Twenty four hours before the first presidential debate, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a front group for the coal industry, has launched a new ad as part of a $35 million dollar PR campaign.
The new ad, now playing on television stations around the country, is typical of the coal industry propaganda prominent in this year's presidential election. Candidate Mitt Romney has mirrored coal industry messaging, releasing political ads decrying President Obama's"war on coal" and announcing "I like coal" during the first presidential debate.
A Greenpeace investigation that looked in to the history of coal funded advertising has revealed that the coal industry has been using the same scare tactics designed to limit regulation since the 1970's, when the Clean Air Act and Acid Rain legislation forced the industry to invest in a modicum of environmental protection, like scrubbers for smokestacks.
In this new campaign, Big Coal’s PR flaks at ACCCE have recycled the same tactics of attacking the EPA, promoting the myth of clean coal, threatening economic catastrophe, and stoking nationalist fears that the industry has used for decades.
ACCCE’s newest ad, released October, 2:
With emotive piano riffs and sweeping shots of baseball diamonds for backdrop, the narrator in ACCCE’s latest creation praises the “proven clean coal technologies that have resulted from a can do attitude,” with all the sappy sincerity of a political ad. The ad continues with a stern warning that “heavy handed EPA regulation” and “fads” like renewable energy are “giving those countries who are wisely increasing their reliance on coal an economic advantage,” while pictures of the great Wall of China scroll over the screen.
ACCCE’s brand new $35 million dollar ad campaign relies on the myth of clean coal, attacks on EPA, and an appeal to xenophobia…sound familiar? It should.
Take this other recent ad by the coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) attacking the EPA:
In this 2012 ad a narrator warns that EPA regulations designed to reduce the amount of mercury released by coal fired power plants will “throw even more of us out of work.” The ad makes no mention of the dangers of mercury, a pervasive toxin that causes serious mental and physical issues, especially in children and pregnant women. However it does make one of the most common coal industry threats – that people must choose between the environment and a healthy economy.
Compare the bull riding bombast in the ad above to this 1974 ad, attacking the Clean Air Act:
The ad claims that the Clean Air Act, a seminal piece of legislation that has drastically reduced air pollution and saved countless lives, will cause “galloping unemployment.” Regulate coal – lose your job.
As you can see from these similar ads, using economic threats to scare people away from pollution regulation has been a tactic of the coal industry for a long, long time. (FYI – Gross Domestic Product has tripled since the Clean Air Act was passed.)
Are you scared yet?
Well how bout some good old fashioned xenophobia:
This 2007 ad reminds us that regulating coal makes dictators smile, because coal regulations force America to buy natural gas from unfriendly foreigners. Yep, having clean air and water plays right in to Hugo Chavez’s hand. Who knew?
But making autocrats grin seems trivial compared to the threats outlined in this 1974 ad:
According to American Electric Power, (which is now a major funder of ACCCE) legislation to stop acid rain will result in middle-eastern petro-princes buying all of America’s coal. The ad says “The middle east oil companies are fast capturing the world’s money. There isn’t much they’re incapable of buying. So it could happen.” Almost as chauvinist as it is logically incongruous, this ad underscores the coal industry’s reliance on completely baseless claims designed to scare legislators and the public into inaction.
Next they will be telling us that attempts to measure air pollution will make the lights go out and we won’t be able to watch TV!
Which they did in 1974:
This ad (right) warns us that the EPA’s plan to measure pollution at the top of coal smoke stacks would shut down power generation, causing blackouts. Terrifying! Except the EPA went ahead and measured pollution from the top of the coal stacks, and there were no blackouts due to EPA regulation in 1975, or since.
So what does that tell us about claims by pro-coal politicians that EPA regulations will cause blackouts this year in 2012? Senate republicans claim that “EPA’s train wreck of new regulations on energy providers will destroy jobs, raise electricity prices, threaten the reliability of the electric grid, and increase the chance of blackouts.” Should we believe them? Or is this just one more lie from a fear mongering industry that has been making the same idle threats for almost four decades?
Most people have never heard of the DC lobbying and public relations firm DCI Group. When DCI Group does it’s job right, most people never do. That’s because DCI is a prime example what a highly effective, professional, and well-funded Public Relations firm can do. Are you a cigarette company that wants grassroots support for cigarette smoking? DCI can do that. Are you an Indonesian timber conglomerate that wants the “freedom” to sell illegal rainforest pulp? DCI can enlist thousands of liberty-lovin Americans to protect that freedom. Do you want people mobilized, in the streets, demanding that the government relax pollution laws and other regulations on your coal or oil corporation? DCI actually did that. It was called the Tea party.
1 DCI Group and Tobacco
Addictive, deadly, and rich, the tobacco industry is the perfect client for a crack PR team like DCI Group.
During the early days of tobacco regulation in the 1980’s, tobacco corporations were spending millions of dollars to convince Americans that tobacco really wasn’t that bad for them, and regulating tobacco was an infringement on the god given rights of every American.
Masterminding that message was DCI Groups founders, Doug Goodyear and Tom Synhorst, who were two of the tobacco PR men involved in the early days of “tobacco control opposition.”
Using a strategy DCI Group would repeat and hone in the coming decades, PR admen like Goodyear and Synhorst pioneered couching a pro-corporate agenda, in this case tobacco’s, in terms of rights, liberties and freedoms. They started “smokers rights groups,” whose anti-regulatory, pro-business bent is right at home in today’s Tea Party messaging. DCI Group has maintained those close ties through the years, and currently lobby for Altria (Philip Morris).
2 DCI Group and the start of the Tea Party
A recently released academic study has traced the origins of the Tea Party back to its roots. The popular creation myth of the Tea Party, in which a news anchor, fed up with the federal governments creeping socialism demands an uprising - a la Network - is only part of the story. In fact, PR agencies working for tobacco, and oil, and coal corporations had been pushing for a Tea Party for decades, and had even registered the websites and domain names under the name Tea Party, 6 years before president Obama’s election.
From the study:
“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda.”
With the help of the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, DCI Group partner Dan Combs built “Citizens for a Sound Economy,”(CSE) during the 1990’s, right as the tobacco industry was busted for lying about the dangers of smoking. CSE’s self-described mission was "to fight for less government, lower taxes, and less regulation," which included opposing tobacco laws and pollution regulation on the oil industry.
3 DCI Group and Americans For Prosperity/ Freedomworks
In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) split like a procreative amoebae into Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, the two largest and most powerful Tea Party organizations. AfP and Freedomworks employ hundreds of Tea Party organizers all over the country, and pay for rallies, promotional materials, and conventions.
DCI Group, and it’s alias FLS Connect, are currently the highest paid consultants for AFP and Freedomworks. DCI carefully crafts messaging for the Tea Party behemoths, and does extensive polling to make sure their pro-corporate, free-market PR is hitting the mark. Just as they directed anti-tax advocates to do big-tobacco and big-oil’s work through Citizens for a Sound Economy, DCI Group is using the Tea Party in the service of corporate America.
4 DCI Group and Climate Change Denial
DCI Group was a pioneer of brazen denial of scientific evidence while working for tobacco giants. They applied the same technique of creating fake science, misrepresenting impacts, and attacking legitimate scientists to their campaign denying the existence of climate change.
At the behest of major oil corporation and DCI Group client ExxonMobil, DCI became a hotbed of climate change science attacks, training and funding outspoken climate change deniers. DCI Group created and ran Tech Central Station, a platform for climate science denial. Tech Central Station was so egregiously disingenuous about climate science that a Senatorial committee asked ExxonMobil to stop funding it, which Exxon did in 2006.
However, a slap from the Senate did not stop DCI Group from continuing to specialize in anti-climate science messaging. DCI Group continues to hire and train professional climate change deniers. One such DCI Group alumnus, Andrea Saul, became candidate Mitt Romney’s press secretary during the 2012 presidential election, and helped push Romney’s anti-climate science positions. While at DCI, she wrote and distributed pres releases attacking legitimate climate science. Another DCI Group alumnus, Bob Paduchik, is now a Vice President of the coal front group called Americans for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).
5 DCI Group and Foreign Criminal Entities
DCI specializes in manipulating America’s white, conservative class, using loaded buzzwords like “freedom,” and “liberty,” and couching a corporate agenda of reduced regulation as “small government.” As it turns out, this type of manipulation is an old shtick, predating the Tea Party.
And DCI Group does this for many clients, including an Indonesian timber company responsible for illegal deforestation of rainforests in southeast Asia. DCI helped create a front group for Asia Pulp and Paper, which has destroyed millions of miles of endangered rainforest in Indonesia. They found a self described “tea party patriot” to lead the effort, who made tea party themed speeches that advocated for the Indonesian paper corporation, APP.
Chart Source: New York Times
Secret Climate Denial Finance: Koch and Others Hide tens of Millions through Donors Trust & Donors Capital Fund
For those familiar with the effort of ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers to bankroll a network of organizations denying basic climate science, a new article in the Guardian offers some revelatory information on the secret funding network that outweighs even top denier sugar daddies like Koch and Exxon.
Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, based out of the DC suburb of Alexandria, VA, have sent $118 million to the 'climate denial machine' from 2002-2010, according to a Greenpeace analysis featured in the Guardian. The graph above, from the article, illustrates the significance of this money as compared to giants like Koch and Exxon.
Of course, the Koch brothers are part of the Donors Trust network, using the DONORS groups to hide their own giving to a variety of corporate front groups. Because of the obscurity provided by DONORS, we don't know exactly who is getting exactly how much of the Koch payments to Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.
An accompanying article by the Guardian shows how the DONORS groups provide large portions of organisations' entire budgets, such as the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, which even among climate deniers is notably anti-scientific.
The support helped the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (Cfact), expand from $600,000 to $3m annual operation. In 2010, Cfact received nearly half of its budget from those anonymous donors, the records show.
The group's most visible product is the website, Climate Depot, a contrarian news source run by Marc Morano. Climate Depot sees itself as the rapid reaction force of the anti-climate cause. On the morning after Obama's state of the union address, Morano put out a point by point rebuttal to the section on climate change.
CFACT is among over a dozen organizations that get 30%-70% of their total budgets from the two DONORS groups. As we reported on PolluterWatch last October using 2010 IRS tax filings:
- Americans For Prosperity Foundation got $7.6 million from DONORS groups in 2010, 43% of its budget. AFP Foundation is chaired by David Koch and has received millions in direct funding from Koch foundations since the Koch brothers founded it.
- Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) got $1.3 million from DONORS in 2010, 45% of its budget.
- Cornwall Alliance (through the James Partnership) got $339,500 from DONORS in 2010, 75% of its budget.
- Heartland Institute got $1.6 million from DONORS in 2010, 27% of it's budget, which came from Chicago billionaire Barre Seid (see p. 67).
- State Policy Network got 36% of its 2010 budget ($4.8 million) from DONORS. SPN members include just about every climate-denying organization and every conservative think tank in the country, including AFP and Heartland.
Koch is clearly embarrassed by the negative publicity (see press roundup below). Koch "Facts," the company's PR website that lashes back at unfavorable reporting on Koch, attempted to respond to the flood of press on the DONORS groups without mentioning them by name. Similarly, Donors Trust president Whitney Ball has done her best to keep Donors Trust and Koch from being synonymous. To be clear--they are not, but the Kochs and their operatives are key players in the Donors network, with people like Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute and Steven Hayward of the Pacific Research Institute helping oversee DONORS operations, including millions in funding to their own organizations.
Greenpeace has more coming on Donors Trust, Donors Capital Fund, Koch Industries and the ongoing misinformation pumping out of the climate denial machine. Stay tuned. Key articles on Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund:
- John Mashey/DeSmogBlog report: Fakery 2: More Funny Finances, Free Of Tax
- The Guardian: Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial think tanks
- The Guardian: How Donors Trust distributed millions to anti-climate groups
- Mother Jones: Donors Trust, The Right's Dark-Money ATM, Paid Out $30 Million in 2011
- Mother Jones: Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement
- Center for Public Integrity: Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states
- International Business Times: Koch Family Uses Fund To Channel Millions To Anti-Climate Science Groups: Report
- U.K. Daily Mail: Revealed: Secretive funding organization 'providing millions to climate change counter-movement on behalf of fossil fuel industry'
- The Independent: Billionaires Secretly Fund Attacks on Climate Science
- PBS FRONTLINE: Climate of Doubt interview with Drexel University's Robert Brulle
When Greenpeace first began focussing on ExxonMobil's funding of climate denial, its CEO and Chairman was arch denier Lee Raymond.
Raymond had spent years - and millions - on denying the science of climate change, both in funding right wing think tanks and scientists, and in his role as chair of the American Petroleum Institute's climate change committee. A 1998 document revealed ExxonMobil plotting with some of those think tanks to challenge climate science.
For years, Exxon had paid for expensive, weekly "Opinion Advertorials" on the New York Times opinion pages challenging the science (see image).
When Raymond stepped down and Rex Tillerson took over in 2006, we hoped the worst was over. That year, ExxonMobil dropped its funding of the Competitive Enterprise Institute that ran the charmingly titled "Cooler Heads Coalition". The final straw for ExxonMobil was the CEI's "C02 is life" advert (this links to an annotated version, but it's the original ad) positing that we couldn't get enough of the stuff.
In dropping the CEI, ExxonMobil told everyone it had been "misunderstood" on its stance on climate change - and the media were led to believe that this tiger had changed its stripes. Its "Corporate Responsibility report" that year stated it was dropping its funding of a few think tanks because their "‘position on climate change diverted attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner."
And yet, the company continued to fund deniers and does to this day. As of May last year, Exxon has poured a total of $26,061,235 into the campaign against climate denial. While the funding in 2010 was just above $1 million, well down from its 2005 peak of $3.478 million, in 2010 Exxon started funding one of the think tanks that it had dropped and arguably the first off the blocks in the climate denial campaign, the George C Marshall Institute. The Koch brothers have taken up where Exxon left off, but its legacy is clear.
But yesterday, Tillerson http://www.cfr.org/united-states/new-north-american-energy-paradigm-resh... ">stepped right back into Raymond's old shoes, revealing that the company truly hasn't changed its thinking. While he doesn't disagree with the fact that climate change is happening, he thinks we can adapt to it.
The public is illiterate on science, and it's Exxon's job to fill in the gaps for everyone, apparently. We just have to trust them as they know best (?).
Climate change, he says, is a “great challenge,” but it could be solved by adapting to risks such as higher sea levels and changing conditions for agriculture.
“There are much more pressing priorities that we, as a human race, need to deal with.”
“Increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere will have a warming impact,” “As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this,” he said. “It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”
While Tillerson has accepted the science of climate change, saying we can all adapt is no different. It's the same old obfuscation we have been seeing from this company, and from the denier groups it's been funding. It's all about ExxonMobil being able to continue to pump fossil fuels out of the ground - and into the sky, and its profits from doing so. Which is why Tillerson says that fracking science is also "solid"/
The science on the impacts shows us that we will NOT be able to adapt.
Tillerson's comments remind me of a US delegate, J.R.Spradley, way back in 1990 when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was being negotiated. When confronted by the Bangladeshi delegation about the impacts of sea level rise, he told them: "the situation is not a disaster; it is merely a change. The area won't have disappeared; it will just be underwater. Where you now have cows, you will have fish."
Tillerson says that the world’s poorest residents “don’t even have access to fossil fuels to burn. They’d love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably.”
All the predictions on the impacts of climate change point to the world's poorest bearing the brunt of the worst impacts. The quality of life for small island states who could lose their entire nations will cease to exist as they know it.
But right now, much closer to home, Colorado's on fire. I'm sure Tillerson's words will be welcomed by residents forced to flee from the flames.
If we don't change tack, we are currently heading to a 3.5degC temperature rise. This infographic from the scientists at the Climate Action Tracker gives us a clear outline of what we can expect.
It seems that what we can also continue to expect is business as usual from ExxonMobil so that it can continue its own business as usual.
What it also shows is that a tiger really cannot change its stripes.
The fossil fuel industry knows that its time is running out. While their influence and profits are still enormous, we can see from increasing shifts to unconventional extraction methods--hydraulic fracturing, deepwater drilling, tar sands mining, and other examples--that easily accessible fossil fuels are dwindling. That's a pretty clear indicator that they will not last indefinitely, before even considering how burning dirty fuel to the last particle will cook the Earth, not to mention the casualties along the way. You know, like the Gulf of Mexico, or the people of the Athabasca watershed, or those whose wells are now full of poisoned [PDF] or flammable water.
Unfortunately, for people who care about the future of humanity and the vast variety of species were are dragging to extinction [PDF] through the climate crisis, profit is the key factor for fossil fuel barons and their influence peddlers. With time running out and industry insiders well aware of it, Big Fossil is focusing on how to preserve itself for as long as possible. Creating a public relations war over the seriousness of global climate disruption has been the keystone tactic in this process.
Companies recognize the benefits of investing in public doubt, and unfathomable sums have been dumped into this effort across the board, whether through the grossly unapologetic Koch Industries or ExxonMobil, or more slyly by the likes of Chevron or Duke Energy. Industry misinformation is then pushed to the public through astroturf front groups (like the Koch-funded and -founded Americans for Prosperity), through advertising campaigns (like those run by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity), and by hiring "scientists" or "experts" with that special lack of integrity and credibility that allows a person to earn money at the expense of a far, far broader population. As this happens, Congress and federal offices are constantly being filled with polluter servants instead of public servants, taking massive campaign donations or cutting career deals in order to further enrich Polluters, Inc.
As if the battle wasn't uphill enough, we now have witnessed the first round of elections post-Citizens United, in which powerhouses like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raised tens of millions of dollars from the corporate titans it serves and funneled the money into attack ads, sending a warning message to politicians who aren't bending over backwards for big business, if not delivering a crippling blow to their election campaigns.
Now wouldn't be a bad time to look up the definition of "democracy." Google it now, before net neutrality is a thing of the past.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an astroturf front for a group of big coal, railroads and power companies, is on tour with a 42-foot "mobile classroom" bus. The bus is mostly traveling in coal communities throughout West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, winding its way through university campuses and community gatherings.
The bus features exhibits demonstrating why coal is getting cleaner and reminds the locals that without clean coal, your $9 pizza will cost $19. Scientific proof of coal's cleanliness comes in the form of a video interview with Dr. David Bayless, director of the industry-sponsored Ohio Coal Research Center.
The bus isn't the first of ACCCE's educational campaigns. Last year, the coalition targeted kids with coloring books that featured lumps of coal getting "clean" in the shower, and then ended the year with little coal Christmas carolers.
Yet another tentacle of the "Kochtopus", the shadowy assemblage of front groups that helped kill this year's cap and trade bill, is attempting to strangle regional clean energy initiatives on the East and West Coasts. The Kochtopus is a network of astroturf groups funded by the Koch brothers, who have made billions of dollars from Koch Industries, an enormous dirty energy corporation.
Not content with retarding progress on climate change at the federal level, industry-funded astroturf groups have taken aim at a regional cap-and-trade system in New York and the nation's most ambitious state clean energy program in California.
This time it is the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity that is protecting the billionaire brothers' ability to pollute. Assisted by a conglomeration of 58 front groups called the State Policy Network, AFP and its allies have been clouding out the facts on climate change with lies and confusion.
Despite the amusing name, the Kochtopus is a very sophisticated and calculated propaganda apparatus that has seriously manipulated public opinion to the detriment of the American people and the planet. The front groups that comprise it have proven very effective to their corporate puppeteers, who will continue to fund and exploit them to prevent much needed regulation of the dirty energy industry. These groups must be recognized as pawns and charlatans before they further delay action against catastrophic global warming.
For more on this story, see the Huffington Post article by Robert Eshelman