Facing South

POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill

Following in the footsteps of the corporate-backed protest movement against health care reform, a group founded and funded by business interests opposed to regulating greenhouse gas pollution is planning a series of rallies to oppose the climate legislation being considered by Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reports that EnergyCitizens -- an astroturf alliance funded by the American Petroleum Institute -- is holding rallies in 20 states over the August congressional recess. Other groups that are part of the alliance include the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Farm Bureau. According to the paper:

In template fliers for rallies produced by ... EnergyCitizens, the public is warned that "Climate change legislation being considered in Washington will cause huge economic pain and produce little environmental gain."

You can see a copy of a rally flier here, and you can read a press release announcing an Aug. 18 rally in Houston here.

The rallies are aimed at scuttling the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) -- also known as the Waxman-Markey bill for its co-sponsors, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The bill would establish a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases and take other steps to curb climate-damaging pollution. It passed the House in June and is now being considered in the Senate.

The Houston-based oil giant ConocoPhillips has posted a list of scheduled rallies to its website. Besides Houston, other Southern cities that will be hosting these corporate-organized climate events include Greensboro, N.C. on Aug. 20; Atlanta on Aug. 22; Nashville, Tenn. on Aug. 25; Tampa, Fla. on Aug. 27; Greenville, S.C. on Aug. 31; and Richmond, Va. on Sept. 3. The events are also planned for Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Dakota. Says ConocoPhillips:

You have the opportunity to make your voice heard by attending an upcoming Energy Citizens Rally for Jobs and Affordable Energy. At the rally, you will learn more about the impact of proposed legislation and have the chance to demonstrate to lawmakers that there is widespread dissatisfaction with any proposal that will cost Americans jobs and drive up energy costs.

ACES is supported by most major environmental organizations as well as by some corporate interests, including General Electric, Dow Chemical and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. However, other corporate interests besides API and NAM oppose the bill, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Some environmental groups including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace also oppose the bill for not going far enough to rein in greenhouse gases and for being too accommodating to corporate interests.

API claims the legislation would put an unreasonable financial burden on consumers of gasoline, heating fuel and other petroleum products, and cause gas prices to rise to over $4 per gallon in today's dollars by 2035. But those claims are at odds with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found much more modest impacts on consumers. CBO's analysis found the bill would cost the average U.S. household only about $175 a year by 2020 while actually benefiting the poorest 20% of households by $40 a year.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Information Administration [pdf] have also published studies showing that the bill would have far more modest costs than the economic alarmists claim.

The New Republic's The Vine environmental blog offers a detailed analysis of the claims that the climate legislation would incur unreasonable costs, examining a new report on that topic from NAM. The Vine reports that NAM's analysis shows that "reducing greenhouse-gas emissions will cause
the economy to grow $8.9 trillion between now and 2030 instead of $9.5
trillion. Feel free to decide whether that downside risk is totally
unacceptable or not."
Grist also looked at the NAM report here.

API's focus solely on the cost of regulating greenhouse gases also ignores the costs associated with failing to take action. A recent federal study that looked at the impacts pollution-related climate change is already having across the United Sates found that the Southeast has experienced a 2 degree F. increase in average annual temperature since 1970, and average temperatures in the region could be expected to rise by at least 4.5 degrees F. by the 2080s if nothing is done to curb emissions.

This dramatic jump in temperatures would itself result in increased costs to consumers through higher cooling bills and damages from more intense storms. The temperature increase would also hurt industries such as agriculture, while the related sea-level rise would imperil coastal communities as well as roads and other infrastructure.

As for API's claim that ACES would "cost Americans jobs," studies have found that the legislation would actually create 1.7 million good-paying jobs, many of them accessible to people without college degrees or high-level skills. Research has also shown that investing in clean energy creates 3.2 times as many jobs as fossil-fuel investments overall.

Wonder if the oil industry will be discussing that at its town halls?

UPDATE 8/14: An internal memo from the American Petroleum Institute leaked to Greenpeace USA details how the oil industry group is asking its member companies to recruit employees, retirees, vendors and contractors to attend the rallies in key Congressional districts. In a letter to API President Jack Gerard, Greenpeace noted that the plan "runs contrary to several prominent API members' public support for climate action, namely Shell, BP America, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Siemens." See the story at DeSmog Blog.

(Photo of Texas oiljack by Eric Kounce via Wikimedia Commons)


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re: POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill

Really great article. API has scrubbed the list of events from it's "Energy Rallies" page. But I took the list of towns from the memo and found these events:

8/18 (11:30 AM). Houston, TX. Verizon Wireless Center.

8/20 (11.30 AM) Roswell, NM. Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, Arts and Crafts Building

8/20 5.30 PM Greensboro, NC. Greensboro Coliseum.

8/21 (11:30 AM). Lima, OH Veterans' Memorial and Civic Center.

8/21 (11:30 AM) Farmington, NM. Convention Center at McGee Park

8/22 (11:30 AM). Atlanta, GA. Marriott Century Center.

8/25 (11.30 AM) Nashville, TN. Wild Horse Saloon.

8/25 (11:00 AM). Elkhart, IN. RV Hall of Fame.

8/25 (TBD) Greeley, CO. Island Grove Regional Park, Exhibit Hall

8/27 (11:30 AM). St. Louis, MO Hilton at the Ballpark.

8/27 (5.:00 PM) Tampa FL, Tampa Convention Center

8/27 (TBD). Bismarck, ND National Center of Energy Excellence at Bismarck State College, 4th Floor

8/31 (TBD). Anchorage, AK Anchorage Convention Center

8/31 (5:00 PM). Greenville, SC. Carolina First Center.

9/1 Springfield IL Time TBD Venue TBD

9/3 (Time TBD) Detroit MI Burton Manor Banquet and Conference Center.

9/3 (4:30 PM). Philadelphia, PA. Venue TBD.

9/3 Richmond, VA. TBD.

9/5 (2:30 PM). Lincoln, NE. Embassy Suites Lincoln.

9/7 (1:15 3 2:15 PM). Huron, SD. Freedom Stage, South Dakota State Fair

re: POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill

Good article. We cannot allow big business to destroy our best chance of stopping climate change. We’ve seen enough variability between economic analyses of the bill to know that the predictions are as malleable as the authors want them to be. Unfortunately, nobody’s considering the impacts of climate change in these studies. In North Carolina alone, sea level rise could cause more than $2.8 billion in damages, the fishing industry could lose $17 million per year, stronger hurricanes will cause costly damage, increasing numbers of pests will harm the forestry industry, and drought will damage agriculture. If even the conservative economic studies included the mitigating effects of the clean energy bill, the picture would look very different. Call your senators and tell them to support the clean energy bill today!

re: POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill

A major part of the reason we are struggling economically in the South today is due to the fact that "Big Oil" and "Big Box" retailers have hogged tied the system and they certainly don't want any change. Did you know that every dollar you spend on petroleum fuel, 85 cents of that dollar leaves the local community. Did you know that every dollar spent at Walmart, 86 cents leaves the local community. Thats why we are suffering economically. They are bankrupting our local communities. We have got to start producing our energy and our goods locally.

We believe we have found a solution to that challenge. Please let me explain what we have done. Not only do I farm, but I also have a couple of truckstops located in Martinsville, Va. (BTW, Martinsville has 22% unemployment, those are depression type numbers) The name of the stops are Red Birch Country Markets. Beside one of the truckstops, we built a biodiesel plant with a crushing facility and contracted with about 25 local farmers to grow canola. It was the birth of Red Birch Energy. A Small-Scale, Community-Owned, Farmer-Supplied Biodiesel Refinery. The first of its kind in the entire country.

For the first time in our nations history, a small independent truck stop owner working with local farmers has given the American consumer a second choice or an "alternative" to petroleum diesel. We have taken out the middle man and we are in control of our pricing..... Not "Big Oil". Going forward, we feel this will be revolutionary.

Red Birch Energy is the First and Only "closed loop" delivery system of Biodiesel in the entire country. Very simply, we grow the crop, we make the biofuel and we sell the product. May I add that diesel drives our economy, it's how we get our groceries to the grocery store, it's how we get our children to school, it's how we tend to our farms. All with diesel, not gasoline.

I've been in the petroleum business for nearly 15 years and the whole time I've been under "Big Oil's" thumb, as well as every other gas supplier in the country. In the past, I have been very fortunate to make just a few cents on every gallon (everyone knows stations don't make any money on gas and diesel). Last summer, when diesel spiked to $4.50 a gallon, Red Birch experienced very favorable margins on our Biodiesel. By far, the greatest margins I've ever seen while being in the petroleum business. But instead of this being an anomaly, I believe it could an everyday occurrence.

How are we to do this? There several factors..... first, we want to get our canola oil to food grade then sell it locally to restaurants and other food outlets. Food grade canola oil is currently selling for $8 plus a gallon. You cannot buy a locally grown vegetable oil anywhere in the state of Virginia and canola oil is the healthiest oil for human consumption, bar none. And because of the way we expel the oil, it last much longer as compared to oil extracted with hexane. After the oil has been used, we have partnered with a company out of Chesapeake called Retriever Recycling that will go and pickup the oil, bring it back to the plant, turn it into biodiesel and then sold at the truckstop.

Secondly, we need to find added value for our by-products. In the Red Birch biodiesel process, there are 2 by-products....Canola Meal and Glycerin. The meal is sold to dairy farms and chicken houses and brings a premium price. The glycerin, as you may know, has energy value, it can be burned and turned into electricity. I'm very confident that every municipality could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by using this locally grown, renewable source of energy and the Federal Government has very attractive incentives for turning biomass into electricity.

When we generate this additional income from these waste streams, Red Birch can then lower our diesel price at the pump and that, my friends, is a total game changer.

When we do this, it could have a profound impact on our local community. When these companies that have left our area understand that Martinsville-Henry County has the lowest diesel prices on the east coast, they would flock back to our area to ship their goods out and bring their jobs with them! It would utterly transform the Martinsville-Henry County economic landscape, but more importantly would be a major step in breaking Big Oil's strangle hold on our country and give other communities a model to follow.

This is not a pipe dream, in fact Red Birch Energy has recently spent over $200,000 on a third party feasibility study that states that this is the most sustainable model that this consulting firm has ever done (over 60 to date) on renewable fuels. Plus we have a working model!!!

We feel very strongly the Red Birch Energy model can be replicated 100's times throughout the country with the potential to franchise the model. One or more in every county. This would utterly transform the rural south, delivering jobs and Energy Independence both of which we so desperately need.

re: POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill

Dean, I asssume that you are hooked into the US biodiesel network regionally that includes Piedmont Biofuels here in my home town. I gather from them that glycerin can be used as a goat feed and in composting.

re: POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill

It's been bothering me why these companies, Conoco Phillips in particular, are against the climate bill when it gives an advantage to gas over coal for electricity generation. But clicking around on Conoco Phillips site again it seems that they are also or really riled up about Congress increasing taxes on the oil companies.


re: POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill


Yes, I do know some of the folks down at Piedmont and they are doing some really great things there. As far as using the glycerin as goat feed, I know there has been extensive research at Virginia Tech relating to that. However, I am convinced the best economic use for glycerin is as an energy source. One gallon of glycerin contains 81,000 btu's as compared to one gallon of propane which contains 91,000 btus and the feds have a one dollar per gallon tax credit for turning biomass into electricity as well as a 2.1 cent kwh rebate.

We are now working to get the biodiesel plant and the truckstop totally off the grid using glycerin as our fuel source. This has a potential savings of about $6,000/ month and have more that enough electricity to sell back to the power company, which they are by law required to buy.

The only way for this burgeoning industry to survive is profitability which equates to sustainability.

re: POWER POLITICS: Big Oil holding "town halls" on climate bill

Big Oil companies use these kinds of tactics all the time. Check out this video about Chevron's attempts to weazel out of a $27 billion lawsuit brought by communities affected by their polluting practices in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Even Andy Rooney hates the dirty tricks Chevron is using!