Conservative Think Tanks Launch Campaign to Turn Americans Against Wind Energy
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A network of ultra-conservative groups is ramping up an offensive on multiple fronts to turn the American public against wind farms and Barack Obama's energy agenda.
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.
Now a confidential strategy memo seen by the Guardian advises using "subversion" to build a national movement of wind farm protesters.
The strategy proposal was prepared by a fellow of the American Tradition Institute (ATI) – although the thinktank has formally disavowed the project.
The proposal was discussed at a meeting of self-styled 'wind warriors' from across the country in Washington DC last February.
"These documents show for the first time that local Nimby anti-wind groups are co-ordinating and working with national fossil-fuel funded advocacy groups to wreck the wind industry," said Gabe Elsner, a co-director of the Checks and Balances, the accountability group which unearthed the proposal and other documents.
Among its main recommendations, the proposal calls for a national PR campaign aimed at causing "subversion in message of industry so that it effectively because so bad that no one wants to admit in public they are for it."
It suggests setting up "dummy businesses" to buy anti-wind billboards, and creating a "counter-intelligence branch" to track the wind energy industry. It also calls for spending $750,000 to create an organisation with paid staff and tax-exempt status dedicated to building public opposition to state and federal government policies encouraging the wind energy industry.
The proposal was reviewed by John Droz Jr, a senior fellow at ATI, for discussion at the Washington meeting, which he also organised. ATI's executive director, Tom Tanton, said Droz had acted alone on the memo, although he confirmed he remains a fellow at the thinktank.
Droz is a longtime opponent of wind farms, arguing that the technology has not yet been proven and that wind technology should not receive government support. He claims 10,000 subscribers to his anti-wind-power email newsletter.
In a telephone interview, Droz said the Washington strategy session was his own initiative, and that he or any of the participants had been paid for attending the session.
Their main priority was co-ordinating PR strategy. "Our No 1 reason for getting together was to talk about whether there should be agreement to talk about a common message."
The strategy session is the latest evidence of a concerted attack on the clean energy industry by thinktanks and lobby groups connected to oil and coal interests and free-market ideologues.
ATI is part of a loose coalition of ultra-conservative thinktanks and networks united by their efforts to discredit climate science and their close connections to the oil and gas industry, including the Koch family. Those groups include the Heartland Institute, the John Locke Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity, the organising arm of the Tea Party movement.
ATI is a relatively new entrant, coming to national attention only last year when it filed lawsuits against climate scientists including Michael Mann and James Hansen.
Campaign groups and spokespersons for the wind industry say there has been a sharp rise in organised opposition since early 2009 when Obama put investment in renewable energy at the heart of his economic recovery plan.
"We do see evidence of co-ordination," said Peter Kelley a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Assocation. "The same rhetoric pops up all over the place. Things that are disproven, that are demonstrably untrue, continually get repeated."