Dubious "Grassroots" Groups Rising to Rally for Coal and Oil Interests


Photo via Grist

A couple weeks back I noted how the American Petroleum Institute, encouraged by the so-called success of organized town hall protests against health care reform, was launching a "grassroots" movement to publicly rally against the climate bill. Well, it turns out that the group isn't alone--there's been a rise of pro-coal and oil that are rising under the patronage of (surprise) coal and oil interest groups to protest climate action. Here are the coal/oil sponsored "grassroots" groups you should be wary of.Before I continue, I'd like to react to a couple of the comments and letters I received regarding the previous post I did on this subject, which detailed how API was creating EnergyCitizen, which would mobilize citizens to engage in public protests. This is not in any way a liberal crackpot theory, as some have charged--an allegation I was surprised to see, considering 100% of the facts for the article I wrote about the formation of Energy Citizen were reported in an objective piece in the Wall Street Journal.

It is not a theory that these anti-climate bill groups, like EnergyCitizen, are receiving money from coal, oil, and big agricultural interests. It's a fact--and neither API nor EnergyCitizen are shy about that. Read the Wall Street Journal article for quotes from oil industry leadership on what they hope the rallies will achieve, and simply scroll to the bottom of the EnergyCitizen website to see the list of corporate sponsors (mostly utility companies and oil and coal interests) for proof of that.

It is of course completely within coal and oil companies' rights to create such groups, and to invite their employees and sympathizers to participate. The gray area comes when such a group is made to appear as a gathering of people who've organized themselves for the sake of protesting the climate bill, because they oppose it ideologically. This is disingenuous, though also legal, and acceptable. Just a little slimy.

But we climate bloggers also reserve the right to point out, using facts, whether the anti-climate bill groups have been founded and/or funded by oil or coal interests, since that arguably dilutes the power and purity of their message. Here are a few dubiously pro-coal, anti-climate action groups that should be viewed skeptically:

EnergyCitizen: Created primarily by the API, according to the WSJ and other sources, and is perhaps currently the most visible group. They're in the process of holding 20 rallies across the country to protest the climate bill.

FACES of Coal: The Federation for American Coal, Energy, and Security is the latest group to surface. Little is known about its origins yet, but the Charleston Gazette notes that it describes itself as "an alliance of people from all walks of life who have joined forces to educate the general public and lawmakers about the importance of coal and coal mining to our local and national economies." Due to its premiere event at a chamber of commerce group attended by coal bigwigs, the Gazette notes that it's little more than a PR campaign and a front for industry groups. So beware if you start seeing questionably sympathetic ads touting the importance of the coal industry.

FORCE: Or, Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy. I note this group because of its misleading name, not because it hides its allegiance to the coal industry (duh). Despite being responsible for this hilariously bad coloring book about coal, FORCE does not allow families to join its group, according to a report from Grist.

In reality, these groups don't seem to be doing much damage (so far) to general public opinion of the climate bill (at least from where I'm sitting). In fact, they barely seem to be registering--I wonder whether some enviro bloggers are actually a bit disappointed that events like EnergyCitizen rallies aren't as successful as the health care town halls--by comparison, EC rallies, though mocked for being little more than company picnics, are much more innocuous and well, civil than the health care counterparts.

More on Coal, Oil Interests
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