Campaigns For Fossil Fuels Under Fire

Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Katie Porter (D-CA) on Monday requested documents from five public relations firms and the American Petroleum Institute (API) detailing their work for fossil fuel companies. 

Porter and Grijalva wrote to the American Petroleum Institute, FTI Consulting, Story Partners, DDC Advocacy, Blue Advertising and Singer Associates asking for all documents regarding the firms’ campaigns for oil, gas and coal companies. The House Natural Resources Committee expects those documents by June 27.

The request stems from an undercover video last year when former Exxon Mobil lobbyist Keith McCoy said that the company only backed a carbon tax for cheap publicity and never pushed lawmakers for such a policy.

“The Committee seeks greater understanding of this cooperation among industry, trade associations and PR firms to influence public opinion and policymaking in ways that prevent the United States from addressing the climate crisis,” said Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

Grijalva is the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He cited additional comments made by the Exxon lobbyist where he explained that the energy giant has used shadow groups and front groups to cast doubt on the reality of climate change

“Thanks to the accidental truth-telling by the former ExxonMobil lobbyist, we know there is a lot to uncover about the ways fossil fuel companies spread disinformation and lies about climate change,” Grijalva said. “If we’re going to take meaningful action against climate change, we need to be armed with facts and science, not industry propaganda. The American people deserve to know the truth.” 

The call for information is the latest step in an ongoing campaign to see agencies cut ties with the world’s biggest polluters. In January, more than 450 scientists called on PR and advertising firms to stop working with fossil fuel companies. The effort was coordinated in partnership with the Union of Concerned Scientists and Clean Creatives, an ad and PR industry advocacy organization which, in November, launched a high-profile celebrity and influencer campaign calling on Edelman to drop fossil fuel clients, most notably ExxonMobil.

The two representatives requested similar documents in February from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, Haymarket Media, the Minnesota Public Relations Society of America, PR News, and Provoke Media.

“Fossil fuel companies have been lying to the public for decades to cover up the damage they’re doing to the planet,” added Porter, chair of the committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee. “Big Oil has been waging a decades-long disinformation campaign to cover up the damage they’re doing to our planet. We know that these companies purposefully withheld data and lobbied against measures that could have saved lives, all in service of their bottom line. With new reports about how polluters’ tactics may have evolved—at great risk to our environment, health, and economy—we must redouble our work to hold oil companies and their enablers accountable.”

In recent years, the fossil fuel industry has acknowledged climate change and publicly expressed a desire to contribute to the solution through increased use of renewable energy. Unfortunately, deceptive practices point to a different reality.

“The oil and gas industry spent decades trying to convince people that climate change wasn’t real, or that fossil fuels didn’t play a major role in causing it,” Grijalva said. “Now that they can no longer get away with outright denial, they are using unknown tactics like the ones described by McCoy and his industry colleagues to undermine climate initiatives.”

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