This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.Guest Blog | August 22, 2009
What a busy summer Big Energy and its allies have had! First, as the House of Representatives began to debate the clean energy/climate bill in June, legions of lobbyists hit Capitol Hill while conservative talk-radio commentators mobilized their base to ‘melt’ Congressional phone lines voicing opposition to progressive energy policies. In July, we learned that lobbyists working for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) worked overtime to forge letters to members of Congress urging them to vote against the energy/climate bill. To round out the summer’s activities, the energy industry has begun a whistle-stop tour of highly-orchestrated ‘energy citizen’ rallies against the energy and climate bill.
In an effort to put a human face on its lobbying efforts, fossil fuel energy proponents have launched a campaign called Energy Citizens and are holding rallies in communities across the nation – concentrating on oil-rich states and the Southeast. A leaked memo sheds some light on why these rallies are being staged and videos from two of the first rallies – Houston, TX and Greensboro, NC – reveal just how staged these events are with props (banner and ready-made signs), costumes (tee shirts) and concessions (hot dogs and sweet tea).
Just as astroturf resembles grass, ‘astroturfing‘ resembles grassroot activism with one notable exception: the majority of attendees at these events have been bused-in employees from American Petroleum Institute member-companies (such as Chevron and ConocoPhilips) and their families. All of these actions – from the illegal to the staged – make it clear that opponents of progressive energy policy fear the time is at hand to establish a legal limit on global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.
Fortunately, real grassroots activists have also stayed busy this summer ensuring their voices are heard, too. In North Carolina and in Florida citizens have held counter rallies and beach parties to show support for clean energy. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other proponents of clean energy policies continue to demonstrate how the Southeast can play an important role in providing global warming solutions that will cut pollution while spurring economic revitalization. Join with us, stay up to date on our website, and help us show the Senate that real grassroots activists, business owners and community leaders from the Southeast are ready to tackle our nation’s greatest challenge, improve our national security, create new high-quality jobs and protect our natural heritage.
Update: view a video from the Tampa API counter rally.