The US oil and gas lobby are planning to stage public events to give the appearance of a groundswell of public opinion against legislation on climate change strategy, according to campaigners. that is key to Barack Obama's
A key lobbying group will bankroll and organise 20 ''energy citizen'' rallies in 20 states. In an email obtained by Greenpeace, Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute
(API), outlined what he called a "sensitive" plan to stage events
during the August congressional recess to put a "human face" on
opposition to climate and energy reform.
After the clamour over healthcare, the memo raises the possibility of a new round of protests against a key Obama issue.
goal is to energise people and show them that they are not alone," said
Cathy Landry, for API, who confirmed that the memo was authentic.
email from Gerard lays out ambitious plans to stage a series of
lunchtime rallies to try to shape the climate bill that was passed by
the house in June and will come before the Senate in September. "We
must move aggressively," it reads.
The API strategy also extends
to a PR drive. Gerard cites polls to test the effectiveness of its
arguments against climate change legislation. It offers up the "energy
citizen" rallies as ready-made events, noting that allies – which
include manufacturing and farm alliances as well as 400 oil and gas
member organisations – will have to do little more than turn up.
will provide the up-front resources," the email said. "This includes
contracting with a highly experienced events management company that
has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns."
it said member organisations should encourage employees to attend to
command the attention of senators. "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,"
said the email.
described the meetings as "astroturfing" – events intended to exert
pressure on legislators by giving the impression of a groundswell of
public opinion. Kert Davies, its research director, said: "It is the
behind the scenes plan to disrupt the debate and weaken political
support for climate regulation."
The rally sites were chosen to
exert maximum pressure on Democrats in conservative areas. The API also
included talking points for the rallies – including figures on the
costs of energy reform that were refuted weeks ago by the congressional
The API drive also points to a possible fracturing
of the US Climate Action Partnership (Uscap), a broad coalition of
corporations and energy organisations which was instrumental in
drafting the Waxman-Markey climate change bill that passed in the House
of Representatives in June.
Passage of the legislation is seen as crucial to the prospects of getting the world to sign on to a climate change treaty at Copenhagen next December.
members of Uscap are also in API, including BP which said its employees
were aware of the rallies. Conoco Phillips, which was also a member of
the climate action partnership, has also turned against climate change,
warning on its website that the legislation will put jobs at risk, and
compromise America's energy security. The company is also advertising
the energy rallies on its website, urging readers: "Make your voice
However, Shell, also a member of both groups, said it
did not support the rallies. Bill Tenner, a spokesman, said: "We are