Search OCA:
Get Local!

Find Local News, Events & Green Businesses on OCA's State Pages:

OCA News Sections

Organic Consumers Association

How the American Petroleum Institute Spies on Environmentalists

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page.

In 2010 the American Petroleum Institute (API) paid the global intelligence firm Stratfor more than $13,000 a month for weekly intelligence bulletins profiling activist organizations and their campaigns on everything from energy and climate change to tax policy and human rights, according to documents published by WikiLeaks in 2012.

The weekly reports provided details on a wide range of environmental organizations including Greenpeace, NRDC, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. API was interested in anticipating which groups might be out to "attack" them.

API's tracking of environmental organizations comes as the oil and gas industry faces a kind of existential crisis - or public relations dilemma, depending on your point of view - in how to address climate change and related issues. Even as some of API's own members are inching toward compromise on relatively modest proposals like cap and trade legislation the lobbying group seems to be fighting a rearguard battle.

"The best climate science coming from the IPCC, IEA, and the World Bank agrees that at least two thirds of the world's existing proven reserves of fossil fuels need to be left in the ground," says Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International. "You can't believe that and then think that investing billions each year to find more fossil fuels is a good idea."

The Stratfor contract stipulates that the Austin-based intelligence company will "conduct open source public policy monitoring services on domestic and activist issues of concern to the petroleum industry." The weekly "sitreps" - or activist reports - provided details on a wide range of environmental organizations including NRDC, Greenpeace, and the Center for Biological Diversity. Stratfor also furnished API - the country's largest oil and gas lobbying group - with more detailed profiles of organizations including Oil Change International, 350.org, the Center for American Progress, Clean Energy Works, the Sierra Club, Forest Ethics, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the investigative news website ProPublica.

"It's telling that the fossil fuel industry has resorted to trying to dig up, or even fabricate dirt on environmental groups and activists," says Matt Leonard, director of special projects at 350.org. "The more activists shine a light on them, the more we expose their manipulation of the truth, their corruption of the political process, and their billions spent to block social progress." But as Stratfor's reports suggest not all activist groups are the same. Part of their aim was to provide intelligence on how to divide and conquer an increasingly restive environmental movement. "They [API] view us as a force," says Kretzmann, "but they want to know who they can deal with and co-opt and who they can't."

API was interested both in the organizations' sources of funding and in anticipating which groups might be out to "attack" them. In an August 2010 email to Stratfor requesting four new profiles, API senior policy adviser Walt Retzsch wrote: "We are interested in learning as much as we can about the below groups that have been slamming us in the media recently. In particular, we are interested in uncovering who is funding them and if it's the same source. It would also be helpful to know if there are any other groups that have been attacking us lately that are not listed."

API did not respond to repeated requests for comment.     


>>> Read the Full Article

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords: