Astroturfing NC's offshore drilling debate

The American Petroleum Institute's puppets proxies invade Wrightsville Beach forum:

About 160 people showed up at the Coastline Conference and Events Center, the former train station, to grab a free sandwich at what was billed as an Offshore Energy Luncheon. The N.C. Energy Forum provided the eats. If you never heard of it, you’re forgiven. It is one of 27 state groups that are part of a larger effort known as America’s Energy Forum, which notes on its website that it is comprised of “concerned citizens committed to two goals – achieving energy security for our country and holding our elected officials more accountable in shaping energy policies.”

Some have disparaged the forum as a fake grassroots group. The Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch calls it an “astroturf” project of the American Petroleum Institute, or API, the largest trade group of oil and gas producers in the country. API admits to it, though you have to search pretty hard to find it. There it is, though, at the bottom of the forum website in tiny type: “Sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.” David McGowan III, the executive director of the N.C. Petroleum Council – an API group – later confirmed the affiliation in an email.

Unfortunately, a certain portion of our population have always been prone to believe unscrupulous salesmen and the "magic elixirs" they peddle, and the fossil fuel industry has become a master at creating organizations like Americans For Prosperity and other groups who use naïve people to help them increase their profit margins. It's all about the dogma, usually with a flag flapping in the background:

Standing in front of a large poster that proclaimed “Energy Security = National Security,” Cash stressed that we are in the midst of an “energy revolution,” triggered largely by fracking that has made America the world’s top producer of natural gas.

“We have left decades of scarcity behind us,” Cash told his audience. “That would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

But the revolution is threatened by the “vocal minority,” Cash said. Using emotional arguments and erroneous science, it has stymied such things as the Keystone XL Pipeline, he noted.

“You know what? I’m not very different from my friends in the environmental community,” Cash said. “I want clean water for my kids. I want clean air. It’s important that we do this right. It’s important that we protect the environment.

Just to be clear, there's a reason the Keystone XL Pipeline will be terminating in Port Arthur and Houston Texas: The crude oil and much of the refined gas will be sold on the global market, mostly lining the pockets of TransCanada and a few smaller partners. And as far as America going on a frack-frenzy and producing 20% of the world's natural gas, that out-of-control gas rush has forced the price of NatGas down so low landowners who signed leases are only making a pittance of what they were promised, and that pittance is swallowed by their loss in property values. And for states who were "enjoying" tax revenues from oil and gas production, the picture is almost as ugly:

“The increase in usage of gasoline is not going to make up for the decline in crude oil severance taxes that they’re going to lose,” Dancy told Watchdog.org in a phone interview. “Using just a back-of-the-envelope calculation, I can tell you, that’s a no-brainer.”

For example, a recent study showed New Mexico gets 31.5 percent of its general fund revenue from taxes, royalties and fees from the oil and natural gas industry.

Budget directors in states such as Texas and North Dakota have been scrambling, adjusting their projections downward as the price of oil has slipped from around $100 a barrel last summer to under $50 at the start of this week.

Energy-rich Oklahoma’s annual $7 billion budget was modeled on the presumption of oil averaging $86.99 a barrel, but officials had to adjust that down to $59.97 in late December. What’s more, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services told Watchdog.org Tuesday the figure will likely be adjusted down again next month.

For leaders like McCrory who harp so much about the "opportunities" for the state in pursuing fossil fuel production, it's plainly evident they haven't studied the economics of that particular game. The only people who benefit in the long run are the oil company executives, and maybe the politicians who do their dirty work for them.

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Comments

I don't know why they bother.

I don't know why they bother. All the decks are stacked, and besides, Republican policymakers don't need actual evidence for anything.

I would like to hear how the forum actually went

Were there any dissenting opinions to the API line? Would be fun if they had one of these events and they got swamped by some real grass roots people - people who oppose their agenda.

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

Yes, there were some 300

environmental activists in attendance, about three times what the other side had.

I'm waiting for a decent video summary but, from what I've seen, it seems there were actually three different locations: The pro-drillers and anti-drillers each had gatherings/rallies (separate locations), and then everybody came together to hear what the government folks said, and a speaker or two from each side gave testimony.

I'll keep looking, but environmentalists aren't always the best at recording these events. ;)