Public Relations

Tue, 2012-07-10 10:16Steve Horn
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Oil Sands Fact Check: New API Front Group

How do you sell a rotten bag of goods? Rule number one of effective propaganda: repackage it into something seemingly less grotesque.

In that spirit, the Houston Chronicle recently reported the American Petroleum Institute (API) has created yet another front group, this one to promote tar sands crude, one of the dirtiest sources of fuel in the world, as a safe and secure energy resource.

It's name? “Oil Sands Fact Check” (OSFC).

Sat, 2012-06-16 08:00Guest
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Fracking Industry’s Answer to “Gasland”: Devised by Astroturf Lobbying Group and Political Ad Agency

This is a guest post by Ben Nelson from Public Accountability Initiative that originally appeared on LittleSis.

Truthland, a 35-minute compilation of interviews with fracking proponents, is being promoted by the oil and natural gas industry’s PR arm, Energy In Depth, as an answer to the 2010 anti-fracking film Gasland. The advertising campaign for Truthland emphasizes that it documents the concerns of “a Susquehanna County mom, dairy farmer and teacher” who is “the real deal,” as opposed to Josh Fox, the writer and director of Gasland and “a spoiled avant-garde showman from New York City,” in the words of EID's Northeast Marcellus campaign director, Tom Shepstone.

While the new film's protagonist, Shelly DePue, is indeed a farmer from rural Pennsylvania, the notion that Truthland is a depiction of her independently-planned road trip around the United States to “find out just what the truth was” became less and less believable the more we examined it. Rather, the film and its “full-scale website and social media campaign” was planned from start to finish by the natural gas industry.Even its web domain, truthlandmovie.com, was registered by industry giant Chesapeake Energy:

chkdomainregistration

Fri, 2012-05-25 10:44Steve Horn
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Public Accountability Initiative Produces New Report on SUNY Buffalo's "Shill Gas Study"

The Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) has upped the ante on DeSmogBlog's reporting on what we coined a “Shill Gas Study” recently conducted by SUNY Buffalo.

In our critique of the “study” we pointed out the fact that all of the authors and nearly the entire peer review board of the study, other than one person, was or has been connected to the oil and gas industry.

The study, published by the brand new SUNY Buffalo's Shale Resources and Society Institute and titled “Environmental Impacts During Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies,” was also, as we pointed out, based on likely purposefully flawed methodology. We wrote:

The Shale Resources and Society Institute ”study“ concluded that between Jan. 2008-Aug. 2011, ”1,844 of the [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)] violations [by the gas industry], or 62 percent, were administrative and preventative in nature. The remaining 1,144 violations, or 38 percent, were environmental in nature.”

Left out of the study is the fact that, as a May 10 Cleveland Plain Dealer report shows, a majority of wells are not even inspected in the state of Pennslyvania by the DEP. In 2009, the DEP inspected 23% of its wells, 24% in 2010 and 35% in 2011, with 84 hired inspectors to examine what grew to 69,000 wells by 2011 in the state.

Taking our reporting a step further, PAI published a study this week titled, “The UB Shale Play: Distorting the Facts about Fracking,” which offered additional critiques of the methodology of SUNY Buffalo's “study.” PAI explained in a press release:

Thu, 2012-05-17 14:19Steve Horn
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New Shill Gas Study Published by SUNY Buffalo Institute With Heavy Industry Ties

When does a study on the unconventional shale gas industry become a “shill gas study”? The quick answer: when nearly everyone writing and peer reviewing it has close ties to the industry they're purportedly doing an “objective” study on.

The newest kid on the block: a recent study published by SUNY Buffalo's Shale Resources and Society Institute, titled, ”Environmental Impacts During Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies.”

The four co-authors of the “study” all have backgrounds, directly or indirectly, in the oil and gas industry:

Tue, 2012-05-08 16:06Steve Horn
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The Guardian Exposes Fossil Funded Groups Coordinating Renewable Energy Attacks

Ever wonder why a blooming green energy industry has faced such harsh opposition? Now, as the old adage goes, “the cat's out of the bag.”

The Guardian today revealed the network of fossil-funded groups coordinating the ongoing onslaught of attacks on renewable energy, particularly wind power. A memorandum passed to The Guardian from the Checks and Balances Project details the organizations and personnel acting as ringleaders to build an astroturf echo chamber of clean energy critics.

Guardian reporter Suzanne Goldenberg writes in “Conservative thinktanks step up attacks against Obama's clean energy strategy,” 


“A number of rightwing organisations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support for solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy.”

A confidential memo seen by The Guardian and obtained by DeSmogBlog “advises using 'subversion' to build a national movement of wind farm protesters,” explained Goldenberg.

That memo was crafted by John Droz, a Senior Fellow at the American Tradition Institute (ATI).*(see update below)* ATI was the right-wing think-tank behind the lawsuit to obtain University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann's “ClimateGate” emails. 

Tue, 2012-03-27 17:16Brendan DeMelle
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Sierra Club Launches "Mr. Coal" Video Campaign to Mock Dirty Coal PR

The Sierra Club launched a funny new ”Mr. Coal“ video campaign this week in its ongoing 'Beyond Coal' effort to shut down coal plants throughout the United States.

The campaign will feature a steady stream of satirical TV commercials mocking the coal industry's incessant and incredulous claims about job creation, “clean coal,” and many other dirty PR tricks pitched by King Coal time and time again.

Feast your eyes on one of the ads below:

The Club has teamed up with Mekanism, a San Francisco, CA-based creative campaign agency, to push out these commercials.

Sun, 2011-12-11 15:32Steve Horn
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"Raising Elijah": An Interview With Ecologist and Author Sandra Steingraber

Q: In light of your new book Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, which raises the specter of raising children in troubled times, both environmentally and ecologically, are you surprised that natural gas corporations have been producing public relations and propaganda materials like coloring books (recall Talisman Energy's Terry the Fracasaurus, and Chesapeake Energy's coloring books), going into schools and giving scholarships, etc.? 

A: Not at all. This is an attempt at deflection and drawing attention away from the bad public relations problems the industry has. It is hypocritical and cynical to go into communities, do fracking (see DeSmogBlog's Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate), and then do these types of things.

For example, there are increased rates of crime, drug abuse, and motor vehicle accidents in areas in which fracking takes place. Roads in areas in which fracking is taking place are full of 18-wheelers hauling around toxic chemicals. It is a stunning move, based on all of these things.

For the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition and Chesapeake Energy’s corporate sponsorship of it, it is the ultimate case of cynicism, based on what they do on a daily basis. For them to get involved shows that they’re trying to deflect attention away from what they’re actually doing to cause these things in the first place.

The idea that they’re aligning themselves with the breast cancer movement is creepy and is like cigarette companies getting involved in fighting against cancer, while they are the ones also causing it.

Fri, 2011-12-02 13:34Steve Horn
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Smeared But Still Fighting, Cornell's Tony Ingraffea Debunks Gas Industry Myths

Cornell University Professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea made waves in April 2011 when they unveiled what is now known simply as the “Cornell Study.”

Published in a peer-reviewed letter in the academic journal Climatic Change Letters, the study revealed that, contrary to the never-ending mythology promulgated by the gas industry, unconventional (“natural”) gas, procured via the infamous hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, likely emits more greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere during its life cycle than does coal. DeSmogBlog documented the in-depth details of the Cornell Study in our report, “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate.”

Since the report was published, the Cornell Study has receieved serioius backlash from the gas industry, in particular from Energy in Depth, the industry's go-to front defensive linebackers on all things fracking related. DeSmogBlog revealed earlier this year that Energy in Depth is an industry front group created by many of the largest oil and gas companies, contrary to its preferred “mom and pop” image. 

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea wrote a must-read piece this week for CBC News, “Does the natural gas industry need a new messenger?“ 

In his article, Dr. Ingraffea discusses and debunks many key gas industry myths, which he explained “always have at least a kernel of truth, but you have to listen to the whole story, carefully, not just the kernel.”

“With decades of geopolitical influence and billions of dollars on the table, it is not surprising that the gas industry has perpetuated…myths to keep the public in the dark, regulators at bay, and the wells flowing,” Ingraffea writes.

Let's review four of the myths exploded by Dr. Ingraffea:

Fri, 2011-10-28 11:52Carol Linnitt
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Canadian Embassy Coaches Diplomats To Promote Tar Sands, Overstate Environmental Protection Efforts

The Canadian government, on the provincial and federal level, needs to tag team on tar sands public relations, according to an internal Canadian Embassy document reported on by Mike De Souza yesterday in the Financial Post. The newly released document, obtained by Environmental Defense Canada through an access to information request, details the outcome of a 2010 overseas trip taken by Alberta’s former Environment Minister Rob Renner. According to the Embassy staff who prepared the report, international investors and stakeholders feel Canada’s lack of unified tar sands advocacy leaves the world’s dirtiest source of energy vulnerable to attack.

During a week long visit to the United Kingdom, Renner heard the concerns of invested parties who suggested Alberta take the lead in a nationwide and government-directed public relations campaign to “temper negative coverage” of the tar sands. 

According to the internal report “there is a strong need for consistent (Alberta and federal government) messaging and cooperation on this file. The opponents of oilsands will find ways to exploit any lack of coherence and coordination, undermining common objectives shared by (the Canadian government) and (the Alberta government) on this issue.”
Fri, 2011-10-21 16:40Brendan DeMelle
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Gas Industry Front Group Called Out By RFK Jr Attempts To Spin Facts Yet Again

The oil and gas industry has a long history of resisting public accountability and protective standards, and generally avoiding tough questions about its practices and attacking its critics. Just yesterday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote a piece in the Huffington Post titled, “The Fracking Industry's War On The New York Times – And The Truth,” about this evasive behavior in the context of the industry’s current embrace of fracked unconventional gas and the many questions about the safety of fracking.

Kennedy (full disclosure - Bobby is my former boss and a good friend) applauded New York Times' reporter Ian Urbina for his investigative efforts in his latest installment titled, “Rush to Drill for Natural Gas Creates Conflicts With Mortgages,” part of the NY Times extensive and ongoing “Drilling Down” series on the numerous perils associated with the rush to drill for gas.

A short recap on what that story found: People have signed over a million oil and gas leases in the past decade, but the leases sometimes let gas companies use their land in environmentally risky ways. Banks are not paying attention and often don’t know about these leases, so they pass along mortgages to investors that carry undisclosed risks, which is analogous to the way that the sub-prime mortgage disaster unfolded. The conflicts between the leases and the mortgage rules are clear, verified and wide-reaching.

Infamous 'Energy in Depth' Front Group Goes on the Attack

As if on cue, the oil and gas industry demonstrated Kennedy’s point, almost instantaneously attacking Urbina, yet again. 

The fracked gas industry’s chief apologists – Energy in Depth (EID)** – which I previously revealed as a front group launched by some of the largest oil companies on the planet (despite its claims to “mom-n-pop” roots), posted a blog titled, “Lenders’ Bagels?,” desperately attempting to divert attention away from legitimate and serious questions raised by Urbina's New York Times story about the way that oil and gas leases impact mortgages. 

The EID piece is noteworthy for a couple reasons: It entirely ducks the very real conflicts that the New York Times highlighted, and it is riddled with factual inaccuracies.

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