"Vampire Memo" Reveals Coal Industry Plan for Massive Propaganda Blitz

Big coal – in the form of the National Rural Electric Association, Koch Industries, American Electric Power, the Southern Company, the National Association of Manufacturers and others are planning a major blitz against efforts to fight global warming.

The plan is a retread of a similar campaign launched in the early 1990s by coal interests. The latest version is spelled out in what is dubbed a “Vampire Memo” because it resurrects an earlier campaign which was discredited and abandoned in the mid 1990s. You can download the IREA Vampire memo here.

The “Vampire Memo” from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association(IREA) draws on the work of such industry-funded skeptics as Pat Michaels, Fred Singer, Robert Balling and Craig Idso – as well as such ideologues as Richard Lindzen and William Gray who have long been laughingstocks in the community of mainstream climate scientists. It notes that the IREA alone has paid Michaels at least $100,000 – and is soliciting more money for Michaels et al from other coal outlets. Among other initiatives, the memo notes that several of the participating companies are planning to finance a major film to counteract the influence of Al Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth.”

And, coincidentally or not, it concludes with conditions which are identical to those of President George W. Bush – that any effort to combat global warming include developing countries (specifically India and China), that all sources of CO2 be included in any such plan and that it must not be permitted to damage the US economy.

According to the memo, environmentalists' efforts to combat global warming would realize the environmentalists' “dream of an egalitarian society based on rejection of economic growth in favor of a smaller population, eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equitably.”

The memo notes that such an effort has strong allies in Washington in the form of will receive help from people like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) who has been leading a witch hunt against Dr. Michael Mann, one of the country's pre-eminent climate scientists.

The campaign is basically the resurrection of a similar campaign launched by the Western Fuels (coal) Association in the early 1990s – long before the state of climate science was mature. This current campaign, however, follows unqualified findings by more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries who reported that that there is no question that humans are changing the climate – and that the pace of climate change is accelerating at a potentially catastrophic rate. Those findings represent the conclusions of the largest and most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history.

Unfortunately, their implications threaten the survival of one of the largest industries on the planet. The coal and oil industries generate more than $1 trillion a year in commerce. By resurrecting an old and long-discredited disinformation campaign, the IREA and its allies are displaying an amazing lack of creativity.

But given the warnings of the world's leading climate scientists – that humanity has 10 years or less to avoid passing a “point of no return” – they are displaying a truly sinister disregard for us and our children. Unchecked, global warming will trash our planet and truncate our future – all because of the truly sinister and truly unconscionable pursuit of profit. This, in short, represents the triumph of greed over the most basic human instinct – that of survival.

PDF icon IREA-vampire-memo.pdf971 KB


Do we know if this memo is the real deal and not someone having some fun?

One can’t read the ABC News article you link to without pondering this vexing question - why does ABC News keep reporting that Ross Gelbspan won a Pulitzer Prize?

I agree with Roger Peilke Jr http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/index.html#000884

I agree with Peilke’s statement:

“For example, the Journal of the American Medical Association has recently clarified a policy for disclosing potential conflicts of interest in research papers. The climate community would do well to adopt this practice.”

Would be great if scientists being sponsored by energy interests disclosed potential conflicts. A piece of research countering the scientfic consensus would be put in a whole different light if it had “paid by Exxon” stamped at the top.

Funny that you should invoke the views of Dr. Roger Pielke (‘i’ before ‘e’ and all that). Amy Ridenour over at the National Centre for Public Policy Research recommended Pielke just yesterday as someone with “a more neutral view.”

That Amy: what a crack-up. Say hi for me next time you’re making policy together, and tell her how much I enjoy her blog.


A Virginia-based conservative environmental group known as the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) has accused local author and retired Boston Globe staffer Ross Gelbspan of inflating his résumé in his most recent book.

Gelbspan’s The Heat Is On: The High Stakes Battle over Earth’s Threatened Climate (Addison-Wesley) looks at how the fossil-fuel industry and its allies (including SEPP) have attempted to discredit scientific warnings about ozone depletion and global warming.

Now SEPP is trying to discredit Gelbspan, whose bio describes him as “a Pulizer Prize-winning journalist.” It issued a press release pointing out that the Globe’s 1984 Pulitzer citation, for a series on race relations in the city that Gelbspan supervised as special-projects editor, does not specifically mention Gelbspan’s name.

“Only individuals specifically named in an award citation by the Pulitzer Prize Board are recognized by this office as Pulitzer Prize winners,” Pulitzer administrator Seymour Topping wrote recently in response to a letter from SEPP. The group, in turn, issued a press release referring to Topping’s letter as “a definitive ruling in the controversy surrounding … Gelbspan.”

Yet Topping, in an interview with the Phoenix, criticized SEPP’s statement as “a distortion of my letter. My letter made no reference in any way to this individual.”

The Globe has always recognized the three editors who oversaw the 1984 series, although the Pulitzer board cited only the seven reporters whose bylines appeared. Gelbspan was prominently mentioned in the stories that appeared in the Globe the day after the Pulitzer was announced. He also received a citation from the Globe and a letter of congratulations from then-mayor Ray Flynn.

 SEPP was founded in 1990 by S. Fred Singer, an industry consultant and former government scientist who’s on the faculty of George Mason University and the University of Virginia; $5000 of its $100,000 budget comes from Exxon. Singer often writes op-ed pieces for the conservative press, including the Wall Street Journal editorial page and three publications owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon: the Washington Times and the magazines Insight and the World & I.

”[SEPP is] playing Dungeons and Dragons with my résumé,” says Gelbspan, who adds that he’ll revise his bio for the next edition of The Heat Is On. “I’m happy to identify myself as a person who conceived and edited a series that won the Pulitzer Prize.”

And as noted above – after 1984 the Pulitzer Committee’s award for Local Journalism has specified that it’s given to either an individual or a team – recognizing better how newspapers work.  They figured ths out 20 years ago.  SEPP still is pushing the misinformation.

ABC news is reporting that Intermountain paid Patrick Michaels as some kind of consultant.

Crime Does Pay Very Well in America if you are rightwinger Patrick J. Michaels TASSC Organized Crime was exposed by 46 top lawmen, states Attorney Generals in the “Firestorm” against the Tobacco Mafia Godfathers in 1998. Here’s evidence files presented in court to a FEDERAL JUDGE which passed Due Process of Law. Michaels is found in the mafia godfather’s file cabinets going back to 1989. He’s found connected to felony fraud accomplice CATO INSTITUTE by 1992. He’s found connected to SEPPtic Tank with TASSC Fred Singer as early as 1992 while Singer was still housed in Moonie offices downtown Washington, DC, planning a blitz of science hoaxes for 1993-1994. TASSC Michaels stays with his organized crime bosses and buddies right up to May 31st, 2006, never severing links or ties to other known corporate criminals.

Editors note: the rest of this comment was removed for brevity’s sake.

To set the record straight, American Electric Power is NOT involved, and would not be involved in financing a film to counteract “An Inconvenient Truth,” nor is the company involved in or supporting an effort to argue the science of global warming. We have contacted Stanley Lewandowski to let him know that the claim in his letter is incorrect.

We don’t argue the global warming science, but instead focus our energies on reducing our current greenhouse gas emissions and making investments in clean-coal generation that will reduce future greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fueled generation. As the result of our actions, we received the top score for the electric utility industry in a recent Ceres investor coalition report that ranked 100 global companies on their climate change strategies.

AEP is the first and largest U.S. utility to join the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). As a member of CCX, we committed to gradually reduce, avoid or sequester our GHG emissions by 6 percent below the average of our 1998 to 2001 emissions by 2010. Through this commitment, we will reduce or offset approximately 46 million metric tons of GHG emissions by the end of the decade even though our electrical production will be increasing.

Additionally, we are developing and deploying new technology that will reduce the emissions, including CO2, of future coal-based power generation. AEP has filed for regulatory approval in Ohio and West Virginia to build the nation’s first large, fully commercial Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC), clean-coal power plants. We also are reducing the CO2 emissions of our current coal-fueled fleet by improving plant efficiency and heat rates to reduce CO2 emissions. AEP operates some of the most efficient coal-fueled plants in the nation.

We’ve invested more than $25 million in terrestrial carbon sequestration projects and research designed to conserve and reforest sensitive area and offset more than 20 million metric tons of CO2 over the next 40 years. And, we are supporting research to develop the technology to capture and store CO2, both from IGCC and conventional coal-fueled generation. We also continue to invest in renewables, including wind generation, and support energy efficiency programs to help reduce the growth in electricity demand.

Melissa McHenry

Corporate Communications

American Electric Power

I am glad to hear that AEP is not attacking global warming science.  But AEP’s coal-burning power plants are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the world.  For years now, AEP has been near the top of the Toxics Release Inventory for the state of Ohio.  AEP acid rain has destroyed eastern forests. AEP buys coal derived from hideous mountaintop removal mining.  AEP was charged by the Justice Department with violating New Source Review laws and keeping dirty old plants online. I’m not very interested in what their publicists get paid to say.  If you’re serious, AEP, get out of the coal business.  Period.

To set the record straight, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is not planning or working with a group to conduct a “major blitz” on climate change.  The claim is inaccurate, period. 


NRECA represents more than 900 electric cooperatives in 47 states, and as you might expect, those cooperatives have a diverse set of opinions about climate change and many other issues.  To be clear, there is a consensus position adopted by our membership at our annual meeting, held in February, 2006.  You can find a copy of the resolution representing that position at http://www.nreca.coop , along with other information about cooperatives nationally. 

 Finally, Mr. Gelbspan claims that Intermountain’s memo comes from “the truly sinister and truly unconscionable pursuit of profit.”  The truth is, electric cooperatives are not-for-profit, consumer-owned entities.  Our single most important purpose is to provide reliable, safe, cost-effective electric power.  Our motive is not profit. 

-Kirk Johnson

Executive Director of Environmental Affairs

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

„„ humanity has 10 years or less to avoid passing a “point of no return” …

Really?  Have you actually READ any of the research by IPCC and other scientists? 

Why is this absurd 10 year window so often quoted in blogs like this?    It’s true that a VERY small number of scientists and alarmists suggest this ten year timeframe is “likely”, and a larger number suggest it is “possible”, but blogs like this help spread the gospel of foolhardy alarmism.   There are catastophic problems NOW in the form of hunger and disease.  Let’s fix those…FIRST!

I just read the infamous “vampire memo” which is tame by any reasonable reading.  You present it as if this company is out to lie and distort, when in fact they are simply suggesting interpretations that support their selfish needs.   Narrow perhaps, but hardly a scandalous approach.