This morning, several Greenpeace activists laid down some astroturf (the real kind) in front of the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the American Petroleum Institute (API), and erected a sign that read "CLIMATE FRAUD, FUNDED BY BIG OIL." The sign and astroturf were also accompanied by the logos of oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron, all of which are members of API.



The action was meant to protest the US oil industry’s plans to have oil company employees attend anti-US climate action rallies while masquerading as concerned “Energy Citizens.” This Energy Citizens campaign is an attempt to use a tactic known as “astroturfing,” in which they give the appearance of a genuine grassroots movement while hiding the fact that it is actually a well-funded effort coordinated by large multinational corporations with a vested interest in preventing any new regulations of their dirty energy business.

The astroturf got laid pretty thick today in my hometown, Houston, where the first Energy Citizens rally occurred (showing just how non-grassroots this campaign is, Chevron apparently bussed many of its employees to the event).

The API memo (available here, along with Greenpeace's response to API), leaked to colleagues of mine here at 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.”

Had it not been for the leaked memo, these Energy Citizens events might have been just another of Big Oil’s dirty tricks intended to thwart real public debate on global warming policy. But by recognizing what we’re up against and mobilizing a response, we can ensure that the debate about how best to kickstart a clean energy revolution is not sullied by purveyors of dirty energy.

The concern here absolutely needs to be what’s best for the environment, not what’s best for the oil industry’s bottom line. Global warming is the most pressing environmental crisis of our time. But that doesn’t phase Big Oil, or many other dirty energy providers, for that matter. So far this year, over  $82 million has been spent on corporate lobbyists to argue against climate change legislation, not only by Big Oil, but also by King Coal and gas companies across the US.

Whether you support the Waxman-Markey legislation or not, it is imperative that you get involved, get vocal, and be part of the real grassroots movement calling for science-based policies to deal with the severity of the climate crisis. Let’s make sure Big Oil’s employees are offered new employment opportunities as part of a green energy revolution so that they no longer have to fear for their job if they refuse to attend some bogus “Energy Citizen” rally.