a fresh skin on a very old and stale argument – that President ______ (insert current name) needs to continue opening up more of the nation’s lands, particularly public lands, for oil and gas drilling, OR ELSE ______(insert latest political talking point), in this case “jobs jobs jobs” will be lost (a bogus argument)

CNN notes the close correlation between API’s target states and some of the hottest states in the 2012 U.S. elections – hint: they’re the same.

Gerard said it is not intended to be an advertisement or promote one party or candidate over the another, but rather a "conversation" to "help Americans understand what's at stake."
While the campaign will run nationwide, it will focus heavily on states where Gerard said energy is an important issue — including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Those states also happen to be important battle ground states in the upcoming election.

In his inanely named “State of American Energy” address, Gerard threatened:

Clearly, the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. A determination to decide anything less than that I believe will have huge political consequences.”

Like what Mr. Gerard? Your industry isn’t going to lend as much financial support to Democrats this year as it will to Republicans? Surprise, surprisesurprise.

The oil-soaked GOP is doing cartwheels over their supposed ‘victory’ in forcing Obama to decide on Keystone XL within 60 days, although many environmentalists predict the bullying to backfire. But House Republicans won’t let reality stand in the way of a good circus stunt.

The Hill reports:

House Republicans are putting more pressure on President Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, unveiling a [countdown] clock that counts the number of days since the president signed legislation requiring a speedy verdict on the project.

How about putting that clock next to a ticker showing the oil industry money flowing into Congressional campaign coffers? That would be a sight!

Also during his statement today, Jack Gerard asked rhetorically, "Why would we import a product we can produce at home?"

But Jack, why not answer the real question: If Big Oil is sincerely interested in domestic energy security and low-cost gasoline for Americans, why would your industry be clamoring feverishly to maximize U.S. oil and gas export infrastructure that would send our ‘homegrown’ oil and gas overseas to Asian and European markets - raising American gas prices yet higher?

Greenpeace launched its own Vote 4 Energy site mocking the API’s claims that its ads feature “ordinary Americans” and releasing a hilarious spoof video:

API Vote 4 Energy

"When's the last time someone got hired to clean up a solar spill?" asks an actor playing an ordinary American in the Greenpeace spoof. "Oh no, I've got sunlight all over me."

Touché!

Greenpeace said in a statement:

"The Vote 4 Energy campaign is the latest effort by the oil industry to fake citizen support for its agenda. The American Petroleum Institute has repeatedly spent millions to block clean energy solutions and fake grassroots support for Big Oil."

While API says its new ads are designed to feature only “ordinary Americans” expressing their thoughts on energy, in reality the industry's ad agency carefully handpicks people to read from a script. In other words, it is pure astroturfing.

Recall that API ad producers kicked out several people who wouldn’t agree to read the script provided by API, and instead insisted on expressing their own beliefs, as they had been led to believe they could by the API ad team’s outreach ad, which stated:

… “the ONLY qualifications” listed on the e-mail: “You are willing to go on camera and state your beliefs.”
Another is: “You are comfortable portraying YOURSELF! They want REAL PEOPLE not Actors!”

API won’t reveal how much money it is spending on the astroturf ad campaigns that will continue throughout this election year.  But it will likely rival or surpass what API spent on its 2010 election year ads – roughly $40 million

That’s a lot of job-creating money! Too bad it’s going into bullying ads instead of supporting “ordinary Americans” who need work.

January 04 2012

20:55

And Now, the Oil Industry Caucus

The president of the American Petroleum Institute said the United States would achieve diesel and gasoline independence if the government stopped interfering with industry goals.

November 29 2011

23:06

To Understand What's Happening with Fracking Decisions in New York, Follow the Money

In a November 25 article titled, "Millions Spent in Albany Fight to Drill for Gas," The New York Times reported:

Companies that drill for natural gas have spent more than $3.2 million lobbying state government since the beginning of last year, according to a review of public records. The broader natural gas industry has been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign accounts of lawmakers and the governor…The companies and industry groups have donated more than $430,000 to New York candidates and political parties, including over $106,000 to Mr. Cuomo, since the beginning of last year, according to a coming analysis of campaign finance records by Common Cause.

Those who were wondering the motive behind NY Democratic Governor Anthony Cuomo's decision to lift New York's moratorium on fracking now have a better sense for his enthusiasm: campaign cash.

Back in June, I wrote,

Despite the copiously-documented ecological danger inherent in the unconventional drilling process and in the…gas emissions process, as well as the visible anti-fracking sentiment of the people living in the Marcellus Shale region, Cuomo has decided it's 'go time.' Other than in New York City's watershed, inside a watershed used in the city of Syracuse, in underground water sources deemed important in cities and towns, as well on state lands, spanning from parks and wildlife preserves, 85% of the state's lands are now fair game for fracking, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

It is clear that Cuomo did not have science on the top of his priority list when making his decision to lift the moratorium. 

But as any good reporter knows, possibly one of the most crucial tenets of good jouranlism is to follow the money, which is just what the Times and Common Cause did. 

What we are seeing is the concerted application of really a substantial amount of money to try to move public policy into a pro-fracking stance. It is a tremendous amount of pressure on our state government," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York, to The New York Times.

Common Cause and The New York Times, then, have shed more light as to why Cuomo decided to make this decision and the light is colored green, the color of money

September 13 2011

17:55

Polluters Join Forces To Pressure Obama On Oil And Gas Drilling

In the wake of President Obama’s speech on job creation last week, major players in the energy industry have banded together to put pressure on the president to speed up the permitting process for new oil and gas drilling leases. At least 17 different companies and interest groups sent a joint letter to the president telling him that the best way to create jobs is to allow the dirty energy industry to drill, baby, drill.

From the industry letter:
  

One policy initiative that simultaneously creates high-paying jobs and increases revenues into federal coffers would be to improve efficiency and the rate of permitting activity in the Gulf of Mexico to a rate that is commensurate with industry’s ability to invest. Because safe, reliable domestic energy impacts all sectors of the US economy — manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and small business – such a move makes sense in light of the new regulatory regime and containment protocols developed by the Interior Department and private industry working in partnership.


The dirty energy industry would like us to believe that the administration’s energy protocols for drilling are hindering job growth in the country, even though the current wait time for drilling approval is about three months. Their claims of “safety” also ring hollow for those of us living on the Gulf Coast who are still witnessing oil washing up on our shores more than a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, spewing oil into the water for more than three months.

The American Petroleum Institute was not a part of the 17 groups that sent the letter to the president, but they have not been silent in the jobs debate. In a recent release, the API claimed that by lifting restrictions on oil and gas drilling, the energy industry would add as many as 1.4 million jobs and generate as much as $800 billion in tax revenue for the federal government. API president Jack Gerard acknowledged that it would take about 7 years for all of these jobs to materialize, far less than the estimated 2 million “green” jobs created in just one year by the President’s 2009 stimulus package.



Despite the fact that the green jobs sector can create jobs faster than oil and gas drilling, the dirty energy industry has a much louder megaphone and more resources to push misinformation onto the public. The folks over at the industry-funded website GlobalWarming.org (funded and maintained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute) recently posted about how the president’s stimulus package and green jobs initiatives actually lost American jobs. They also beat the familiar drum of “job-killing regulations.”

From GlobalWarming.org’s Hans Bader:
  

No net jobs were created in America last month (even as the people needing jobs increased), as the Obama Administration drafted a host of new job-killing regulations and threatened costly lawsuits against employers. But rather than rethink his failed economic policies, Obama is planning to spend billions more on green-jobs fantasies and boondoggles…

The $800 billion stimulus package was indeed a failure. It contained ill-conceived provisions that ignited trade wars with foreign countries such as Mexico, wiping out jobs in our export sector and aggravating America’s trade deficit. The stimulus package’s green jobs funding, nearly 80 percent of which went to foreign firms, effectively outsourced thousands of American jobs to foreign countries, at taxpayer expense. More corporate welfare for “green energy” will do nothing to fix the overall bad business climate, which is discouraging job creation.
 

Again, their claims seem to be at odds with reality, as we recently reported on several studies that prove that the Administration’s environmental protections are actually helping to create jobs in America. And as for their claims regarding the oil they would produce from increased drilling, those are also false. As we previously reported:
  

The oil-loving Bush Administration actually did a wonderful job proving how little the impact would be if we opened up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling. According to their own estimates, the oil would take about a decade or more before it even reached the market, and at that point might bring the price of oil down by about 50 cents per barrel at its peak. That translates to a reduction of about 1 to 3 cents less per gallon of gasoline at the pump. They estimated that there are roughly 10 billion barrels of oil in the wildlife refuge, and since the US consumes 6.6 billion barrels a year, despoiling that wild public treasure would only supply enough oil to completely fuel the United States (no imports or other sources) for about a year and a half. After that, the well is completely dry.

The Gulf of Mexico oil reserves don’t offer much to get excited about either. According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the best estimates say that there could be as much as 20 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf (again, at best.) This means that the Gulf could fully supply America for maybe 3 years, if the estimates are correct.

But this doesn’t mean that Obama will turn a deaf ear to their cries. He has been incredibly forgiving to the dirty energy industry, and has managed to give in to most of their demands since taking office. And with national elections a little more than a year away and unemployment the major talking point, the president could easily cave into polluter demands in an attempt to show the public that he did everything possible to create American jobs.

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

August 05 2011

18:32

Oil Industry Steps Up Astroturf Efforts For 2012 Election

The oil industry has put their astroturf and lobbying efforts into overdrive over the last few months, preparing for a bitter fight in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. In addition to their usual work of pushing for increased domestic oil production and the opening of federal lands for oil drilling, the industry is working around the clock to convince lawmakers to sign off on the Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport crude tar sand oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

ThinkProgress reporter Lee Fang has helped uncover some of the oil industry’s recent astroturf tactics at townhall meetings across the country. At a separate townhall event in Iowa, Republicans Rick Santorum and Herman Cain were asked questions by “activists” planted by the industry-funded group the Iowa Energy Forum. From Fang’s report:

ThinkProgress witnessed the Iowa Energy Forum in action on a recent reporting trip. At a local Republican event at the Pizza Ranch buffet, a man affiliated with the group pressed Rick Santorum to commit to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline as another person with the group videotaped the exchange. The same dynamic happened again later that week at a Tea Party event with Herman Cain.

We came across a Youtube account affiliated with the Iowa Energy Forum. In addition to hosting an infomercial from the American Petroleum Institue, the trade association sponsoring the Forum, the channel features videos of astroturfed questions planted with GOP presidential candidates like Cain, Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich. Many of the exchanges appear as authentic dialogue between a candidate and a regular Iowan. However, the questions are part of a well-crafted effort by oil lobbyists steer, and to some extent control, the GOP primary.

(Watch a compilation of planted questions at town hall events here.)

Of course, Republican candidates are more than willing participants in the oil industry’s outreach efforts. Some of the oil industry’s lobbyists behind the Iowa Energy Forum effort double as consultants to the Pawlenty campaign. Cain has said that he would literally appoint the CEO of Shell Oil to set oil industry regulations at the EPA. And as ThinkProgress discovered, the American Petroleum Institute maintains an official partnership with Gingrich’s 527 attack group, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF).

The Des Moines Register has pointed out that on the website of the Iowa Energy Forum, the fine print reveals that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is their main sponsor.

But the oil industry isn’t just limiting themselves to townhall meetings – they have also embraced social media as a means to manipulate public opinion. Rainforest Action Network blog The Understory and Mother Jones are reporting that oil industry insiders are creating fake Twitter accounts to tout the need for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

From The Understory:

Followers of the #tarsands hashtag on Twitter may have noticed a strange spike in posts yesterday morning. Within three minutes, fifteen accounts (the list has since grown) all posted the message “#tarsands the truth is out! [link]” linking to API’s web page about oil sands. Then came another post from the same accounts, this time linking to the Nebraska Energy Forum, one of 26 state-based-front-groups sponsored by API in the lead up to the 2012 election. Then a flurry of posts late last night from those same accounts, all linking to a post on “publicaffairsinformant.com” touting KeystoneXL and linking back to the Nebraska Energy Forum.


As we previously reported, API president Jack Gerard has made it clear that he wants to have an oil lobbyist placed in every Congressional district in America. And from the looks of things, he’s doing his best to fulfill that mission for the oil industry.

August 03 2011

13:15

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Launches Campaign To Lobby For Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

Last Friday, after applauding the House's vote to rush a decision on TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new campaign to boost the controversial project. The Partnership to Fuel America is run out of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, and seems positioned to be the U.S. Chamber's main influence channel to drum up support for Keystone XL. Supportive comments aside, it's also the first time the U.S. Chamber has so publicly and overtly aligned with the Canadian company's project.

The launch comes at a pivotal moment for Keystone XL. The Obama administration has the final say in approving the pipeline, and they've said the decision will be made by the end of the year. The new House legislation declared that the Obama administration must make the call by November 1st. A final environmental review of the prospective project is expected from the State Department in August. (To learn more about how tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL are a much greater risk than normal crude pipelines, see my earlier post.)

Which is all to say: the next couple months will determine whether or not Keystone XL is approved and built. Given the U.S. Chamber's long history of support for all things fossil fuel -- and long history of fighting against any sort of pollution controls -- it's no real surprise that the Chamber is throwing its considerable weight behind Keystone XL. But until now, the nation's largest lobbying group (which spends more money than the next five lobbying groups combined, and which receives the majority of its funding from 16 anonymous corporate donors) hadn't done more than release comments in support of the Keystone XL project. (Well, publicly, that is. They've probably done quite a bit behind closed doors.)

So what more do we know about the Partnership to Fuel America? According to the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, it will be "comprised of American businesses and industries that understand the need for more energy in the United States and believe that Canada's significant resources can help achieve that goal." Their site makes numerous references to "North American energy," but the only North American sources of energy listed are Canada's tar sands, and every news item listed on the site is specifically about the Keystone XL project.

Though you won't find him anywhere on the official site, the "partnership" is being led by a gentleman named Matt Koch, who is vice president for Oil Sands and Arctic Issues at the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy. And, no, I couldn't find any evidence that this is some long-lost Koch brother of the Koch Industries clan, but lately he's been earning his living off of fossil fuels just the same.

Before working for private industry, Matt Koch served in George W. Bush's White House, as an Associate Director of Cabinet Affairs, and also in the Department of Energy. Before settling into the capital, Koch served as Natural Resource Policy Director at the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations, securing the Lone Star State's oil interests inside the Beltway.

Immediately before joining the U.S. Chamber's payroll, Koch was Director of Federal Relations at the American Petroleum Institute, and one of their chief lobbyists. According to the Institute for 21st Century Energy, Koch was "API's chief advocate and issue manager for all downstream and refining-related issues affecting the oil and natural gas industry."

What's more, he was "responsible for initiating and managing API's ongoing, multifaceted oil sands strategy and campaign." Now he's running that very same strategy for the U.S. Chamber, and the big tar sands battle of the moment is the Keystone XL.

It's worth noting that this Partnership to Fuel America launch -- the overt and very public alignment between the U.S. Chamber and TransCanada's Keystone project -- comes at the very moment that both the Chamber and the Keystone XL are being acutely targeted by various activist campaigns. 350.org just launched the clever and timely "U.S. Chamber of Secrets" website as part of their ongoing campaign to expose the organization as a front group for fossil fuel corporations and other big polluters. (Check out their impressive infographic about the Chamber, which tells a pretty startling story.)

Meanwhile, a whole slew of activists are gearing up for the Tar Sands Action in late August, which is specifically targeting the Keystone XL pipeline, which organizers describe as "a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent."

But, now, there's no need to speculate about a possible link between the U.S. Chamber and the Keystone XL project. That connection is now public and crystal clear. So it must be asked: why is the U.S. Chamber spending so much energy and resources supporting a project that will be built, operated, and profitted from by a Canadian company, one the U.S. Chamber isn't supposed to represent? Perhaps that answer lies in those other, more renowned Kochs, who stand to make a killing off of Keystone XL if it's completed, and who are known to have shady ties to the U.S. Chamber.

August 02 2011

17:30

EPA Proposes First-Ever Federal Fracking Rules

The U.S. EPA is poised to enact the first ever rules on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with a proposal that would allow the agency to regulate the practice under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air route was chosen by the agency, as the U.S. Congress prohibited their attempts to regulate the practice of fracking under the Clean Water Act in 2005.

From Raw Story:

The new EPA proposal would limit emissions released during many stages of natural gas production and development, but explicitly targets the volatile organic compounds released in large quantities when wells are fracked. Drillers would have to use equipment that captures these gases, reducing emissions by nearly 95 percent, the EPA said.

The EPA contends that the measure would actually be a moneymaker for drilling companies. Though it might compel them to invest in new equipment, this equipment would allow them to capture methane gas currently lost in the drilling process, which they could then sell.

The EPA proposal is the result of a successful 2009 lawsuit brought against the agency by WildEarth Guardians and another advocacy group alleging that the agency had not updated air-quality rules as required. The EPA is supposed to review such rules at least every eight years, but in some cases had not done so for 10 years or more.


Despite the EPA’s claims that the tighter standards would actually increase the income of gas drillers, the industry was quick to speak out against the proposed rule changes. The Marcellus Shale Coalition issued the following response on their website:

While we understand that EPA is required by law to periodically evaluate current standards, this sweeping set of potentially unworkable regulations represents an overreach that could, ironically, undercut the production of American natural gas, an abundant energy resource that is critical to strengthening our nation’s air quality.

According to the EPA, the new rules would result in the following emission reductions every year:


Volatile Organic Compounds: 540,000 tons, an industry-wide reduction of 25 percent.

Methane – 3.4 million tons, which is equal to 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a reduction of about 26 percent.

Air Toxics –38,000 tons, a reduction of nearly 30 percent.


Once the EPA sets a date for implementation, the gas industry will have 60 days to submit any complaints or input on the new rules. While the date is not currently set, the American Petroleum Institute has already asked the EPA to delay implementation until at least August 2012.

July 19 2011

18:41

Students Get Lobby Group Material From Chris de Freitas in Climate 101 Lectures

New Zealand-based academic and climate sceptic Dr Chris de Freitas has been caught using material from US lobby groups in lectures to first year university Geography students.

Students who listened to the "Geography 101" lectures on climate from Dr de Freitas, an associate professor at The University of Auckland's School of Environment, admitted to being "quite convinced" that a scientific debate was still raging over the causes of global warming.

A report in the New Zealand Herald highlighted how Dr de Freitas had ignored key texts, ignored recent extreme weather events and argued that climate change was almost entirely down to natural variations.

In the lecture notes, published by author Gareth Renowden on his Hot Topic blog, one student wrote in the margins that "CO2 has a lot of beneficial effects… don't believe the propaganda".

Renowden pointed out:

De Freitas is presenting material prepared by US lobby groups and bloggers — stuff that’s been deliberately designed to confuse the issue, not provide educational material for use in university foundation courses.

Renowden discovered that Dr de Freitas was using material from retired meteorologist Joe D'Aleo and Christopher Monckton - both advisors to a number of climate denier think-tanks with links to fossil fuel funding.

Both are advisers to the Science and Public Policy Institute. Also an advisor to the SPPI is Dr David Legates, who was recently asked to step down as Delaware's state climatologist.

Dr de Freitas came to prominence when the journal Climate Research, for which he was an editor, published a controversial paper in 2003 by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas which argued contemporary climate change was not happening.

Some 13 of the editors cited in the paper complained they had been misrepresented. The paper prompted the resignation of three members of the editorial board, including editor-in-chief Hans von Storch, who said the research was flawed.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Dr Soon's entire research income since 2002 had come from fossil fuel interests, including the American Petroleum Institute and Southern Company.

July 06 2011

20:38

American Petroleum Institute Dreams Of Placing Lobbyists In Every District

Oil industry lobbyist and president of the American Petroleum Institute (API) Jack Gerard made his industry's goal clear in a recent interview with Fortune Magazine. Mr. Gerard said he hopes that in the near future there will be an oil lobbyist on the ground in every U.S. Congressional district in order to help his industry flourish, "so when a policy proposal hits the industry's bottom line, lawmakers from Seattle to Savannah will hear complaints about it from voters back home.”

As API president, Mr. Gerard is the leading representative for more than 400 different oil and gas companies. Gerard took the helm of API in November 2008, leaving a lucrative post as the head of the American Chemistry Council. In the short time that Gerard has led the API, he has instituted numerous reforms to help the oil industry focus its messaging to change public attitudes towards the industry’s behavior.

One of the major tools that Gerard brings to the API is the use of astroturf “grassroots” operations, something that the oil industry had not yet capitalized on.

In a series of town hall events last summer, Gerard used his astroturf activists to help spread misinformation about a Democratic-sponsored bill in Congress that would have placed stricter standards on offshore oil rigs in order to prevent disasters like the BP Deepwater Horizon. The bill would have also removed liability caps for companies who spill oil, something the oil industry was vehemently opposed to.

Thanks to Gerard’s astroturf efforts, public opposition to the bill appeared to originate from the bottom up, and the bill was defeated in Congress. Fortune described one of Gerard’s less-than-honest tactics during that process: 

“Last summer, after the House passed a tough bill to boost safety standards for offshore drilling and remove a liability cap for oil spills, Gerard mounted a round of rallies in regions far from the oilfields. At one, in suburban Chicago, more than 500 union workers assembled for a slick corporate production stage-managed to look like a working-class event.”

Gerard has also helped streamline his organization, laying off 20% of the API staff, and whittling dozens of priorities down to about six.

One of the most significant areas that he cut is the API’s modest research into renewable energy sources. His main focus has been to recruit Democrats to the side of big oil, in order change the perception that only Republicans support the fossil fuel energy industry. Again, from Fortune:

“He has set about trying to change the perception that Big Oil and Republican politics are inextricably bound, a pursuit that gained urgency when Obama moved into the White House. Gerard acted quickly, hiring Marty Durbin, nephew of the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, to head up API's lobbying team and start opening Democratic doors on the Hill. He organized fly-in lobbying visits by African-American, Hispanic, and female oil workers. And he formed a partnership with the building and construction trades department of the AFL-CIO to tout the job-creating potential of new drilling projects. Informal talks with social-media experts from the Obama campaign prompted Gerard to poach Nature Conservancy's Deryck Spooner to help build a grass-roots army that now claims more than 500,000 members.”

Gerard’s efforts appear to have paid off, as his industry was able to keep their multi-billion dollar subsidies and tax breaks in the midst of a nasty budget fight in Washington. And with the success of last summer’s astroturf campaign to defeat oil drilling safety measures, Gerard has announced that he is planning to do the same thing in the next few months to combat the negative attention that currently surrounds the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

With plenty of oil and gas money backing him, Jack Gerard seems unstoppable. And thanks to Citizens United, he might very well be unstoppable. According to independent analysis, candidates who receive and spend the most money during a campaign win their election in more than 90% of races – from local to federal offices.

If Mr. Gerard is successful in placing lobbyists and oil representatives in every district in America, Big Oil could truly determine the outcome of nearly every political race from now on.

April 17 2011

22:41

Don't Be Fooled: Fossil Fools Fund Latest Climate Skeptic Petition

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) recently published a flashy headline that reads, '900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of "Man-Made" Global Warming (AGW) Alarm'. The article links to a blog post on Populartechnology.net listing more than 900 papers which, according to the GWPF, refute "concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic."

The "900+ papers" list is supposed to somehow prove that a score of scientists reject the scientific consensus on climate change. One might be persuaded by the big numbers. We're not. <!--break-->

Oh, where to begin? First, a note of caution about the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It's a UK group opposing climate change action. Sourcewatch's digging reveals links to right-wing libertarian climate change deniers. According to the UK Charity Commission, GWPF's mandate is to "advance the public understanding of global warming and of its possible consequences, and also of the measures taken or proposed to be taken in response to it". Actually, they're a heck of a lot more interested in sowing seeds of doubt than in disseminating knowledge. The GWPF's director is the Heartland Institute's* Benny Peiser, climate change denier extraordinaire. Other notable members include Canada's Ross McKitrick of the Fraser Institute.   

Curiously, the GWPF was launched just as the Climategate emails were released. An op-ed by Chairman Nigel Lawson announced the GWPF, predicted the (hopeful) failure of the Copenhagen climate talks, and called for an inquiry into the content of the stolen emails.

Using a screen-scraping process to analyze the data on the "900+" list, the folks over at Carbon Brief dug up some pretty incriminating information. Turns out nine of the ten most cited authors on the list (representing 186 of the 938 papers) have links to ExonMobil-funded organizations. The tenth has co-authored several papers with Exxon-funded contributors. Anyone familiar with these kinds of lists ("More than 500 scientists dispute global warming" or "more Than 1000 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims") knows that if you've seen one, you've seen them all.  Many familiar climate skeptic names appear over and over again.

Dr. Sherwood B Idso is the most cited author on the list, having authored or co-authored 67 of the papers. Idso is president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a think tank funded by ExxonMobil and the Sarah Scaife Foundation

The second most cited is Dr. Patrick J. Michaels, a well-known climate sceptic who admits that around 40% of his funding comes from the oil industry.

When you really crunch the numbers, all you really find is a small echochamber of the same individuals who pop up on every denier list and petition around. James W. Prall at the University of Toronto has put together a fantastic analysis of the names that appear on these lists, and shows how most of them share funding ties to the oil industry. 

Now a note on the most cited journals on this list. Articles from trade journal Energy and Environment are cited 137 times on the list. Energy and Environment is edited by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Benny Peiser. Numerous known climate skeptics sit on the editorial staff including Sallie Baliunas, Patrick Michaels, Ross McKitrick, and Richard Lindzen.  The journal has become a go-to resource for policymakers and politicians who are skeptical of the scientific consensus of climate change. 

Michael Ashley of the University of New South Wales has described it as “the climate sceptic’s journal of choice”. The Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge is considered a key resource for establishing the credentials and influence of key academic journals. It does not list Energy and Environment.  

A further 24 papers come from the journal Climate Research which is perhaps best known for publishing a 2003 paper by Sallie Baliunas and Willy Soon that received funding from the American Petroleum Institute. In response to the paper’s publication, the editor in chief, Hans Von Storch, and five of ten members of the editorial board, resigned in protest.

Let's contrast this "900+ list" with the real facts. Expert Credibility in Climate Changewhich appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examines over 2,400 climate scientists and authors who have signed public statements on climate change. Their research says that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field believe that global warming is happening, and that we must respond to it.

A note to deniers: if you keep publishing these lists, we'll keep debunking them. Long lists might look convincing, but they're no substitute for research that is free of fossil fuel industry bias and is taken seriously by the scientific community. 

*Updated: Peiser is listed as one of the global warming 'experts' by the Heartland Institute, but does not work there.

Image Credit: Prospect Magazine

March 17 2011

22:08

Oil Industry to Form Safety Group

Operating under the umbrella of the American Petroleum Institute, the group will seek to improve the oil industry's self-regulation even as federal officials tighten government oversight.

March 15 2011

01:40

Major Investigative Series Into US-Canada Tar Sands Politics Launched Today at The Tyee

Anyone concerned or simply intrigued by the controversy over Canada's climate-wrecking tar sands needs to check out The Tyee homepage every day for the next few weeks. The Tyee's tar sands investigative reporter Geoff Dembicki today released the first installment of his upcoming series exploring the intense lobbying battles taking place right now in Washington, D.C. over the future of tar sands development vis-a-vis the United States' oil addiction.

Today's installment was mainly a teaser about what is to come in the series, which will begin in earnest tomorrow with Dembicki's report on the one-on-one interview he conducted with former Republican congressman Tom Corcoran, who is now a major lobbyist working to convince U.S. lawmakers to embrace Canadian tar sands as a source of non-Middle-Eastern oil.
<!--break-->The series is sure to include many other revelations from interviews Dembicki conducted in Canada and on his recent visits to Washington, where he got to talk to just about everyone except - curiously - the Canadian Embassy, which has refused to meet with him to date.

As Dembicki writes today:

"Wherever people are trying to craft measures to fight climate change by penalizing high-emissions fuel sources, odds are good that the oil sands lobby -- including the governments of Alberta and Canada -- have put a pin in the map and are pushing back hard."

Be sure to look out for new installments from the Tyee series in the coming days and weeks. DeSmogBlog will be reading these stories closely and chiming in on the blog about particularly relevant topics for our readers.

Stay tuned.

 

March 01 2011

19:47

Are U.S. House Republicans confusing "Americans" with the "American Petroleum Institute" by cutting pollution protections?

Recent polls confirm that Americans across the country and political spectrum actually do agree on at least one thing: that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should keep doing its job – and even do more – to set limits on air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, two influential groups feel differently than nearly seven in ten Americans on this issue: Republicans in the House of Representatives and the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful lobbying group representing the oil and gas industry.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Lung Association, who represent environmentalists and American lungs, respectively, each released public polls asking whether EPA scientists or Congress should make decisions about pollution limits. A key finding of the National Lung Association poll was that "voters overwhelmingly oppose Congressional action that impedes EPA from updating clean air standards [PPT].

At the same time, Congressional Republicans are claiming a mandate to cut funding for government programs like the EPA. House Republicans almost unanimously voted to prevent the EPA from doing its job – and specifically from enacting regulations on carbon emissions this year - by cutting EPA's 2011 budget by $3 billion in the spending bill which passed the U.S. House on February 19, 2011. 

"This is about listening to our country, listening to the people who just elected this Congress to restore discipline with respect to our spending," Frank Guinta (R-New Hampshire) said during the debate on the budget legislation. But to whom Republicans are listening should perhaps be up for debate.<!--break-->

Last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which spent $6.7 million lobbying the federal government in the past year alone, announced its plans to go the extra mile and start donating directly to Congressional candidates as well in the second quarter of 2011. Oil and gas companies and groups similar to the API are well-documented financial fans of Republican politicians. And who does API feel should be regulating air pollutants and carbon dioxide in particular? Congress, of course.

Ironically, the last question in NRDC's poll [PDF] even quotes Jack Gerard, president of the API, on this topic:

Some special interests say Congress should step in and prevent the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution. For example, the head of the America Petroleum Institute says Congress should decide when and how greenhouse gases should be regulated. But other public interest groups say Congress should let EPA do its job. The head of the American Public Health Association says that blocking the EPA’s work to reduce carbon pollution could mean the difference between a healthy life for many Americans or battling chronic debilitating illness. Which view do you support?

Sixty-four percent of Americans (and 57 percent of Republicans polled) disagreed with the American Petroleum Institute on this question. All but three Republicans in the U.S. House, on the other hand, seem to be voting on the side of API. Is it any wonder, then, that these polls also revealed the EPA and the Clean Air Act are much more popular than Congress [PDF]?

Photo: Sean Suddes/Sierra Club, Creative Commons

February 01 2011

17:36

December 08 2010

22:59

Backers Rev Up Oil Sands Campaign

As environmentalists and others campaign to block it, the chief Washington oil lobby readies a grass-roots and advertising effort to argue for the economic benefits.

November 19 2010

15:00

U.S. Oil Imports Shrink, Yet Worries Loom

The United States imported less oil in October because it has been producing more domestically. But exploration has slowed, and environmental concerns have deepened.
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