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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.

January 28 2012

02:40

Greenpeace Calls On SEC To Investigate TransCanada’s Inflated Jobs Claims

Greenpeace USA President Phil Radford sent a formal complaint this week to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling for an investigation into TransCanada’s use of wildly inflated jobs figures in promoting its application to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The letter asks the SEC to review the false and misleading claims made by TransCanada on a number of matters related to the pipeline.

Although President Obama rejected the company’s first proposal to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, industry-friendly Republicans continue to push for its construction, often citing vastly inflated jobs figures. The Perryman Report commissioned by TransCanada is the source of much of the bogus pipeline jobs information. 

Despite the fact that the State Department and independent reviews definitively debunked the claims to “20,000 jobs” and even “hundreds of thousands of jobs” tied to the Keystone XL project, the lie lives on like a zombie, parroted by the echo chamber led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, API’s Jack Gerard, and of course Mitt Romney and the GOP.

This lie must be stopped or it will continue to contaminate the public discourse.


The Greenpeace SEC letter [PDF] states:

Specifically, TRP has asserted that each mile of KXL pipeline constructed in the U.S. would create American jobs at a rate that is 67 times higher than job creation totals given by the company to Canadian officials for the Canadian portion of the pipeline.

These false and misleading job creation numbers are part of TRP’s lobbying and public relations campaign designed to create congressional pressure on the U.S. government to issue a Presidential Permit approving construction of KXL. Without government approval, TRP will not be able to build KXL, which will significantly impact the company’s future earnings and share price. That government approval was thrown into serious doubt last week when President Obama rejected the current KXL pipeline proposal at the State Department’s recommendation.


As Brad Johnson says over on ThinkProgress, “It may be legal to lie to the American public, but it is an actionable offense to deceive shareholders under U.S. securities disclosure laws.”

Media Matters has compiled excellent one-pagers to correct the misinformation on Keystone XL, including the jobs myths, KXL and Keystone: The Next Round.

Download the Greenpeace SEC complaint:

AttachmentSize GP-SEC-TransCanada-letter.pdf194.73 KB
Sponsored post

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.

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.

July 14 2010

23:03

American Petroleum Institute's Revisionist History on Climate Change Position

The American Petroleum Institute, the trade group for the oil and natural gas industry, is trying to re-write history by claiming that it has remained "neutral" about U.S. climate legislation.

Nothing could be further from the truth, actually.

API orchestrated the entire "Energy Citizens" astroturf campaign last year precisely to fight against climate legislation. Greenpeace USA obtained an internal memo[PDF] from the desk of API president Jack Gerard detailing polluting interests' plans to launch the nationwide astroturf campaign attacking climate legislation as "tax increases on our industry."

The API memo requested API's member companies to recruit employees, retirees, vendors and contractors to attend the "Energy Citizen" rallies in key Congressional districts nationwide during the August recess last year, no doubt hoping to be confused with a genuine grassroots uprising, much like the tea parties.

In fact, the API memo confirms that it would be funding and staffing the whole highly-orchestrated campaign:

To be clear, API will provide the up-front resources to ensure logistical issues do not become a problem. This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups. It also includes coordination with the other interests who share our views on the issues, providing a field coordinator in each state, conducting a comprehensive communications and advocacy activation plan for each state, and serving as central manager for all events.

Fast-forward to yesterday, when Anne Mulkern of E&E's Greenwire (syndicated by the New York Times) reported on comments made by API spokeswoman Cathy Landry:

Landry said API has not been among those calling climate legislation a national energy tax. API has not come out in opposition to any of the Senate climate bills, saying that it is "neutral."

<!--break-->In fact, API's Astroturf campaign website, EnergyCitizens.org, is littered with references to "job-killing energy taxes," and complains about climate legislation "targeting consumers, businesses, and energy-producing companies for increased taxes."

A sister website called EnergyTomorrow.org, also run by API, describes climate legislation as "taxes" seven times on the homepage, and features a video of API president Jack Gerard complaining about "tax increases" from Congressional climate and energy legislation.

And lest there be any ambiguity about API's role in creating EnergyCitizens.org and EnergyTomorrow.org, this is explicitly acknowledged on the front page of both websites:

"Energy Citizens is supported by the American Petroleum Institute..."

EnergyTomorrow.org: note "Copyright 2010 API" and the "Who We Are" page.

Never mind all that, just go to API's own website, where you can feast your eyes on dozens of references to climate and energy legislation as "energy taxes."

Kate Sheppard reported in April at Mother Jones that she saw API's "energy tax" ads three times in 30 minutes:

"Nary a night goes by here in Washington that I'm not confronted with multiple ads from API claiming that "Congress is considering $80 billion in new energy taxes." Last night, I saw three just during 'The Daily Show.'"

Here is one of API's own ads, which refers to climate legislation as energy "taxes" three times.


Here are a bunch more print, TV and radio ads from API, many of which scream about, you guessed it, "New Energy Taxes."

In fact, API is running an ad campaign in ten states right now, throughout July, bemoaning Congressional energy legislation as "new taxes."

Let's review that Greenwire report one more time:

Landry said API has not been among those calling climate legislation a national energy tax. API has not come out in opposition to any of the Senate climate bills, saying that it is "neutral."

API must be joking right? Either that or Mulkern needs to run a correction on her article.

This is almost as shameful as API's use of fake "Americans" outraged about energy taxes in its ads, which turned out to be photos purchased from Getty Images.

What will they make up next?

January 27 2010

18:04

Salazar and Oil Group Trade Barbs

The Interior Department and the American oil industry are locked into an increasingly heated war of words over the administration's energy policies.
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