This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
Energy Citizens is a front group backed by the American Petroleum Institute, the main trade group and lobbying arm of the oil industry, to fight climate change legislation currently working its way through Congress. The official website describes the group as 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." A look at the participating organizations, however, shows a long list of oil, coal, and transportation interests.
Pre-2012 election ads and PR campaign
In January, 2012, Energy Citizens launched a new national ad campaign in advance of the 2012 elections to try and make it sound like public support exists for increased drilling. The print and TV ads, coordinated by the Edelman PR firm, were titled "I'm an Energy Voter." They feature supposedly average people looking into the camera and saying "I vote ...for American domestic energy " and promoting the industry's goals of opening up more land to oil and gas drilling. The ads linked increasing drilling to job creation, economic prosperity and national energy security, and drive people to the website Vote4Energy.org. The homepage of the website gave no indication that Energy Citizens is a creation of the oil industry. API CEO Jack Gerard insisted the effort is "not an ad campaign...It's a conversation with the American people." But when API put out a casting call to recruit volunteers to star in the commercial, a Greenpeace activist showed up. When he started to read his lines, he veered off-script and began to denounce the "lies and influence peddling" of the oil industry and he was quickly shown the door. The incident gave environmental groups advance knowledge of the industry's campaign, allowing the environmental advocacy group PolluterWatch to launch a spoof ad mocking the campaign at almost exactly the same time the industry's ad campaign started. The fake ads feature actors posing as oil industry executives and saying things like, "I vote ... for spilling, um, I mean drilling in the arctic,' and "I vote for prosperous American liberty jobs for freedom." The spoof ad drives viewers to a remarkably similar-sounding and looking website, Vote-4-Energy.org that features the logo "Vote4Oil.org" and the tag line, "Polluting the Future."
Protests against climate legislation
In August 2009, Energy Citizens began organizing rallies against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House by a vote of 219-212 in June. The group describes the bill as "a badly flawed 1,427-page piece of legislation that will drive up the price of energy, deter American job creation and send jobs overseas and bring greater stress to a still struggling economy." Instead, its members "support policies that promote jobs and affordable energy for American consumers and businesses."
Hundreds of people attended its first rally in Houston. However, most were oil company employees, who were bused in at lunch time from their nearby offices. According to the New York Times, the protest was "as much a celebration of oil’s traditional role in the Texas way of life as it was a political protest against Washington’s energy policies." Rally fliers warned, "Climate change legislation being considered in Washington will cause huge economic pain and produce little environmental gain." The fliers also claim that the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill would "cost 2 million American jobs, raise gasoline and diesel prices up to $4." In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the bill would cost U.S. households "about a postage stamp a day," while the Energy Information Administration projects that annual "energy bill costs could rise between $26 per household to to $362 by 2020."
The rally was the first of about 20 the group is planning for Southern and oil-producing states to try to promote resistance to the new legislation. The rallies are planned during during August, targeting states "whose Democratic Senators aren't strong supporters of a stringent bill, such as ... Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Begich of Alaska."
Greenpeace obtained an email from API head Jack Gerard to members and allied companies. In it, Gerard urges "all API members to get involved," especially by making a "commitment to provide significant attendance" to API-organized "Energy Citizen" rallies. "API will provide the up-front resources," Gerard stresses, including by "contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups." Gerard also boasts that "our messages on Waxman-Markey-like legislation work extremely well" in opinion polls. API's messages are discredited claims that the bill will cause energy prices to soar and "lead to significant job losses." API's rally plans have underscored divisions within the oil industry. API members Shell and BP "are also members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which has supported a 'cap and trade' approach," notes the Washington Post. "Spokesmen for both companies said yesterday they would not participate in the 'Energy Citizen' rallies."
The following is a partial list of participating trade and industry organizations. The full list is available here.
- Agribusiness Council of Indiana
- Alpha Bioscience Company
- American Conservative Union
- American Highway Users Alliance
- American Trucking Associations
- American Petroleum Institute
- Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers
- Basic Energy Services
- Canoe Valley Limestone, LLC
- Coalition for Affordable American Energy
- Consumer Energy Alliance of Florida
- Dawn Trucking Company
- Florida Minerals and Chemistry Council
- Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association
- Florida Trucking Association
- Gas Analysis Service
- Hercules Oilfield Construction, Inc.
- High Desert Valve and Equipment Co.
- Hoosier Energy Forum
- Illinois Energy Forum
- Illinois Coal Association
- Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association
- Independent Petroleum Association of America
- Keystone Energy Forum
- Lane Electric Motor Service
- Lignite Energy Council
- M&R Trucking Inc.
- Michigan Manufacturers Association
- Michigan Petroleum Association
- Michigan Trucking Association
- Mid-West Truckers Association
- Missouri Energy Forum
- Moberg’s Oilfield Service
- Mr. Electric
- National Ocean Industries Association
- National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
- New Mexico Energy Forum
- North Carolina Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association
- North Dakota Energy Forum
- North Dakota Motor Carriers Association
- North Dakota Propane Gas Association
- Ohio Coal Association
- Ohio Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association
- Ohio Trucking Association
- Odessa Pumps
- Pennsylvania Coal Association
- Permian Basin Petroleum Association
- Recreation Vehicle Industry Council
- RES Coal LLC
- Robindale Energy Services, Inc.
- Rosebud Trucking Company
- Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative
- Sunbury Generation LP
- Tennessee Aircraft Co., Inc.
- Tennessee Fuel & Convenience Store Association
- Tennessee Trucking Association
- Texas Alliance of Energy Producers
- Triple S Trucking Company
- Utility Shareholders of North Dakota
- Virginia Trucking Association
- Wayne White Electric Co-Op
Email: info AT energycitizens.org
Related SourceWatch resources
- Jack Gerard, "Dear API Member Company CEO/Executive" Email to American Petroleum Institute members, August 2009. (The memo is appended to a letter from the Executive Director of Greenpeace US, Phil Radford, to Jack Gerard.)
- mikeg, "Leaked memo exposes Big Oil's plans to run an Astroturf campaign against climate legislation", Greenpeace US, August 13, 2009.
- Clifford Krauss and Jad Mouawad,"Oil Industry Backs Protests of Emissions Bill," New York Times, August 18, 2009.
- "About Energy Citizens," Energy Citizens, accessed August 2009.
- "Participating Organizations," Energy Citizens, accessed August 2009
- Anne Landman Oil Drilling Front Group Launches Astroturf Ad Campaign, PRWatch.org, January 4, 2012
- C Gibson Mock commercial undermines new Vote 4 Energy oil advertisement, Greenpeace.org, January 4, 2012
- Susan Phillips Gas and Oil Industry Group Launches National Ad Campaign for 2012 Election, StateImpact.org/National Public Radio, January 4, 2012
- "The Climate Bill," Energy Citizens, accessed August 2009
- Ian Talley, "Lobby Groups to Use Town Hall Tactics to Oppose Climate Bill", "Washington Wire" (Wall Street Journal Blog), August 11, 2009.
- David A. Fahrenthold, "Oil Group's 'Citizen' Rally Memo Stirs Debate: Firms Asked to Recruit Employees, Retirees", Washington Post, August 16, 2009.