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Goldenberg reports: "Confidential memo seen by Guardian calls for climate change sceptics to turn American public against solar and wind power."

The proposals suggest setting up 'dummy businesses' to buy anti-wind billboards, and creating a 'counter-intelligence branch' to track the wind energy industry. (photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)
The proposals suggest setting up 'dummy businesses' to buy anti-wind billboards, and creating a 'counter-intelligence branch' to track the wind energy industry. (photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

ALEC Steps Up, Attacks Against Obama's Clean Energy Strategy

By Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian UK

10 May 12


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 neither he nor 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."

Recent developments in the campaign against wind power include:

• A new $6m election ad buy by the ultra-conservative group Americans for Prosperity attacking Barack Obama's support for wind and solar power.

• An email and telephone campaign by the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Tax Reform to repeal or alter clean energy mandates requiring electricity companies to get a share of their power from renewables.

• Putting forward Alec-drafted bills overturning those measures in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Montana and Washington state.

Droz, in the telephone interview, confirmed that he had enlisted support for telephone campaigns from Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks – both of which have received funds from the Koch family. He also appeared at an anti-wind forum sponsored by the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina last December.

But he dismissed any idea of a co-ordinated effort. "We happen to have common interests on some things," he said. "But it's not collusion."

But conservative activists describe the ramp-up as critical to the effort to defeat Obama in the elections. "It's absolutely a campaign issue and it's a big one," said Dave Schwartz, who heads the Maryland chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a tea party group with Koch funds. "It absolutely is a contentious issue," he said.

Kert Davies, Greenpeace research director, agrees. "They are going back to the states to create the space for an anti-Obama, anti-green energy thing. It is really a political attack," he said. " What the right wing wants to perpetuate is that this is a type of energy that never works and requires massive government handouts."

More than 30 local wind farm opponents, all selected by Droz, came to Washington at his invitation. Participants included members of conservative groups such as Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and Tea Party Patriots.

A number said they had come to DC for strategy tips and PR advice. Three used the same phraseology as Droz who said the decision to meet and pool strategies was to avoid having to continually "reinvent the wheel".

"Everybody is amateur and everybody is learning from the ground up and re-inventing the wheel and the discussion among some of us was as to whether or not we could be a little more efficient and share resources and information," said Carolyn Gerwin an attorney and Tea Party activist from Pontiac Illinois who was among the participants.

Gerwin has been active in both Illinois Wind Watch and the Tea Party Patriots, and lobbied against wind energy at the state and federal level, her sign-in questionnaire for the February meeting said. "I'd like to see us develop a nationwide network of wind warriors that can be mobilised on very short notice," she wrote in a questionnaire distributed to participants.

There is evidence that network is already coming into being. Since the meeting, participants have pooled efforts to make phone calls and send email to members of Congress.

Opposing Obama's energy policies was a natural fit for conservatives, said Marita Noon, a conservative activist from New Mexico who was at the meeting. "The American way, what made CostCo and Walmart a success, is to use more and pay less. That's the American way," The president's green policies however were the reverse, she said.

"President Obama wants us to pay more and use less."

That set the stage for a confrontation over wind farms and other clean energy issues in the elections, Noon argued. "I would say it's almost the issue," she said. "It's going to be huge." your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+1 # X Dane 2012-05-11 01:00
Good grief. What in the world can we regular Americans do against all the traitors. That is the ONLY TERM for people who try to destroy the future of our country and our planet.

They are trying to kill the green energy we need to perfect, in order to survive.
In my opinion that is not the crime of the century. It is the crime of OF ALL TIME, Since they want to kill our future.

Please read Dr James Hansen's article in New York Times (reprinted here by RSN) If that doesn't scare you and make you think. There is no hope for you....or us.
+2 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-05-11 08:16
"The American way, what made CostCo and Walmart a success, is to use more and pay less. That's the American way,"

It's called Looting elsewhere.
+1 # Regina 2012-05-11 09:43
Pollution is pay dirt for these thugs. In honest debates, after the QED the loser concedes and the sides shake hands. In American politics, the loser shouts louder and buys bigger ads.
0 # Gere 2012-05-11 12:18
Jim Hansen recently wrote in the NY Times (5-10-12): “We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels (he was referring to tar sands and the Keystone pipeline) instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control;” and “But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year;” and President Obama speaks of a “planet in peril,” but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world’s course.
So maybe the AP, ALEC and the Koch brother’s are right. Let the free market determine the value of renewable energy, wind and solar because preventing more global warming is a mute point as long as we and Obama support the tar sands projects including the Keystone Pipeline. We either defend the world from the results of climate change or stop spending money to do anything else except prepare for the outcome that is going to be orders of magnitude more expensive for our children.

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