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From Enron Speechwriting to Anti-Climate Action: Robert Bradley’s “American Energy Alliance”

| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 5 Comments

robert-bradley-enron

If you’re like me, the title of this post alone got your blood at least a degree closer to the boiling point. Unfortunately, the story only gets worse. The ambiguously titled “American Energy Alliance,” one of numerous anti-energy reform groups cropping up lately, is the brainchild of ex-Enron speechwriter Robert Bradley. I guess there is life after Enron…. Yet I hope, for the well-being of the sustainable business movement, that Bradley’s newfound hobby is short-lived, or at least unsuccessful.

According to Treehugger, the Alliance was founded by the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank which Bradley runs. Alliance describes its mission as follows: to “enlist and empower energy consumers to encourage policymakers to support policies that lead to abundant, affordable and reliable energy for all Americans….” However, a closer look reveals the organization’s unsavory features. Reportedly, Alliance hasn’t publicized these origins; it has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Exxon alone; its claims to nonpartisanship are contradicted by its own membership (every Alliance employee is a former House Republican staffer), and, from the hindsight files, its founder has expressed no qualms with his work for Enron. Not to mention Alliance’s message – that passing the climate bill will cripple the economy – and its tactic of touring of the country in a red-white-and-blue bus while not providing citizens the complete picture of its operations.

Alliance’s formation, and its place within the bigger picture of anti-climate legislation lobbying, say quite a bit about our country’s current state of affairs – particularly regarding the interplay between the American public, big oil corporations, and the media. In a sense, these organizations are using the media as an alternative to paying off voters, using rhetoric instead of (?) outright bribes to turn voters against climate change legislation. In another sense, these groups’ antics highlight some of the very things they’re trying to downplay: the role of dominating energy politics and manipulating uninformed consumers in an oil firm’s success.

I also find it ironic and sad that, if a sustainability group toured the country promoting anti-pollution information, that group would likely be branded as kooky and anti-patriotic at best. Yet many Americans seem to be buying astroturfers’ messages hook line and sinker, despite those messages’ obvious holes. (One green organization’s attempt to counter such messages caught my attention because of its reasonableness – perhaps the most potent antidote to anti-climate change lobbying. Check out Triple Pundit’s article on The National Climate Seminar for more information.)

What do you think – are there ways sustainability proponents can counteract anti-climate change lobbyists’ efforts?


▼▼▼      5 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Rob Bradley

    That photo of me was taken during a 2005 C-SPAN televised speech, several years after I was laid off from Enron. The speech for the Houston Forum was titled “Ken Lay Deconstructed,” and it was critical of him and Enron in general.

    My Enron experience regarding energy and climate change is quite different from what you might think. To me Enron is “Exhcibit A” against Waxman-Markey.

    Please read my take at http://masterresource.org/?p=4274 and visit my website regarding my book series on the rise and fall of Enron, and its wider implications, at http://www.politicalcapitalism.org.

    You might not agree with my views on energy and climate, but I was no shill for Enron and put my job on the line for my beliefs.

    – Rob Bradley

    • Nick Aster

      Mr Bradley,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond and make your history with Enron more clear. The more I read about Enron the more complicated and nefarious that organization seems to me. Am I correct in interpreting your suggestion that Enron actually trumped up their position on climate change in order to game the political system to their advantage before dumping that opinion?

      I respect the idea of a free market for energy and understand the point of view that renewables and other alternatives may currently be uncompetitive with oil and gas without some subsidies. But before I try to justify current political movements, would you agree that the current fossil fuel economy, especially the oil industry is not exactly free market either? For example, a huge, if not primary reason for our current military spending is to secure a cheap supply of oil. Is that not an epic example of government meddling in a free market?

      We welcome your response here and appreciate the challenge of differing points of view.

  • Rob Bradley

    Mr. Astor:

    Enron never “dumped” its ‘climate alarmism.’ What it was doing, however, was making money off oil-fired power plants internationally and, in its last year, a coal tradng unit that was buying a good deal of coal properties (which helped trading). The oil and coal stuff was hush, hush.

    So Enron was trying to have its cake and eating it too.

    Also, Enron was touting how electricity prices would fall under “open access” competition, yet it was secretly working for carbon pricing that would increase electricity prices.

    This contradiction came to a head with a WRI/Enron collaborative within the President’s Council on Sustainable Development that I will post about at Master Resource later.

    Jerry Taylor at Cato has written a lot about oil security and military policy. If you don’t mind, I’ll leave oil alone and stick to climate and electricity in our discussion.

    One question for you Nick. Having read Joe Romm and my rebuttal about me being a ‘shill’ for Enron, do you feel he mislead his readers?

    P.S. I invite you to peruse my book Capitalism at Work which gets into corporativism and energy policy in some depth. The introduction to the book is here: http://www.scrivenerpublishing.com/cart/images/Bradley_Intro.pdf

  • Jerry Taylor

    Some politicians clearly think the military’s “oil mission” is a crucial aspect of American defense policy. And some politicians clearly think that securing access for foreign oil makes military engagement in the Middle East more necessary than might be the case were no oil there at all. But those beliefs are mistaken. That is, the military’s “oil mission” does not reduce the price of crude oil, does not increase the volume of crude oil available to consumers, and does not effect energy prices. For an essay defending those claims, go here: http://www.cato.org/pubs/articles/taylor_vandoren_energy_security_obsession.pdf.

  • Tom Tanton

    “What do you think – are there ways sustainability proponents can counteract anti-climate change lobbyists’ efforts?”
    I suggest using real science and real scientists, free of government shackles and funding, and NEVER claim that science is settled…that might be a good start.