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Friday, August 21, 2009

How to Make Astroturf

In case you've ever wondered what the key ingredient is in Astroturf, it's oil - so it's fitting the American Petroleum Institute has leapt to the front of the pack with artificial citizens rallies to fight even the ridiculously inadequate bill in the US Senate that seeks to reduce global warming a little, not too much really, just turning down the thermostat a little and turning on a fan to make sure nobody loses their job, and no corporation loses money. But of course, not losing money is never enough to keep stockholders happy.

So here's some commentary on API's no-longer-secret strategy memo, along withe memo itself, from FrogBlog correspondent (and otherwise legitimate journalist) Rex Weyler. We've added some pictures for your reading pleasure.


How the oil companies fund Disinformation

You likely already know that this sort of organized disinformation campaign goes on constantly, but here are the oil companies -- Shell, Halliburton, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon, General Electric, BP, Petrobas and other funders of the American Petroleum Institute -- organizing "Energy Citizen" rallies of employees to kill climate change legislation in the U.S. Right now, 2009, 4 months before the Copenhagen climate conference that is so critical to the future of human society.

This is the sort of anti-science, anti-truth, self-serving, money-grubbing denial that is leading human civilization to the brink of disaster. And here it is, in their own flaming, twisted words.

Notice, for example, when they say the legislation will push oil to $4 per gallon, they don't mention that the Heritage Foundation study that concluded this (itself funded by the same oil companies) said "$4 per gallon by 2035." The memo is chock-full of such deceit. (Of course you probably also know that oil will be far over $4 / gallon due to oil field depletion rates that are double what the companies were saying a year ago). Lies on top of lies.

Note the warning at the end: “Please treat this information as sensitive and ask those in your company to do so as well… we don’t want critics to know our game plan.” Well at least one oil executive ignored this warning and leaked this memo to our friends at Greenpeace. You can go to the Greenpeace site here if you want to sign on to their letter to the companies, or write your own.

So here is the full text of the email from the American Petroleum Institute (API) to its members:

Dear API Member Company CEO/Executive,

As I have outlined in the past few editions of the weekly"Executive Update," API is coordinating a series of "EnergyCitizen" rallies in about 20 states across the country during the last two weeks of Congress's August recess. Most of these will be held at noontime, though some may be at different times in order to piggyback on other events.

Thanks to the leadership of API's Executive Committee, I am pleased to report that we have strong support for this first-ever effort moving ahead. Now we are asking all API members to get involved.

The objective of these rallies is to put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy and to aim a loud message at those states' U.S. Senators to avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill and the Obama Administration's tax increases on our industry.

Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid reportedly has pushed back consideration of climate legislation to late Septemberto allow Senators time to get their constituents' views during the August recess. It's important that our views be heard.

At the rallies, we will focus our message on two points: the adverse impacts of unsound energy policy (e.g., Waxman-Markey-like legislation, tax increases, and access limitations) on jobs and on consumers' energy costs. And we will call on the Senate to oppose unsound energy policy and"get it right."
Recent opinion research that Harris Interactive conducted for API demonstrates that our messages on Waxman-Markey-likelegislation work extremely well and are very persuasive with the general public and policy influentials. After hearing that Waxman-Markey-like legislation could increase the costs of gasoline to around $4 and lead to significant job losses, these audiences changed their opinions on the bill significantly.

[Oops, wrong poll.]

Opposition to the bill within the policy influentials cohort grew 23 points, from 40% to 63%; with a19 point increase in those who now "strongly" oppose the legislation. The data clearly demonstrate the softness of support of the current approach and very strong opposition when people are educated about the potential job losses andenergy cost increases. Our expectation is to translatepeoples' real concerns for job losses and increased energy costs to all unsound proposals (e.g., Waxman-Markey-like legislation, tax increases, and access limitations).

We have identified 11 states with a significant industry presence and 10 other states where we have assets on the ground. We also have attracted allies from a broad range of interests: the Chamber of Commerce and NAM , the trucking industry, the agricultural sector, small business, and many others, including a significant number of consumer groups, which have pledged to have their membership join in the events in states where they have a strong presence. We also are collaborating closely with the allied oil and natural gas industry associations on these events.

While such efforts are never easy and the risk of failure is always present, we must move aggressively in preparation for the post-Labor Day debate on energy, climate and taxes. The measure of success for these events will be the diversity of the participants expressing the same message, as well as turnouts of several hundred attendees. In the 11 states with an industry core, our member company local leadership-including your facility manager's commitment to provide significant attendance is essential to achieving the participation level that Senators cannot ignore. In addition, please include all vendors, suppliers, contractors, retirees and others who have an interest in our success.

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.

We are asking all API members to assist in these August activities. The size of the company does not matter, and every participant adds to the strength of our collective voice. We need two actions from each participating company.


Please provide us with the name of one central coordinator for your company's involvement in the rallies. (We will look to this person as your representative to assist the overall effort.) If you will let me know ASAP, we can be in touch quickly and provide that person with additional details about the project.

Please indicate to your company leadership your strong support for employee participation in the rallies. (Unfortunately, we are already experiencing some delay from your regional people since they are not yet aware that headquarters supports the effort.) I believe that expression of support to your company leadership is a fundamental predicate to organizing quickly and achieving success in this endeavor.

The list of tentative venues is attached. Please treat this information as sensitive and ask those in your company to do so as well, as some of these places may be subject to change, and we don't want critics to know our game plan. You can assume with confidence that the advocates for Waxman-Markey-like legislation and the critics of oil and gas are going to be very active, particularly during the August recess.

Once the list of venues and exact rally dates are determined, we will contact your company's coordinator to distribute the information internally and to coordinate transportation to the venues, if required, for your employees. In the meantime, your company's coordinator could assist us by telling us in which of the venues listed below your company has facilities or employees who can participate.

I look forward to working with you to make the August rally project and the other advocacy steps we are undertaking to deliver the policy outcomes we support with measurable results. Don't hesitate to call me with questions.

All the best,


Jack N. Gerard
President & CEO

Tentative Venues: Houston TX, Perry GA, Detroit MI, Roswell NM, Greensboro NC, Farmington NM, Ohio (venue being finalized), Greeley CO, Nashville TN, Indiana (venue being finalized), Bismarck ND, Tampa FL, Sioux Falls SD, Greenville SC, Anchorage AK, Joliet IL, Charleston WV, Fairfax VA, Philadelphia PA, Lincoln NE, Missouri TBD, Arkansas TBD