So-Called 'Grassroots' Opposition to Clean Energy Reform Bankrolled By Foreign Oil, Petro-Governments

Clean energy legislation passed by the House, now pending in the Senate, faces fierce opposition from the proprietors of fossil fuel companies, and much has been reported on how domestic oil and coal companies have flooded the debate with money, lobbying, and misinformation. These opponents of clean energy reform claim to be “standing up” for American jobs and security. However, according to an investigation by ThinkProgress, many of the lobbyists and right-wing operatives engineering the attacks on clean energy reform either work directly for petro-governments, or work for companies in the business of importing foreign oil:

– Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, the region of the country producing much of its crude oil, is registered with the Carmen Group as its representative in DC. The Carmen Group is run largely by lobbyist David Keene, who also manages the American Conservative Union. Keene has lobbied against clean energy reform and used his conservative organization to generategrassroots” opposition to legislative efforts to move away from a fossil fuel based economy. Although the extent to which the Carmen Group “provide[s] general representation before the United States Congress” is unclear — as Justice Department disclosures indicate — the Nigerian state has lavished Carmen group lobbyists with $903,450 in payments since 2006. According to a report produced Monday by the State Department, Nigeria is at risk of becoming a haven for terror and extremism. In the past, Keene, the coordinator of the CPAC convention, has been caught auctioning off conservative grassroots support to his corporate lobbying clients for as much as $2 million dollars.

The lobbyist-run front group Americans for Prosperity is perhaps the most active anti-clean energy group in the country. In addition to working furiously to orchestrate anti-clean energy themed tea parties, Americans for Prosperity is running anti-clean energy legislation ads, anti-climate change science ads, and is even barnstorming around the country with anti-clean energy “hot air” rallies. The organization was founded and is bankrolled by David Koch of Koch Industries, a major refiner of oil. Through Koch Industry subsidiaries — Koch Supply & Trading and Flint Hills Resources — Koch imports crude oil from a variety of foreign sources, including from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

Currently, FreedomWorks is focusing their energy activism on supporting the status quo reliance on fossil fuels. Throughout 2009, as FreedomWorks leader Dick Armey organized tea party opposition to clean energy reform, he simultaneously worked for the lobbying firm DLA Piper on the account of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. According to disclosure forms filed with the Justice Department, the UAE paid Armey’s lobbying firm at the time to help maintain the “development of UAE energy resources, which represent about 10 percent of global oil reserves.”

Oil companies have attempted to demonstrate popular support for fossil-fuel dependence by hosting “Energy Citizen” rallies around the country, where employees of oil companies are bused in for large events. The “Energy Citizen” website claims that converting a clean energy economy would mean “less energy independence.” Ironically, the main sponsor of the Energy Citizen effort is the American Petroleum Institute, which is a trade association for companies like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Sunoco. These companies, in turn, are highly dependent on foreign oil imports — from countries including Algeria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Venezuela. For perspective, Exxon Mobil imports 27%, Valero 29%, and Chevron 36% of its oil from Persian Gulf countries alone.

As a report by Rudy deLeon and Dan Weiss has argued, “America’s dependence on foreign oil transfers U.S. dollars to a number of unfriendly regimes, while robbing the United States of the economic resources it desperately needs for domestic development and American innovation.” It is alarming, though, that American lobbyists — funded by foreign oil — are working furiously to continue the status quo that is putting the nation’s security at risk.

Update A new Center for American Progress report, published today by Rebecca Lefton, finds that the United States imported 4 million barrels of oil -- or 1.5 billion barrels per year -- from "dangerous or unstable" countries in 2008 at a cost of about $150 billion.

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