Big Oil uses its vast wealth to advocate for the ongoing extraction of climate change-causing fossil fuels. Their ruthless manipulation was recently revealed in a leaked transcript of a speech from an oil and gas industry insider. As reported in a New York Times article, some of these disreputable tactics were outlined by veteran Washington political consultant Richard Berman in an address he gave to industry executives at a June event sponsored by the Western Energy Alliance.
“If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities”
We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels at anywhere near the current rate if we hope to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Recognizing the weight of the scientific evidence arrayed against them the fossil fuel industry is pulling out all the stops. To maintain their hold over the global economy, oil and gas industries have deployed a wide range of tactics that run the gamut from buying the support of elected representatives and pseudo-science to a range of dirty tricks designed to discredit their detractors. While the Koch Industries has received considerable scrutiny for their pro-oil antics, they are but one fossil fuel company among many who are engaged in the dirty politics of maligning those who oppose them.
Berman explained that to succeed in discrediting opponents of fossil fuels they must be prepared to “exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups.”
Berman, who received around $3 million from oil and gas industry executives for a smear campaign called “Big Green Radicals,” told the executives that “you can either win ugly or lose pretty,” he said. “Think of this as an endless war.”
Referencing the deep pockets of his patrons Berman said, “you have to budget for it.” The vast wealth of oil and gas producers is being put to work in devious campaigns meant to discredit opponents so that they can continue to extract and sell their dirty energy.
The economic might of the fossil fuel industry is unequaled. The world’s largest company is an oil and gas producer (Sinopec) and six of the world’s top ten largest companies are oil and gas producers. Seventeen of the 50 largest companies in the world are oil and gas producers and 19 of 62 largest companies produce fossil fuels. The top three most profitable annual earnings of all time are from oil and gas companies and six of the top ten most profitable annual earnings of all time are from companies that produce fossil fuels. Fifteen of the top 20 most profitable annual earnings are companies that produce oil and gas as are 19 of the top 25.
Berman is an expert at hiding the role that his patrons play in financing his mudslinging. One of the ways he does this is by creating nonprofit front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom. They collect money for his dirty pool campaigns. Berman runs a large number of such organizations.
“People always ask me one question all the time: How do I know that I won’t be found out as a supporter of what you’re doing?” Berman said. “We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”
In his speech, he offered some insights on how to “reduce their brand.” He cited some particularly effective techniques to help a campaign to go viral, this includes using children and animals. He also advocates using humor to minimize or marginalize the people on the other side.”
As Berman said, “We’re doing stuff to diminish the other sides’ ability to operate.”
Jack Hubbard, the vice president of Berman’s firm discussed his role in character assassination. He candidly disclosed how he had researched the personal histories of board members of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, “to find information that could be used to embarrass them.”
Berman is only one of a vast army of misinformation experts and smear campaigners. The nonprofit groups and think tanks that Big Oil has at its disposal is both immense and disquieting.
Click here to see the full transcript of Mr. Berman’s speech.