Tuesday, 24 November 2009

An ambitious astroturf campaign by the American Petroleum Institute (API) was uncovered by Greenpeace in August during a Congressional recess. A front group called 'Energy Citizens', which has the same street address as the API, was manufactured by API using a widely-circulated memo to its membership.

The Energy Citizens website lists 285 organisations, including companies and peak bodies, that received the memo and decided to participate in rallies across the US. In the memo, the API promises to pay for transportation so that individuals representing members can minimise their up-front costs.

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.

The events management company would also provide public relations services, "providing a field coordinator in each state, conducting a comprehensive communications and advocacy activation plan for each state."

Company heads are encouraged to support employee participation.

What does the website say about this concerted, back-room effort to stimulate the fight against climate change legislation? Nothing. It provides a piece of predictable spin:

Energy Citizens is a nationwide alliance of organizations and individuals formed to bring together people across America to remind Congress that energy is the backbone of our nation’s economy and our way of life.

When Greenpeace got hold of a copy of the memo, it wrote a letter to the API asking for clarification and explanation. Of particular interest here is its request for help in understanding how its members had sought to support the Waxman-Markey Bill, while actively working to subvert it.

Naturally, large companies that have come out in favour of Waxman-Markey, such as Shell, BP America, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Siemens, are not listed as participants. Greenpeace notes, however, that they are members of the US Chamber of Commerce, which is listed on the website.

The Spinwatch website has also posted on the subject, announcing the Angry Mermaid award, "set up to recognise the perverse role of corporate lobbyists".

The winner of the award will be announced in Copenhagen during the UN climate talks.

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