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Beware the Oil Industry’s Voldemort

Energy
Beware the Oil Industry’s Voldemort

Oil Change International

By Andy Rowell

And so it goes on. Any regular reader of this blog will know that the good old boys at the American Petroleum Institute (API) often pluck magic figures out of the air to over-inflate the importance of the oil and gas industry to the economy.

They also often distort key debates on offshore drilling and fracking with devious numbers and tricks worthy of a devious wizard.

In the latest rebuttal to their tactics, thirteen environmental and public health groups wrote to the White House on April 9, criticizing the API’s latest “misinformation” campaign which is trying to soften upcoming air pollution standards for fracking.

“The American Petroleum Institute and other industry organizations which have pressured EPA to exempt the sources of nearly all the air pollution from the standards have made unsupportable claims about the cost and impact of these standards,” the groups wrote, adding that the “API seeks to pollute first, and ask questions later."

So it comes as no surprise that in a recent profile of the API President, Jack Gerard, in the Washington Post, it points out that many energy economists criticise the API for its “greatly inflated” figures.

What is a surprise is the compliments he gets from his peers. According to one of the oil lobbyists, oil executives, and former employees and board members talked to by the paper, Gerard is described as “Voldemort.”

The profile gives a great insight to the oil industry’s dark magician. Gerard, who is said to love a fight, is reported to have told the API to target lawmakers who were out of step with the oil industry when he took the job. “I want to hang their feet to the fire,” one former employee recalls Gerard saying.

In 2010, a third of the API’s budget—some $63 million was given to the PR company Edelman for advertising campaigns. This year so far, the API has bought at least $4.3 million in broadcast ads, largely in swing states. Much of this is pure API propaganda, using slogans such “Energy Nation,” “Energy Citizens,” “EnergyTomorrow,” or “the People of America’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry.”

Often you struggle to see the connection to the API. The API’s strategy is a classic PR tactic—to use third parties to influence politicians.

It's better if the message is coming from a “concerned citizen” rather than the all-powerful oil industry. So its latest misleading campaign is called Vote4Energy, that the Washington Post argues is trying to appeal to “different demographic groups with photos of ordinary-looking folks...beside a pitch for “developing our plentiful domestic energy resources, like oil and natural gas.”

The link to the API is often hard to see on its social media outlets too, with its support of Facebook sites such as Energy Citizens and EnergyTomorrow, not immediately apparent.

What is apparent is that Gerard is paid well for manipulating the oil and gas agenda, being paid $6.4 million in 2010, making him one of Washington’s highest paid trade lobbyists.

And it's no surprises who Gerard will be supporting in the Presidential race. On Super Tuesday, Ann Romney publicly thanked Gerard for helping her husband in his bid for the presidency. It is no surprises again that Romney is being called the candidate of Big Oil.

And finally no surprises that some former API employees told the Washington Post that they think Gerard is angling to land a job in a Romney administration, should the latter win in November. So expect more misinformation from the API before then…

For more information, click here.

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An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

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To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

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"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

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"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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