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Market News

 August 19, 2009
Greenpeace turns up heat on oil giants linked to "astroturf" protests

 Shell and BP distance themselves from lobby groups' "fake rallies"

Greenpeace has today stepped up the pressure on energy firms linked to the American Petroleum Institute (API), calling on them to publicly denounce the lobby group's plans for a series of "fake" rallies protesting at the proposed US climate change bill that are intended to create the impression of grassroots opposition to the legislation.

The so-called "astroturf" campaign was revealed last week when Greenpeace obtained a leaked email from API president Jack Gerard urging the group's members to encourage staff, suppliers, contractors and retirees to attend a series of "Energy Citizen " rallies that will be funded by the API and run by "a highly experienced events management company".

The news stoked fears among green groups that the Waxman-Markey bill could face similar protests to those experienced this summer by President Obama's embattled healthcare plan, which is widely believed to have been the victim of similar tactics.

Greenpeace has today launched an email-writing campaign to the chief executives of BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon, General Electric, Halliburton, Shell and Petrobras urging them to withdraw their membership.

The letter states that the API campaign "would promote misleading and outdated information" and that "as a member of the API, your membership fees are funding this deceptive project".

It calls on the oil chief executives to "demonstrate your disapproval of the continued use of similar tactics by API by publicly withdrawing membership altogether".

The revelations are likely to cause considerable embarrassment to a number of the API's members, several of which such as BP America, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, Shell and Siemens have previously demonstrated their support for the Waxman-Markey bill through their membership of the US Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP) – a business group calling for national carbon legislation.

Shell and BP have said they were not involved in organising the controversial rallies and will not be taking part, although both have so far stopped short of leaving the API.

"We are aware of these rallies, but were not involved in organising them," said a spokesman for BP. "Our views on climate change legislation are well known: we support a transparent, economy-wide system that is based on market mechanisms and treats all energy sources in a fair and equitable manner."

Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace said the contradiction inherent in many oil firms' membership of both the API and the US-CAP group meant the onus was on them to clarify their position on climate change legislation.

"If they do not know what their lobbyists are doing, they need to find out," she said. "There's a contradiction in belonging to both groups. They need to distance themselves publicly from the API's dirty tactics, and if the API no longer represents their views, they need to leave."