How to Greenwash the Oil Industry Way

Big Oil is up to its usual tricks. The American Petroleum Institute (API), one of the oil industry’s main lobbying groups, was recently busted by a Greenpeace activist for some serious greenwashing. API has resisted climate change legislation, and has supported fracking and the Keystone pipeline development. Now, it seems, they’re building an advertising campaign that will run during CNN’s election coverage in 2012, in an attempt to influence the general public to vote for and support candidates and policies friendly to Big Oil.

The campaign, called “Vote 4 Energy,” with actors calling themselves “Energy Citizens,” provides speaking lines, makeup, and free stuff to regular citizens who line up in support of the oil industry under the guise of American energy independence. Punch it into YouTube and you’ll quickly realize the campaign has been going on for a while and shows no signs of stopping. Participants were told they’d be able to speak their mind, but why would that require a script generated by Big Oil? And what happens when one of those citizens doesn’t read the scripted line? According to a GreenPeace report, “any deviation from its script was refused.”  Doesn’t exactly sound like citizens freely expressing their opinions, does it?

Here’s a video of one GreenPeace activist who infiltrated API’s mockery and refused to speak the lines given to him:

The question is….how does this stuff still work? After the Tea Party was exposed for being not much more than a front group funded by Koch Industries, the oil tycoons, wouldn’t Americans wise up to the reality that the oil industry will pay for PR and do whatever they think possible to influence American politics in favor of policies that keep us stuck in our addiction to oil?


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Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.