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WASHINGTON -- American Petroleum Institute, a petroleum industry trade group, asked oil companies to recruit its employees and retirees to attend rallies attacking climate-change legislation, The Washington Post reported.
In a memo this month, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard detailed plans for "Energy Citizen" rallies to be held in 20 states during the final two weeks of Congress' August recess. Gerard wrote the intent was to put a "human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy," including a climate-change bill passed by the House in June.
"Please indicate to your company leadership your strong support for employee participation in the rallies," Gerard wrote in the memo, stating contractors and suppliers should also be recruited, according to the newspaper.
Environmental groups criticized the rallies, which they described as manufactured events intended to pass as organic assemblies of concerned citizens. Greenpeace activists said they saw parallels to the health-care debate, where opponents of reform—including some organizations that receive heavy funding from industry groups and individuals—have organized efforts to shout down lawmakers at "town hall" meetings.
"It's the most powerful among us, masquerading as grass-roots outrage to stifle debate on global warming," said Michael Crocker, a Greenpeace spokesman. "These are manufactured concerns, and the people who get involved in this are paid to put on this theater."
In a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Gerard defended the meetings as events of education and discussion. He said they are designed to be standalone rallies, not efforts to pack lawmakers' scheduled meetings.
"There are a lot of folks out there who would like to suggest that anybody who doesn't agree with their views somehow doesn't play by the rules. We disagree strongly with that," Gerard said. His group said the bill passed by the House would cost millions of jobs and burden the U.S. economy with higher energy costs.
The House bill calls for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, measured against 2005 levels, by 2020. It would also require polluters to buy "allowances" for each ton of emissions and allow them to exceed their allotted share of pollution only by buying more allowances. Democratic leaders in the Senate have said they will use the House bill as a model for their version of the legislation, the report stated.
The oil industry seems divided on the issue. Shell Oil and BP America, both members of the American Petroleum Institute, are also members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which supported a "cap and trade" approach. Spokesmen for both companies said yesterday they would not participate in the "Energy Citizen" rallies.
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