Leaked Internal Presentation Details the Oil Industry's Coordinated Multi-State Campaign to Stop Progress on Clean Energy

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) – whose members include Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, BP, and others – was caught red-handed last week when a leaked internal presentation revealed a coordinated campaign to stomp out climate and clean energy progress in California, Oregon and Washington by propping up over 15 front groups that purport to represent the views of concerned citizens and the broader business community.

The leak comes on the heels of NRDC’s report released this month, which unmasked eight of the front groups that are campaigning against California’s climate and clean energy laws, as having direct ties to the oil industry.

Fortunately, Californians have shown they can see through Big Oil’s smoke and mirrors tactics. In 2010, voters rejected an oil-funded ballot measure to derail the state’s pioneering clean energy law, AB 32, by a margin of more than 2 to 1. And just recently, Chevron’s $3 million campaign to influence the outcome of the city of Richmond’s local elections (which just happens to be the home of a Chevron refinery) completely backfired.

WSPA’s Colony of Front Groups

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Graphic excerpted from the leaked WSPA presentation

The 15-plus WSPA-backed front groups include:

  • AB 32 Implementation Group
  • CA Fuel Facts*
  • California Drivers Alliance*
  • Californians Against Higher Oil Taxes*
  • Californians Against Higher Taxes*
  • Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE)*
  • Californians for Energy Independence*
  • Concerned Mineral Owners of California
  • Fed Up at the Pump*
  • Fueling California*
  • Kern Citizens for Energy
  • Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy
  • Save Our Jobs
  • Tank the Tax
  • Washingtonians for Sound Fuel Policy
  • Plus multiple local hydraulic fracking campaigns 

The concentrated interests invested in dirty energy are powerful, well-funded and committed to protecting the status quo. WSPA’s metastasizing colony of anti-clean energy front groups is a startling reminder of the length to which the oil industry will go to protect their market share. As reported by the Northwest News Network radio news team, WPSA spokesperson Tupper Hull described the graphic above as “just an attempt to sort of put on a single slide a graphical depiction for folks as to how many issues we’re involved in and the various coalitions that we’re working with to represent the industry’s point of view.”

I can see why they would need a graphic just to keep track. WSPA’s new crop of front groups and the campaign behind them is indeed impressive. They are attacking climate and clean energy policies – both existing and under development – in California, Washington, and Oregon. They are engaging (and in some cases pretending to speaking on behalf of) consumers, launching petition drives, tracking and attending every policy and public forum, funding reports designed to back their interests, backing or attacking elected leaders to influence politics, and running aggressive and misleading ad campaigns (see the truck-mounted billboard that circled the capital in Sacramento below). Since 2009, the oil industry has reported spending over $70 million on lobbying in California alone.

If only they showed the same determination and innovation in cleaning up their operations and developing clean energy alternatives for their customers.

Same Wolf, Different Sheep

But while eye-opening in its candor, the leaked presentation reveals nothing new. It’s the same strategy the oil industry has employed for decades. The outfits may change over the years, but as we are reminded yet again: beneath all the phony sheep’s clothing, it’s ultimately the same big bad wolf.

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Example of a truck-mounted billboard sponsors by the so-called California Drivers Alliance

* Featured in NRDC’s report “Unmasked: The Oil Industry Campaign to Undermine California’s Clean Energy Future Millions Spent on Front Groups, Lobbying, and Scare Tactics to Keep Californians Dependent on Oil.”

About the Authors

Merrian Borgeson

Senior Scientist, Energy program

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