American Petroleum Institute’s “Energy Citizens” Website Is Not a Pretty Picture


When it comes to combating climate change legislation, the American Petroleum Institute (API) plays dirty (pun intended). In its efforts to prevent the climate bill from passing, the API recently launched a website – “Energy Citizens” – which allows site visitors to e-petition legislators and speak out against the bill. (API’s launching of the site is in line with recent goings-on at town hall meetings by (alleged) oil lobbyists and absurd “clean coal” advertising.) What kind of long-term social and economic effects will this “astroturfing” have?

According to the website, Energy Citizens is a “nationwide alliance of organizations and individuals” striving to “remind Congress that energy is the backbone of our nation’s economy and our way of life.” The website implies that, by opposing the bill, Americans will contribute to job preservation and the creation of affordable energy. It paints a picture of concerned “Energy Citizens” raising their voices to protect the American way of life. After all, aren’t self-expression and freedom among the most cherished American values? And if I’m an “Energy Citizen,” I must care about energy, right?

Yet a closer examination of the website – okay, any examination – reveals a carefully rigged system. One of the first things I noticed was that the site seems to rely on viewer video testimonials (instead of verifiable information) to spread its message. I also noticed that the first testimonial (a Texas resident’s description of “costly climate change legislation”) was from, well, Texas – something of a mixed-bag state when it comes to renewable energy support. I also noticed that the site’s unsupported claims that climate change could raise energy costs for American families and eliminate jobs are sprinkled throughout the site.

Perhaps most disturbing is the list of participating organizations. This list includes the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, American Conservative Union, American Highway Users Alliance, Independent Petroleum Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a number of private petrol firms and non-energy companies in several states. (According to the Huffington Post, the API asked its member companies to recruit employees to participate in “Energy Citizen” rallies.) This list hardly depicts a grassroots movement, as one blogger noted. It also confirms my suspicions that the API and its cronies will use whatever manipulative techniques it needs to use to accomplish its purpose.

API’s tactics, and those of other organizations with the same agenda, are downright scary. After all, Congress is due to pass the climate change legislation in September, and many Americans who are unconvinced of the realities of clean energy and climate change are vulnerable to their techniques.

Will climate bill supporters be able to convince the public that these powerful corporations are not telling the entire story? While we have the right communication tools and a leg to stand on, will these be enough?

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

11 responses

  1. Combine this with the forged letters that have been sent to members of Congress purporting to be from local constituent community groups urging a no vote on Waxman-Markey, but in reality from a lobbying firm with ties to the coal industry. As of yesterday, the number of fraudulent letters discovered is up to at least 17, it is apparent that the vested interests have no intention on a fair or honest debate on climate change legislation. They would hijack the legislative process to retain the status quo. Ala the health care debate and the “grassroots” outrage.

    There should be outrage, and it should push back against those that try to play on fear and ignorance to engage in disingenuous manipulation and outright fraud.

  2. Sarah… the worst thing about the API grassroots movement, from what I can tell from a few stories that I read, is that the energy companies appear to be giving employees time off, and taking them to and from the rallies.

    They’re making it into a party, supplying posters and entertainment, and suggesting that it’s some sort of grassroots campaign. It’s all about optics.

    But I also think you’re mischaracterizing Texas. They might be lukewarm in their support of renewables because of their oil economy, but they still boast more renewable energy projects, and more energy efficient housing (and buildings) than most other states in the union.

  3. The worst thing is that this manipulative bs requires an expensive pr response from people who actually want to tell the truth. These clowns should be charged for the cost.

  4. Their facts are great though: “The Heritage Foundation has forecast gasoline prices could increase $1.38 per gallon by 2035. That means gasoline could easily reach, if not exceed, $4 a gallon.”

    Woah – $4/gallon in 25 years? What is that after adjusted for inflation? Essentially free gas? What will gas be without climate change legislation?

    As I posted on their site and I’ll post here, “Lobbyists are awesome. Distortion of facts and a few ‘man on the street videos,’ to ruin our country’s long term energy policy, economic output, ecological sustainability, and long term viability. The only upside is that you – the lobbyists – will certainly all burn in hell when you’re done with your work here.”

  5. I attended the Houston rally first hand and yes, I am employed by an Energy company. I am also a consumer and stand to not only lose my job because of the higher cost of energy, but also will bear the cost (with every other American” of this broken over taxed “Energy Plan”. We need a plan that supports our independence from foreign oil and promotes the research of alternative energy. We currently import 60% of our oil into the US. Do you know who gets that money? Foreign government. Because of costs associated with the cap-and-trade provision, the bill could weaken our economy and threaten our quality of life by creating new costs that all Americans would pay.

    I would suggest that those that “report” on these activities should do a little more fact finding before publishing.

    1. Employed – I think you’ve been mislead.

      If your employer wanted to make an investment in your future they would begin by making investments in new ways of energy production and re-training you for other skills.

      You say “We need a plan that supports our independence from foreign oil and promotes the research of alternative energy”

      I say, no kidding. What about this plan doesn’t do that?

      Whether you like it or not, the era of cheap energy is over. My advice is start learning about efficiency. There are millions of new jobs just waiting to be created in a new energy, green & efficient economy. You could be doing better than you are now if you and your industry were not clinging to the past.

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