There’s an old joke about two campers who are awakened by the sound of a bear rampaging through their campsite. The first camper gets out of his sleeping bag and immediately begins lacing up his running shoes. The other camper sits up and asks, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear.” The first camper, without missing a beat, replies, “I don’t have to. I only have to outrun you.”
I thought of that joke when I heard the news about BP dropping their affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as ALEC. I suppose the bear in this case would be the opinion of the public as to who is the least environmentally responsible organization in the world.
The oil giant announced on March 23, that it would not be renewing its membership in the bill mill, a group that writes legislative scripts in the form of model legislation for state and federal legislators who might be wondering what new legal advantages those with the deepest pockets might be seeking. The group primarily ghost-writes bills that favor the interests of fossil fuel companies and other major polluters. BP had been, as recently as 2011, among the “Presidential level” donors, having provided $100,000 to the 2010 annual conference.
Among those remaining on the board of the group are Koch Industries, Exxon-Mobil and Peabody Energy. A number of board level-members including Walmart, SAP, Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson and Reed-Elsevier have recently withdrawn their support for the group.
SourceWatch lists a total of over 100 companies and nonprofits that have now withdrawn from the organization.
A spokesperson for BP told the National Review that, "We continually assess our engagements with policy and advocacy organizations and based on our most recent assessment, we have determined that we can effectively pursue policy matters of current interest to BP without renewing our membership in ALEC.”
BP is the third oil company, after Conoco-Phillips and Occidental Petroleum, to cut their ties to the group. Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management told Common Cause, “Obviously BP’s decision adds pressure on companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron and Pfizer that are longstanding and ongoing members of ALEC.”
Arn Pearson, vice president of litigation at Common Cause, said that ALEC “misleads taxpayers and the IRS about its extensive lobbying activities.”
When it comes to climate change, “They are just literally lying,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told Diane Rehm.
Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse also recently blasted ALEC in a speech in the Senate chamber.
With each passing week, month and year, denialists’ credibility is literally melting out from under them, like an ice flow beneath a polar bear. As more and more record temperatures, floods, droughts and extreme weather events (including snowfall), are recorded, more and more companies recognize the inherent indefensibility and irresponsibility of this position. BP has a long road ahead, given the continued wrangling over their responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon disaster as the five-year anniversary draws near, but this move at least shows that they are not completely asleep at the wheel.
Image credit: Andy Silver: Flickr Creative Commons
RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org