Fueling US Forward

Fueling U.S. Forward

Background

Fueling U.S. Forward (FUSF) is a pro-fossil-fuel organization launched in August, 2016 and headed by former industry lobbyist and executive Charles T. Drevna. Drevna has described the group as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit business association, a designation that allows its involvement in both lobbying and political activities. [1], [2]

Drevna has confirmed to DeSmog that he is working with Koch Industries board member James Mahoney, and that Fueling U.S. Forward has received funding from Koch Industries[1]

FUSF describes itself as a “non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the value and potential of American energy, the vast majority of which comes from fossil fuels.” [3] Charles Drevna has claimed that Fueling U.S. Forward will target the “real people who have the most at stake” such as low-income or minority communities. [2]

In February 2016, investigative journalist Peter Stone first reported in The Huffington Post that a $10 million-a-year effort had been proposed by Koch Industries board member James Mahoney and Charles Drevna. The campaign aimed “to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles.” [4]

Charles Drevna first spoke as President and CEO of Fueling U.S. Forward at the RedState Gathering in Denver, Colorado in August 2016, and was slated to speak again at the Energy Expectations Conference hosted by U.S. Energy in October in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but did not appear there. He was replaced on the agenda by Brendan Williams, executive director of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers[5], [6]

Koch Vs. Clean

DeSmog launched KochVsClean.com on August 14, 2016 to examine the Kochs' role in creating and funding the Fueling U.S. Forward campaign and how this group fits into the Koch-funded network of organizations seeking to undermine clean energy technologies and innovation. Koch Vs. Clean also further examines the role of key individuals and organizations backing the FUSF campaign. Learn more below:

Individuals involved in Fueling U.S. Forward

Organizations involved in Fueling U.S. Forward

Fueling U.S. Forward & The Koch Brothers

Fueling U.S. Forward Strategy

The Fueling U.S. Forward campaign relies on arguments claiming the necessity and value of oil and natural gas. One banner image on the FUSF website boasts of “Innovation that Improves and Enriches Lives.”  According to the Fueling U.S. Forward website: [3]

“Energy is the basis of modern life and the engine of American innovation. A diverse energy mix – including fuels like oil and natural gas – is key to ensuring Americans continue to prosper and thrive.”

Elements of the campaign echo an April advertisement run by Koch Industries in The Hill that criticized solar energy and electric vehicles. According to the Koch Industries ad, “consumers should be able to choose the energy sources that best meet their needs free from government influence.” The ad goes on to criticize subsidies for solar power and “the tax credits (up to $7,500) the government offers to consumers who purchase hybrid and electric vehicles.” According to the Koch-sponsored ad, “Such credits may seem enticing to the general public, but the reality is that 90 percent of the beneficiaries come from the top income bracket.” [7] See some common EV vehicle myths debunked here.

Funding

Exact funding amounts received by Fueling US Forward are unknown at this time.

When Peter Stone first revealed the Koch's then-unnamed campaign plan in February, he noted that the group “hopes to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan.” [4]

The fact that Jim Mahoney is leading the effort appears to indicate that this is being driven by the business side of Koch,” said one refining industry source. Another source said, “I think they (are) approaching all the major independent refiners.”  [4]

The source also stressed that the new initiative is partly attributable to “electric vehicles and the subsidies for them.”  “They’re worried about state and community subsidies,” they said. “In 20 years, electric vehicles could have a substantial foothold in the U.S. market.” [4]

Key People

Actions

July 11, 2017

FUSF released a video titled “Hidden Costs of Electric Cars,” where they argue that electric vehicle (EV) tax credits are a “massive wealth transfer from poor to rich.” Video below. [34]

DeSmog debunked the video, noting that figures cited in the video were from an outdated paper during a time that only three plug-in electric models widely available to American drivers. [35]

July 11, 2017

FUSF released a new video titled “The Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars.” DeSmog's Ben Jervey reported that the video could signal “a possible strategic pivot from straightforward fossil fuel cheerleading to electric vehicle (EV) and clean energy bashing.” [25], [26]

Jervey also notes the connection between the Fueling U.S. Forward Campaign and that of America Rising Squared (AR2), which has also been launching an attack on electric vehicles. While the two groups maintain no public connection, they both launched nearly identical arguments with similar language within weeks of each other in June, 2017. AR2 had published a white paper that claimed to reveal human and environmental costs of ‘clean energy,’” pointing to rare earth metals. DeSmog also reported on the AR2 white paper at the time. [27]

The video was coordinated with a Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars web page.

The video, which runs just over a minute-and-a-half, is debunked line-by-line below: [26]

This is an electric car/ Car companies say it’s a clean alternative/ But electric cars are more toxic to humans than average cars.” [26]

This depends on an exceedingly narrow definition of “toxic.” If you only consider the materials that go into the batteries of electric cars versus the batteries of “average” cars, then this is maybe defensible. But if you consider the materials that go into the entire vehicle, as well as the fuel used to power the vehicle, than EVs are far cleaner and less toxic. [26]

First, there’s the fact that gas-powered vehicles require some of the same “toxic” rare earth metals that the video criticizes. (More on that below.) Then there’s the even bigger issue that tailpipe emissions — including ozone, particulate matter, and other smog-forming chemicals — are the dominant source of ground level air pollution, and nearly one half of all Americans live in areas that don’t meet federal minimum air quality standards. In fact, emissions from road transportation cause roughly 53,000 premature deaths every year in the United States, according to MIT researchers. [28]

Their batteries are made of rare earth metals/ Like cobalt, lithium…” 

First, a fact check: cobalt and lithium aren’t rare earth metals. This isn’t to say they aren’t problematic — cobalt mining in particular is plagued by some very serious environmental and labor problems, as documented in in-depth reports by Amnesty International and the Washington Post. But these problems are economy-wide. Cobalt is used widely in the lithium-ion batteries that power most cell phones and laptops. (See the subheadline of the very Washington Post article that the FUSF video cites: “Tracing the path from deadly hand-dug mines in Congo to consumers’ phones and laptops”.) There’s no question that lithium-ion battery manufacturers have to clean up their supply chains, but that’s something that Apple and Panasonic and Samsung are as responsible for as Tesla and Ford and General Motors. [29], [30]

…and cerium”

True, cerium is used in the batteries of electric vehicles. It is also found on every catalytic converter fitted into an internal combustion vehicle. That’s right — every gas-powered car relies on this rare earth metal that Fueling U.S. Forward criticizes. [26]

That are extracted mostly overseas/ From countries like China/ And Congo/ Where pollution is rampant/ And children are forced into oppressive labor.”

Again, electric vehicle manufacturers must do their part to clean up the mining of these metals. But so do the cell phone and laptop makers, companies that supply communications and combat equipment to the Department of Defense, satellite communications system operators, medical device manufacturers, and so on. [26]

These metals are scarce/ Their extraction is dangerous/ And many of the batteries end up in landfills”

This last point is simply untrue. First of all, very few electric vehicle batteries have even run through their usable lives. Once they do, companies are already lining up to start recycling them, either for use on the electric grid, or to be disassembled and the materials reused. [31], [32], [33]

This makes electric cars toxic/ For both people and the planet.”

Some of the components of electric car batteries have localized health and environmental impacts. But compared to the alternative — internal combustion vehicles spewing carbon and other air pollution — electric cars truly are much cleaner from cradle to grave. [26]

March 23, 2017

Fueling US Forward is listed as a sponsor of two panels at the AABE (The American Association of Blacks in Energy) 2017 National Conference including a panel of “Women in Power.” [20]

The first panel, “Conversation with the C-Suite,” consists of panelists Calvin Butler, CEO, Baltimore Gas & Electric Company; Joseph Hamrock, President and CEO of NiSource; Susan Story, President and CEO of American Water); and Rudolph Wynter, President and CEO of FERC Regulated business and New Energy Solutions. [20]

The second FUSF-sponsored panel is titled “Women in Power,” featuring panelists Donna Cooper, President of Pepco Region; Colette D. Honorable, Commissioner of of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Rhonda J. Morris, Vice President of Human Resources at Chevron Corporation; and Morenike Miles, Vice President of Shared Services for Dominion Resources Services, Inc. [20]

March 8, 2017

FUSF was listed as a sponsor of the 2017 Pink Petro HERWorld Energy Forum, taking place on International Women's Day and addressing the “the energy transition, digital technology, workforce needs and opportunities, and the gender gap.” [21]

Alex Fitzsimmons, Fueling US Forward's Communications Director, was also listed as a speaker at the HERWorld event. [22]

Sponsors of the event included Shell, Marathon Oil Corporation, Enbridge, Tesoro, Seneca Resources, the United States Energy Association, Consumer Energy Alliance, and Texas Oil & Gas Association among numerous other groups. [23]

February 22 - 25, 2017

FUSF was a Partnering Sponsor of the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), among a range of other conservative and pro-industry groups. [19]

January 21, 2017

FUSF awarded three African-American students at Northwest Halifax High School $1,500 in scholarships for an electrical lineman training program. Hubbel Relat, FUSF's director of outreach, said Fueling U.S. Forward was making an effort to reach minority communities, reported Dailytarheel.com[24]

“Despite how important this industry is to all of our lives and our economy, the African-American communities and a lot of rural communities in general are underrepresented and left out of this industry,” Relat said. “A lot of the time they are simply not made aware of the job opportunities in the industry.” [24]

December 16, 2016

The New York Times reports that Fueling U.S. Forward sponsored a Christmas gospel concert in Richmond, VA.  [18]

“About halfway through the event, the music gave way to a panel discussion on how the holidays were made possible by energy — cheap energy, like oil and gas,” Hiroko Tabuchi writes at the New York Times. She notes that the concert's flier read “Thankful for the fuels and innovation that make modern life possible.” [18]

Eddie Bautista, executive director of the nonprofit NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, called the campaign “an exploitative, sad and borderline racist strategy.” FUSF has targeted minorities with the notion that they would be most affected by rises in energy costs, while Bautista notes that falling costs associated with renewable energy have made a shift away from fossil fuels a winning proposition for everyone.  [18]

The Richmond gospel concert was organized by FUSF as well as the nonprofit Reaching America and Radio One, which Tabuchi notes caters to black listeners. Four people were picked out of the crowd of 300 and told that their latest monthly electricity bills would be paid up to $250. [18]

August 22 - 25, 2016

Charles Drevna, working as President of Fueling US Forward, spoke at a Blacks in Government training session in Atlantic City, N.J. “He will continue to meet with a variety of groups in the coming months, he said, ticking examples off: Native Americans, inner-city residents, farmers, millennials, women and industry employees,” Climatewire reported[2]

While Drevna did not speak at the event, Climatewire said “ surrogates with Project 21, an initiative by the National Center for Public Policy Research for black conservatives, helped deliver his message, according to National Policy Alliance Executive Director Linda Haithcox.” [2]

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil industry and right-wing foundations, according to data from Conservative Transparency[9]

August 13, 2016

Charles Drevna first announced Fueling U.S. Forward at the 2016 Red State Gathering and confirmed that the campaign is backed by Koch Industries. DeSmog's Sharon Kelly attended the event and interviewed Drevna. [1][5]

We need a sustainable energy to ensure the future of the country,” Mr. Drevna told the audience.

The source of that energy? That which Mr. Drevna labeled “reliable, abundant, efficient and sustainable fuels.”

Folks, that's of course the fossil fuels,” he immediately added. [1]

DeSmog's Sharon Kelly reports that the top-line takeaway from Mr. Drevna's presentation was that the purpose of Fueling U.S. Forward is an effort to rebrand fossil fuels, focusing on the “positive” sides of oil, gas and coal. [1]

Drevna said at the Red State Gathering that “we are basically richer than ever before.” He quickly revised his statement, adding “as a world we are. As a nation we are basically richer than ever before.” [1]

According to Drevna, the oil industry has long “been engaged in asymmetric warfare.” He notes that “We're partnering with other organizations too, especially non-traditional allies like the minority community. Who in the heck gets hit hardest and fastest when there's an energy crisis and prices go up? They do.” [1]

Location & Address

According to the organization's SCC eFiling, Fueling US Forward's Address is as follows: [8]

2300 WILSON BLVD STE 400A
ARLINGTON, VA
22201-8415

That is known as the Navy League Building, and FUSF's suite is one floor below the office of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Inc., the Koch-funded political group whose staff and board are filled with long-time Koch Industries employees.

Related Organizations

Institute for Energy Research (IER)

Peter Stone reported in February that Charles Drevna, then Senior Fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, had teamed up with James Mahoney “a confidante of the [Koch] brothers and member of their company’s board,” to develop the FUSF campaign. [4]

American Energy Alliance (AEA)

The American Energy Alliance (AEA) is the “advocacy arm” of the Institute for Energy Research, and describes itself as a “not-for-profit organization that engages in grassroots public policy advocacy and debate concerning energy and environmental policies.”

Alghough Charles Drevna told DeSmog's Sharon Kelly that IER was not involved directly with Fueling U.S. Forward, it should be noted that Drevna worked on developing the campaign while he served as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at IER. Thomas Pyle, a long-time oil-industry lobbyist, serves as President of both IER and The American Energy Alliance. [1][10]

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM)

Both James Mahoney and Charles Drevna have served in leadership capacities at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), a national trade association representing 98 percent of oil refining capacity in the United States. AFPM aggressively supports oil interests, and opposes any legislation that could reduce profits for their sector. For example, they oppose renewable fuel standards, support increasing domestic oil and gas production on public and private lands, and argue that the EPA has no authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. [11], [12], [13]

Hamilton Place Strategies

Hamilton Place Strategies is the PR firm chosen by Drevna (and, presumably, the Kochs) to run Fueling U.S. Forward. Hamilton Place is a policy and public affairs consulting firm that specializes in communications strategy and, as one reporter described, is run by a team that “have logged lots of hours on the front lines of spin.” [14]

Hamilton Place Strategies is run by Tony Fratto, former deputy press secretary in the George W. Bush White House and Bush-Cheney campaign communications specialist. [15], [16]

Partners in the firm are all predominantly GOP establishment veterans, many of whom have spent time on the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign and the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign. [17]

Resources

  1. Sharon Kelly. “New Koch-Funded Group ‘Fueling US Forward’ Aims to Promote the 'Positives' of Fossil Fuels,” Desmog, August 14, 2016.

  2. Camille von Kaenel. “Group tells minorities, 'We need fossil fuels',” ClimateWire, September 6, 2016. Archived October 18, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/QTcEJ

  3. About,” Fueling U.S. Forward. Archived October 20, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/9tI3t

  4. Peter Stone. “The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles,” The Huffington Post, February 19, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/jXPA4

  5. About the Event,” Red State Gathering. Archived October 17, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/S42PT

  6. Conference Agenda,” U.S. Energy Expectations 28th Annual Energy Conference. Archived September 12, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/6UmjC

  7. “All For All Forms of Energy” (PDF), Koch Industries. Retrieved from Kochvsclean.com. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

  8. SCC eFile: Annual Report for Fueling U.S. Forward, Inc (SCC ID: F2032714). Archived October 19, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/GTJf9

  9. National Center for Public Policy Research,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed May 12, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/UkmIU

  10. Pyle, Thomas J,” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed October 19, 2016.

  11. Policy Position - Renewable Fuel Standards,” AFPM. Archived October 11, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/UDzNV

  12. Policy Position - Increasing Domestic Oil & Gas Production,” AFPM. Archived October 11, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/SZsEw

  13. Policy Position - Greenhouse Gas Regulations,” AFPM. Archived October 11, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/geJX8

  14. Deirdre Tynan. “Manas Jet Fuel Suppliers Hire Top PR Firm,” Eurasianet.org, May 4, 2010. Archived October 20, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/RU4Gg

  15. Tony Fratto: Partner,” HPS. Archived October 20, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/ePRsq

  16. Tony Fratto: Former Bush Deputy Press Secretary,” LittleSis Profile. Accessed October 19, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/kunnS

  17. The Team,” Hamilton Place Strategies. Archived October 20, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/4ntSo

  18. Hiroko Tabucchi. “Sensing Gains Ahead Under Trump, the Kochs Court Minorities,” The New York Times, January 5, 2017. Archived January 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/abF3O

  19. CPAC 2017 Sponsors,” cpac.conservative.org. Archived March 6, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/SKFRU

  20. AABE 2017 NATIONAL CONFERENCE: MAKING ENERGY WORK FOR US,” CVENT.com. Archived March 17, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/2SqGX

  21. 2017 Theme: The Next Era of Energy: Lean In, All In, Join In,” PinkPetro HERWorld Energy Forum. Archived March 17, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/rpy9q

  22. 2017 HERWorld Speakers,” PinkPetro HERWorld Energy Forum. Archived March 17, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/1BZtl

  23. Inspiring the Next Generation of Energy Leaders,” PinkPetro HERWorld Energy Forum. Archived March 17, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/uVzE9

  24. Camille Vargas. “Fossil fuel advocacy campaign offers scholarships to African-American students,” Dailytarheel.com, March 6, 2017. Archived April 11, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/3bjHI

  25. Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars”, YouTube video submitted by user Fueling U.S. Forward, July 11, 2017. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  26. Ben Jervey. “Koch-funded Group, Fueling US Forward, Echoes America Rising Squared in Misleading Attack on Electric Cars,” DeSmog, July 10, 2017.

  27. Ben Jervey. “America Rising Squared Report Bashes EVs for Using Same Rare Earth Metals as Gas-Powered Cars,” DeSmog, June 25, 2017.

  28. Study: Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths each year in the U.S.MIT News, August 29, 2013. Archived July 12, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/gQ6qd

  29. Electric cars: Running on child labour?Amnesty International, September 30, 2016. Archived July 12, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/DNEFt

  30. Todd C. Frankel. “THE COBALT PIPELINE,” The Washington Post, September 30, 2016.  Archived July 12, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/2zBTD

  31. John O'Dell. “What Happens to EV and Hybrid Batteries?Edmunds, July 25, 2014. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/8ly3W

  32. Katie Fehrenbacher. “The Big Potential of Used Electric Car Batteries,” Fortune, August 25, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/gGQ9u

  33. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg. “The Electric Vehicle Battery 'Can And Should Be Recycled',” Clean Technica, July 23, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/bKvHh

  34. Hidden Costs of Electric Cars,” YouTube video uploaded by user “Fueling U.S. Forward” on July 11, 2017. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  35. Ben Jervey. “Koch Front Group, Fueling US Forward, Bashes Electric Car Tax Credits in Latest Misleading Video,” DeSmog, July 22, 2017.

Other Resources