Oil Industry Steps Up Astroturf Efforts For 2012 Election

The oil industry has put their astroturf and lobbying efforts into overdrive over the last few months, preparing for a bitter fight in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. In addition to their usual work of pushing for increased domestic oil production and the opening of federal lands for oil drilling, the industry is working around the clock to convince lawmakers to sign off on the Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport crude tar sand oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

ThinkProgress reporter Lee Fang has helped uncover some of the oil industry’s recent astroturf tactics at townhall meetings across the country. At a separate townhall event in Iowa, Republicans Rick Santorum and Herman Cain were asked questions by “activists” planted by the industry-funded group the Iowa Energy Forum. From Fang’s report:

ThinkProgress witnessed the Iowa Energy Forum in action on a recent reporting trip. At a local Republican event at the Pizza Ranch buffet, a man affiliated with the group pressed Rick Santorum to commit to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline as another person with the group videotaped the exchange. The same dynamic happened again later that week at a Tea Party event with Herman Cain.

We came across a Youtube account affiliated with the Iowa Energy Forum. In addition to hosting an infomercial from the American Petroleum Institue, the trade association sponsoring the Forum, the channel features videos of astroturfed questions planted with GOP presidential candidates like Cain, Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich. Many of the exchanges appear as authentic dialogue between a candidate and a regular Iowan. However, the questions are part of a well-crafted effort by oil lobbyists steer, and to some extent control, the GOP primary.

(Watch a compilation of planted questions at town hall events here.)

Of course, Republican candidates are more than willing participants in the oil industry’s outreach efforts. Some of the oil industry’s lobbyists behind the Iowa Energy Forum effort double as consultants to the Pawlenty campaign. Cain has said that he would literally appoint the CEO of Shell Oil to set oil industry regulations at the EPA. And as ThinkProgress discovered, the American Petroleum Institute maintains an official partnership with Gingrich’s 527 attack group, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF).

The Des Moines Register has pointed out that on the website of the Iowa Energy Forum, the fine print reveals that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is their main sponsor.

But the oil industry isn’t just limiting themselves to townhall meetings – they have also embraced social media as a means to manipulate public opinion. Rainforest Action Network blog The Understory and Mother Jones are reporting that oil industry insiders are creating fake Twitter accounts to tout the need for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

From The Understory:

Followers of the #tarsands hashtag on Twitter may have noticed a strange spike in posts yesterday morning. Within three minutes, fifteen accounts (the list has since grown) all posted the message “#tarsands the truth is out! [link]” linking to API’s web page about oil sands. Then came another post from the same accounts, this time linking to the Nebraska Energy Forum, one of 26 state-based-front-groups sponsored by API in the lead up to the 2012 election. Then a flurry of posts late last night from those same accounts, all linking to a post on “publicaffairsinformant.com” touting KeystoneXL and linking back to the Nebraska Energy Forum.

As we previously reported, API president Jack Gerard has made it clear that he wants to have an oil lobbyist placed in every Congressional district in America. And from the looks of things, he’s doing his best to fulfill that mission for the oil industry.


It just absolutely blows me away, that any country would be stupid enough, to accept the dirty tar sands filthy oil.

There are deformed fish, in Athabasca Lake. The mighty Athabasca River has, mercury, heavy metals, and cancer causing agents in it. The huge Athabasca watershed is poisoned. Wildlife who depend on the river, will perish. Another flock of ducks died from, landing in the filthy sludge. Our beloved Whooping Cranes, fly right over the tar sands. We can only pray, they don’t decide to land in the dirty crud. The caribou are dying. There is bitumen under the Boreal Forests, they will destroy the forests, to get to the bitumen. A First Nations village, is dying of cancer. Even the very rare cancer, of exposure to petroleum. Even, the people dying from the tar sands oil, don’t count.

Scientists have found acid in the ocean, right up to the shores of BC. They were stunned, they though the acid was out in the deep. The acid will eat the shell’s off the crustaceans. The coral is bleaching white. Scientists say, the Great Barrier Reef, will die within twenty years. Our oceans are dying. We need to start using renewable energy, now.

Harper doesn’t care about, the citizens, health care, education, or anything else, that isn’t linked to his grandiose plans. Harper is rabid, to become an energy giant. He wants to play God and bask in his power and glory. He will certainly pollute the entire planet, to achieve his glory. Other country’s politicians, can’t tolerate Harper. They call him, a petty gasbag. He is stubborn, arrogant, and impossible to work with.

We have to stop the abuse of this planet. If we don’t get rid of fossil fuels. The planet will get rid of us.

Wow … so much hysteria and wild disinformation packed into one comment.
One doesn’t even know where to start.

So you dispute that the Athabasca River is contaminated, and the tar sands are poisoning fish, wildlife and humans, as documented by Schindler et al. and other researchers, and was later affirmed by the government who backtracked on their previous statements where they said that the contamination was already in the waterway?

The Kelly et al (2010) paper (‘Schindler’) about the heavy metal contamination is a very misleading study. It is not science; it is a diatribe. The moment in a scientist’s life when he begins to believe his own hypothesis, he’s a dead duck.

The river erodes the oil sand formations and has done so for millennia. How can anyone distinguish natural bleeding of metals from the naturally eroded river bottom and runoff from the industry which protects the installations with dikes? The higher values downstream cited in the study could be due to the location of the plants where the strip ratio is lowest, and the economics are best. We cannot tell from the results of the study. If there were a geologic map it might be possible to distinguish the source of the ‘toxic’ metals.

After 30 years of mining the total footprint of the Alberta resource is 0.072% (72/10,000) of the Province of Alberta (source: Pembina Foundation).

The CO2 footprint, if you understand it, is 4% of Canada’s 2% contribution to the 2% that has been attributed to man-made CO2 exhaust. That amounts to 0.000016% of atmospheric CO2 of 390 ppm or, wait for it, 6 parts per billion. The 6 ppb is gratefully absorbed by the boreal forest as plant food.

Next time you drive a car or ride a bike on blacktop roads, think of the importance of the petroleum industry to the prosperity of man and please be thankful.

Oooh! Clever!

Only problem is, those aren’t “wild claims”. They are merely refutations of wild claims.

It’s a fairly obvious distinction. Well, obvious to someone who’s not a bitter leftist ideologue with a room-temperature IQ, that is.

“ThinkProgress reporter … ”


A better title for this post would be:

“George Soros Steps Up Leftist “Environmental” Agitprop For 2012 Election”


- Project of the American Progress Action Fund, a “sister advocacy organization” of the Center for American Progress (CAP) run by former Clinton adviser John Podesta
- Internet website dedicated to promoting “progressive” ideas, attacking the “Radical Right-Wing Agenda,” and supporting the left wing of the Democratic Party

Think Progress is a “project” of the American Progress Action Fund (APAF), a “sister advocacy organization” of the John Podesta-led Center for American Progress (CAP) and CAP’s entities such as Campus Progress. It also draws freely on the resources of the George Soros-funded Media Matters website edited by David Brock.

Think Progress is an Internet blog that “pushes back, daily,” by its own account, against its conservative targets, and supports the APAF agenda: to transform “progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing and advocacy, and partnerships with other progressive leaders throughout the country and the world.” Think Progress promotes an agenda identical to that of the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Yeah, you’ve got to wonder how much James Hoggan & Associates Public Relations Inc. is being paid by Soros to parrot all of the left-wing talking points from his websites (Thinkprogress, Climate Progress, etc.) here on d’Smogblog?

Given the quality of the “articles” here, probably not much.

I see that the astroturfers Farron Cousins was writing about didn’t take long to be roused to action. As usual, they choose to hide behind anonymity and rather than attempt to refute the article, they throw up straw men. The success of oil industry lobbyists and the tea baggers shows just how broken democracy in the so-called leader of the free world has become.

It’s extraordinary that the protection of the environment is so politically divisive when it affects us all equally, but I don’t hold out much hope for it if the astroturfers succeed in getting their man (or woman) elected as the next President of the USA.

The next call to action should be going out soon …

Well … you’ve written anonymously, without attempting to address any of the issues the articles raises. QED.

Were you sitting in on the meeting when Roger Ailes said to his Fox News staff propagandists: “Forget all the facts and figures, and move to the offense as quickly as possible.”?

Fox News Channel didn’t even exist when Ailes allegedly made that statement. Not only that, but the statement was offered as advice regarding what to talk about during a debate, where the participant had a limited amount of time to speak. It was NOT an appeal to obfuscate the truth. Liberals…sheesh!

So what does Ailes say at his morning meetings with his Fox News propagandists to make them eschew facts and go on the offensive like they do?

University of Maryland study concludes that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed on issues compared with regular viewers of any other channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yqpoik1joNw

Let me make sure I understand this: You believe Fox News is dishonest and, to prove it, you link to a video clip from “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC, where the guest host interviews the vice president of “Media Matters”, which is funded by George Soros. I swear you lunatics crack me up.

What you said in your previous post is STILL false. As for Fox News, I don’t watch it. In fact, I don’t watch ANY news shows on TV. I prefer to read.

Well, “Keith M” (if that’s even your real name?), until you post your full name, address, and telephone number, you are posting anonymously.

At least those of us who just leave it as “anonymous” aren’t trying to fool anyone.

I post on this blog as “Keith M”, so anyone who’s interested can see what I’ve written. I have no idea which of the anonymous postings come from you.

If every poster had to reveal their true identity, I’d happily do so. As it is, I’d be at a disadvantage and expose myself to the risk of receiving abusive email and possibly even death threats, as can be testified by some of the scientists researching climate change.

Unsurprisingly, astroturfers have set up false identities, so that they can actually remain anonymous when names have to be given. They have also resorted to posting here as “PhilM”, to confuse anyone expecting to be reading a post by “Phil M”.

Nasty tactics intended to get the desired results for the oil and coal industries at any cost! No wonder you all want to hide behind your anonymity.

“Unsurprisingly, astroturfers have set up false identities, so that they can actually remain anonymous when names have to be given. They have also resorted to posting here as “PhilM”, to confuse anyone expecting to be reading a post by “Phil M”.”

Yes, thanks for pointing that out. Register your name before “anonymous” above starts impersonating you too. It’s clear that when they start getting their arse handed to them on a plate, they resort to dirty tactics.

“Nasty tactics intended to get the desired results for the oil and coal industries at any cost! ”

I think it’s pretty obvious that many of these guys either work on the ground for the fossil fuel industry, or lobby for them indirectly. Why else would they be so defensive & aggressive whenever fossil fuels are mentioned? Most of them are highly political & keen on blaming everything on progressives, while ignoring the conservatives who have fought just as hard a battle to adopt green tech & oppose agw denialism.

So let me get this straight: you don’t watch Fox News, yet you are prepared to defend it against a charge of dishonesty. Can you see the flaw in that ploy?

As for your assertion about George Soros, well that’s what you astroturfers are trained to do: ignore the facts, change the subject and go on the offensive. You must have missed the lesson on not making ad hominem attacks.

What does whether he watches Fox News have to do with it? I’ve never met Winston Churchill, yet I’m reasonably certain he’s not the Unabomber.

Besides, you’re the one who keeps claiming Fox News is “dishonest”, so burden of proof is on you. And so far, the only thing you’ve come up with, is a ludicrous Olbermann interview with another of Soros’ paid mouthpieces.

Give us a concrete, irrefutable example of where Fox has been dishonest. Surely, since you’re so utterly convinced of your claim, you shouldn’t have any problem coming up with an example?

–> “As for your assertion about George Soros, well that’s what you astroturfers are trained to do: ignore the facts”

But George Soros’ funding of extreme left-wing causes *is* a fact, and he doesn’t deny it. Or are you claiming otherwise?

It seems to me that you are the one having trouble with facts.

Indeed. So far the only example we have of misinformation comes from our leftist friend.

Indeed, it’s a sad reflection of the sorry state of the US media that the most balanced source of news is a comedy program.

Clearly this word, “balanced”, does not mean what you think it means.

I take it that your understanding of the word “balanced” is encapsulated in the motto of Fox News: “fair and balanced”. That, along with their “We report [what we want you to know], you decide” could be straight out of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I haven’t defended Fox News against anything. I simply pointed out that your characterization of Roger Ailes was not true. I then found the sources you used in your subsequent post to be…well…hilarious, frankly. And as for Soros, you’re posting at Desmogblog, ace. Surely you’re aware that one’s funding is VERY important in determining their credibility…or does that only hold true for the scientists you and your twisted brethren hate?

Apologies, I thought you might find it easier to watch a report on TV, and Fox News didn’t seem to cover it. Can’t think why. Anyway, here’s a link to the raw data of the University of Maryland study:


And here’s a link to an analysis of that data:


I note you made no attempt to refute it, only to attack the messenger I chose.

As for Soros, I hold no candle for someone who makes his money by gambolling on other people’s currencies. However, there’s a complete disconnect between his wealth and his politics, such as his calls for increased taxation of the wealthy. Contrast this with the Koch brothers who fund politicians and organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity to lobby against any change that may benefit the environment at the expense of their profits.

Interestingly, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud of Saudi Arabia is the second largest shareholder of News International, who of course own Fox News. That conflict of interest might explain their misreporting of environmental issues.

Finally, as I know you like to read rather than watch TV, here’s an interesting biography of Roger Ailes:


I won’t be surprised if you attack the messenger rather than the message.

Keith, check this out in case you didn’t see it in my other post.


“They’re too busy trying to block IP addresses and deleting comments from their critics.”

Maybe because this is you.

AMA: I was a paid Internet troll”


Excerpt from your post:

“For almost five years, I was a paid Internet troll. Yes, I admit.

But first let me state that I never performed my job here on ATS, though I believe I have occasionally seen a handful on here who were using a script similar to what I was assigned.

I cannot and will not name names, but after an internship at a firm with government and political party (Republican) contracts, I was offered the position of “Online Communications Associate” at another company by someone from the original firm for which I interned. My contract completed one year ago, and I have since moved on.

Utilizing six artificial personas, I was active in social networks and bulletin boards. But since I came to love and respect this site, as I stated, I never performed my functions here. Each week, I and presumably several others, were provided with information to use in our online postings. At first the information was comprised of fully conceived scripts, but as I became more and more experienced, it eventually became simple bullet or talking points.

At first I needed to provide links to my postings, but when the company name changed (never knew the real names of any people there), that requirement stopped.

The pay wasn’t very good, but since I was working from my apartment, I suppose it wasn’t bad and I was able to do several other writing assignments on the side.


“My script was completely focused on politics, generally supporting just about any extreme conservative position. I never received anything outside that thematic.”

Sounds like our mate “anonymous”