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Trump's Pick for Energy Secretary Sits on Board of Dakota Access Pipeline Company

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Trump's Pick for Energy Secretary Sits on Board of Dakota Access Pipeline Company

By Steve Horn

Former Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, a board member of Energy Transfer Partners—owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)—has been named U.S. Secretary of Energy by President-elect Donald Trump.

Perry, the former chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), ran for president as part of the Republican Party primaries in 2015, but his campaign ended quickly. He announced his run for the Oval Office in 2015 while facing felony charges for official state corruption in Texas.

Former Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, a board member of Energy Transfer Partners—owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline—has been named U.S. Secretary of Energy.Wikimedia

As reported by DeSmog at the time, at a 2015 town hall meeting in Iowa during his short-lived presidential run, Perry was asked by someone in the audience about his Energy Transfer Partners board position. Perry said that he thought his ties to DAPL were "irrelevant, frankly" in response to the question.

"All of our sources of energy in this country will be important," Perry said at the town hall. "If America is going to be energy secure, we're going to have to have infrastructure. I happen to think it's important for us as a country to have these sources of energy."

Trump and DAPL

One of Perry's donors for his short-lived presidential run was Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, who also served as a major donor to Trump's presidential campaign. Warren also sat on the advisory board for Perry's 2015 run for president.

After Trump's election, Warren expressed a sense of elation over the future of the hotly-contested DAPL, which has erupted into the largest and most prolonged grassroots direct action mobilization against a pipeline in U.S. history at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's reservation in North Dakota.

"Having a government that actually backs up what they say that we're going to support infrastructure, we're going to support job creation, we're going to support growth in America and then actually does it?," Warren told The Dallas Morning News. "My God, this is going to be refreshing."

In a recent interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace, Trump said that when he takes office on Jan. 20, 2017, he plans to move forward and approve the currently stalled DAPL. Until recently, Trump owned tens of thousands of dollars worth of Energy Transfer Partners stock. Trump's energy adviser for his presidential campaign and major donor, Harold Hamm—CEO and founder of Continental Resources—also will see some of his company's oil flow through DAPL.

Ironically, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Perry will now head up is an agency he said he would get rid of during his run for the presidency during the 2012 election cycle. In a 2011 GOP primary debates, in a now unforgettable gaffe, Perry actually forgot the name of it when he proclaimed he'd throw it by the wayside.

Climate Denier, Former Head of IOGCC

Perry, a vocal supporter of slashing regulations as applied to the oil and gas industry, is also a climate change denier.

He does have some experienced heading up an energy-related agency, or at least a quasi-agency which functions much more like a lobbying organization: the IOGCC. IOGCC serves as an interstate compact of the 30 oil and gas states.

Under Perry's leadership, IOGCC pushed through a model resolution in multiple states which called for the maintenance of what is often referred to as the "Halliburton Loophole." That provision tucked into the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement exemption, as applied to hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for oil and gas, for the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

At the time, a bill called the FRAC Act was moving through Congress, which called for the lifting of the exemption. Trump's choice to head the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), as reported by DeSmog, introduced the first "Halliburton Loophole" bill back in 1999.

Serious Conflicts of Interest

In a press statement reacting to Trump's nomination of Perry to serve as Energy Secretary, the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth said that Perry is "uniquely unqualified" for the job.

"Rick Perry might be uniquely unqualified to run the Department of Energy," said Friends of the Earth Executive Director Ben Schrieber. "He has so little regard for the agency that he has pushed for it to be eliminated during his presidential race."

"Governor Perry also has serious conflicts of interest that should disqualify him from the job. Perry is on the payroll of the company that attacked Indigenous people in an effort to forcibly construct the Dakota Access Pipeline."

The future of DAPL is somewhat up in the air and those on the ground in Standing Rock have pledged continued resistance through the winter as necessary. But at least in so far as the Trump Administration goes, with the naming of Perry to head the DOE, the old adage applies: personnel is policy.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

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In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."

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With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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