Happy Fossil Fools Day!

by chris eaton

April 3, 2009

Did you get fooled on April Fool’s Day? Did you fool someone else? I did. In fact, I joined folks from all over the world to put one over on the fossil fuels industry. Every day the fossil fuels industry reaps huge profits from climate change-causing oil and coal. That’s why we made April 1st Fossil Fool’s Day.

In NYC, I joined about 20 other activists to stage a “Coal Going Out of Business Sale” at the headquarters of coal power plant developer and funder, Sithe Global. It was tons of fun pretending to put on a sale and spread the word that “All Coal Must Go!” Coal is responsible for a third of global warming C02 emissions in the U.S. And renewable energy produces more jobs per dollar invested. Doesn’t take a fool to figure out that equation.

At the same time, Greenpeace activists in New Mexico were staging an event at a Navajo encampment close to where Sithe Global wants to build a new pollution-spewing coal plant. The Navajo activist group Dooda Desert Rock has been working for three years to stop construction of the plant.

But more than just having fun, we know we had a real impact on Sithe. Their CEO, Bruce J. Wrobe, came out and tried to defend himself. What happened next was pure comedy in the classic Fossil Fools Day tradition. Here’s how Eva Erbskorn, Greenpeace field organizer, describes what went down:

Believe it or not, my new friend Bruce is an environmentalist and is also extremely concerned about poverty. Coal plants, like the one his company is going to build in New Mexico, are going to help the poor, he argues. Good thing Joe Smyth [Greenpeace field organizer in NM] was on call to get Elouise Brown, the President of Dooda Desert Rock, a woman who has dedicated her life to fighting Sithe’s proposed Desert Rock Plant, on the phone to deliver a message straight from the people who live there. Seems they DON’T actually think the plant will help their life. Interesting.

I asked Bruce if he’d be willing to take a call from Elouise, he boasted and said heck golly, he’d even have lunch with her next time he was out there. I pulled a tabling move (you know, where you put the clipboard in their hands before they know what happened?) with my cellphone. He said, "Oh well I’m not going to call her RIGHT now." And I said, "No no, she’s already on the line." So the CEO of Sithe disappears with my Blackberry for 30 minutes to get the same message we were sending, only now he was getting it straight from the source.

The event wrapped up just as the police were stopping by to tell us to disperse. Bruce rejoined our conversation claiming that CCS is obviously too expensive and impossible, and the Tennessee ash spill shouldn’t be repeated — we agreed on that. Unfortunately he thinks coal can burn clean even without CCS and that global warming isn’t real. Big surprise. The only time he looked embarrassed was when I shook his hand and said "Happy Fossil Fool’s Day!" as he left.


While we were standing up to Sithe Global’s fossil foolery in New York and New Mexico, Greenpeace members and other activists across the world were raising awareness about breaking our addiction to fossil fuels. Check out some of their photos below.

In San Francisco, even cavemen know coal is bad:

And in Boston, activists staged a Clean Coal Circus. They even had a dunk tank were you could soak King Coal if you hit the target.

All in all, it was a fun day fooling around for the climate.

(photo credits for New York, San Fancisco and Boston go to Michael Nagle, Hanna Quevedo, and Daren Fiske respectively)

By chris eaton

chris is the Senior Digital Campaigns Manager at Greenpeace USA. He's passionate about building movements and connecting change makers through digital storytelling. Follow him on Twitter at @chr15_eat0n.

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