Lobby groups funded by BP & Shell are organising public rallies in the US to oppose proposed legislation that would cap carbon emissions. The American Petroleum Institute (API) provided “upfront resources” to pay for an events company to organise public protest meetings.
The tactic of “astroturfing” has been used by corporations since the 1990s to create the impression of grassroots, popular opposition to proposals for social justice and environmental protection. In this case, API has helped create a front“Energy Citizens”[1] which is organising 20 phoney rallies targeting vulnerable senators ahead of the September senate vote on the bill.

BP has promised that it will “make no political contributions from corporate funds anywhere in the world” and that while still engaging in policy debates, “we won’t fund any political activity or any political party”. Yet its financial contributions to the API are clearly being used to attempt to block passage of the Clean Energy Bill. Gives an indication of what to expect from the oil majors in the run-up to COP in Copenhagen in December.
When confronted over the issue by the Guardian, BP said it was “highly unlikely” it would leave the API.[2]

Greenpeace have launched an online action[3] to challenge the lobbying while PLATFORM and Greenpeace have sent this letter to BP (and a similar one to Shell):

Dear Tony Hayward,

We write to express our concern over your company’s membership of the American Petroleum Institute (API). BP maintains its membership of the API through paying substantial fees based on the large size of BP’s business. It is our concern that these fees are used by the API for political activity and that BP’s reputation is used by the API to endorse views on climate change that contradict BP’s position on the issue.

It has come to the world’s attention that the API is spending millions of dollars on lobbying US politicians to reject the Waxman-Markey clean energy act. In the most recent revelations, it is clear that the API is planning to fund and organise phoney demonstrations targeting vulnerable senators ahead of the September senate vote on the bill.

The headline on the Financial Times’ front page on Saturday 15 August, (Oil industry split on climate law protests) echoed similar headlines from 12 years ago when your company rightly began to distance itself from the untenable position on climate change held by the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), itself driven primarily by the API. Back then Reuters reported that the, “Global Oil Lobby (was) split by Climate Debate”.

Twelve years later we stand on the edge of finally seeing the USA taking its first step towards addressing its huge greenhouse gas burden. The urgency with which that action needs to be taken is great precisely because those interests that opposed action back in 1997 were so successful. This time those interests must not be allowed to prevail as it is widely recognised that we can no longer delay.

In 2002, your company’s then CEO Lord John Browne stated that BP would, “make no political contributions from corporate funds anywhere in the world” and that while still engaging in policy debates, “we won’t fund any political activity or any political party”.

BP’s financial contributions to the API are clearly being used for political activity. In this year alone the API has reported over US$3.6 million in lobbying expenditure. Much of that lobbying is specifically aimed at blocking the passage of the Waxman-Markey Act.

This activity stands in stark contrast to the position of your company and its participation in the United States Climate Action Partnership, which supports the Waxman-Marley Act.

The organisations signing this letter believe that BP’s membership of the API undermines its position on climate change and the Waxman-Markey Bill. We urge you to withdraw your membership of the API immediately until such time as the API ceases opposing the bill and US government action on climate change.

Signed:

John Sauven Director Greenpeace UK
James Marriott Partner PLATFORM

Endnotes:
  1. “Energy Citizens”: http://energycitizens.org/about/%E2%80%9D
  2. BP said it was “highly unlikely” it would leave the API.: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/aug/19/oil-firms-warned-over-us-lobbying
  3. an online action: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/climate-change/oil-industry-action180809