Greenpeace denounces (in astroturf) US big oil’s dirty tricks campaign

Press release - 18 August, 2009
Greenpeace activists today used astroturf to spell out "CLIMATE FRAUD, FUNDED BY BIG OIL" with logos of oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron outside the offices of the American Petroleum Institute (API) in Washington.

The message was in protest against the US oil industry's secret plans to have oil workers attend anti US climate action rallies masquerading as concerned "energy citizens," known as "astroturf" campaigning (1).

The API memo, leaked to Greenpeace last week, called on the CEOs of some of the world's biggest oil companies to "indicate to your company leadership your strong support for employee participation in the rallies." The API's President, Jack Gerard, further warns the world's oil barons to treat the memo as "sensitive," arguing that "we don't want our critics to know our game plan" (2)

The API memo and the rallies are in direct contradiction to many of its members' stated support for "cap and trade" climate legislation in the US. Not only that, but the API was citing false economic statistics to back its campaign.  

"Dirty oil's dirty tricks make a mockery of public debate on climate action. We need to focus on the environmental top line and not the oil industry's bottom line. Oil workers need to be offered new employment opportunities based on a green energy revolution and not frightened into attending these bogus "energy citizen' rallies," said Melanie Francis, climate campaigner with Greenpeace international.

"The CEOs and Presidents of API member companies like ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, General Electric and others must publicly denounce these dirty tricks. They must make clear to Governments their support for strong climate action at the upcoming UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen." (3)

So far this year, over USD 82m has been spent on corporate lobbying, not only by the oil industry, but also big coal and gas companies across the US.

"Government climate and energy policy must be based on climate science and the genuine expression of public opinion, not vested interests," concluded Francis.  

Greenpeace international Contacts: Cindy Baxter: +31 646 17 332

Climate campaigner Melanie Francis: +31 653 819 121

Photos available at Greenpeace International Photo Desk: +44 207 865 8230 or +44 (0) 7801 337 683

Notes: (1)    The API campaign has been called an "astroturf" campaign, ie one which purports to represent the grass roots, but instead represents big industry.  Recent scandals have emerged in recent weeks of similar tactics being employed by the pharmaceutical industry campaigning against US health reform.

(2)  The memo can be seen here