Industry Astroturf Rally Against Climate Change Bill Shows Big Oil Can’t Organize Real Grassroots Movement – API Throws Company Picnic, Not Town Hall Meeting, on Climate Change

Aug. 18, 2009

Industry Astroturf Rally Against Climate Change Bill Shows Big Oil Can’t Organize Real Grassroots Movement – API Throws Company Picnic, Not Town Hall Meeting, on Climate Change

Statement of Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director for Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Don’t be fooled if you see news stories about a rally in Houston today opposing federal climate change legislation. It’s just an industry-organized ploy designed to scuttle lawmakers’ attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, the industry just wants to protect its profits.

The rally, attended by approximately 2,500 people, was organized by Energy Citizens, an astroturf alliance funded primarily by the American Petroleum Institute (API). We know this is a fake grassroots group because on Friday, Greenpeace uncovered an internal memo in which API asked member companies and groups to help recruit employees, retirees, vendors and contractors to attend this and 21 other rallies in key congressional districts. Today’s event was the first of these orchestrated events, more company picnic than town hall meeting, and gives us a glimpse into what future events will look like.

Average citizens were barred from entering today’s rally. The only people allowed in were energy company employees, who were bused in and who had to show company ID to attend. Unable to organize a legitimate grassroots campaign, Big Oil and its corporate allies have bought one. 

API and its partners, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, have bought a fake grassroots campaign because they don’t have the facts or public opinion on their side. The most recent Texas Lyceum poll shows that more Texans support limits on greenhouse gases emitted by corporations than oppose them. Respondents to the Houston Area Survey held the same opinion, even if it meant that electricity rates would rise.

We have our concerns about the current version of federal climate legislation, which we believe gives far too much to the fossil fuel industries. For example, oil companies receive $2 billion worth of free allowances under the Waxman-Markey climate change bill and are asking for even more.

But contrary to the complaints of “Energy Citizens” that climate legislation will be a job killer, studies done by the Natural Resources Defense Council have shown that Waxman-Markey, even in its current, weakened form, would still create 1.7 million green jobs, 153,000 of which would be in Texas. A more robust climate bill could be even more transformative.

Houston has always been an energy city, but it doesn’t have to remain a polluting city. Houston can maintain its place as the energy capital of America while simultaneously creating new clean energy industries and jobs.

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