Monday, August 24, 2009

Oil cos. fund astroturf rallies against federal regulation of greenhouse gas

HOUSTON - Some 3,500 people, most of them oil industry employees bused in for the event, packed a downtown theater here on Aug. 18 for a lunchtime rally against Washington’s energy policies, which many here fear will raise energy prices.
The keynote speaker was Drayton McLane, owner of the Houston Astros and chairman of the McLane Group, which operates food distribution enterprises and military services. The master of ceremonies, Bill Bailey, is best known for his work as announcer at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
The event was organized by a group called Energy Citizens, which is backed by the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s main trade group. Many of the people attending the demonstration were employees of oil companies who work in Houston and were bused from their workplaces.
In public relations, the term “third party fronts” is used to describe creation of what are supposed to appear to be grass-roots groups that are in fact funded by industry. Shortly after World War II, in the case of Noerr Motor Freight v. Eastern Railroad Presidents, the Supreme Court considered the legality of such fronts. The Supremes ultimately ruled that such fronts are legal but unethical.
The Houston event was the first of a series of about 20 rallies planned for Southern and oil-producing states to organize resistance to proposed legislation that would set a limit on emissions of heat-trapping gases, requiring many companies to buy emission permits. Participants described the system as an energy tax that would undermine the economy of Houston, the nation’s energy capital.

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