By Jim Snyder - 08/15/09 03:16 PM EDT
Instead of town halls and angry confrontations with lawmakers, farm and fossil fuel groups are using tractor pulls and county fairs and national advertising campaigns to spread their message that a climate bill will hurt the economy.
That bill passed the House and is serving as a template for action in the Senate.
“We want to give voice to those organizations and individuals that have concerns with the Waxman-Markey legislation,” said Robert Dodge, a spokesman for API. The scheduled events will take place several states where Democratic senators are reportedly on the fence on climate legislation, like North Dakota, Michigan and Nebraska.
The grassroots effort is focusing on farmers and employees of energy companies and energy intensive industries who could feel the effects of a cap on carbon more acutely to build a network of opposition.
A sample rally invitation states: “You can be certain our critics will be spending millions to convince lawmakers that legislation like the Waxman-Markey bill approved by the House of Representatives earlier this summer is the way to go. We cannot afford to cede citizen advocacy to our critics. We need to make our voices heard.”
Another Energy Citizens paper obtained by The Hill notes that “messaging research” shows opponents should focus on the negative effects such a bill would have on “current employment” and lead to higher energy costs, particularly motor fuels. The paper notes a study done by the conservative Heritage Foundation that found the climate bill could increase gasoline prices to $4.
Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Information Administration and the Congressional Budget Office have estimated that climate legislation will have a relatively small impact to the overall economy, particularly during an initial implementation of the cap when a large percentage of pollution allowances would be distributed for free. CBO said that the bill could actually lower energy costs for some lower income households.
Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the group, said the tour in aimed at getting a public that is paying more attention to healthcare engaged again on the climate issue, which he said is similarly important to the economy.
“Energy affects every aspect of our daily lives,” Creighton said. The “American Energy Express” tour is concentrating on states that use coal as their principle source of power and with large industrial base, like Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
A call to “Stop national energy tax, save American jobs” is written on the side of the alliance’s bus.
Meanwhile, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a group of coal producers, utilities and railroads, is launching television ads in eight key states called “Real people, Real stories.”
Its focus isn’t necessarily against climate legislation but on the need for it to accommodate continued use of coal, despite its relatively high carbon footprint. The half million dollar campaign will run in 8 states represented by senators who are seen as critical to the outcome of a Senate vote on a climate bill.
In one ad, an employee from AEP, a utility that is heavily reliant on coal, calls the fossil fuel “plentiful, dependable” and “affordable.” New coal plants, the woman says, are “light years” cleaner than plants built 30 years ago.
The ad campaign could be seen as a response to the recent controversy of a grassroots campaign by ACCCE that included the distribution of 12 forged letters of opposition to the House climate bill sent to at least three congressional offices.
Bonner & Associates, a grassroots firm working on behalf of ACCCE, has said a temporary employee who has since been fired was responsible for the letters. Markey, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, is investigating the issue.
Lisa Miller, a spokeswoman for the group, said the ad campaign had been in the works for months and was unrelated to the recent controversy. The group sent its initial answers to a series of questions Markey had sought last week but did not release the responses to the public.
The $500,000 ad campaign is in addition to a $1 million effort by ACCCE to build a grassroots network of supporters.
In describing their efforts, critics of the climate bill say they aren’t trying to engender the kind of anger evident at town halls focused on the healthcare reform push.
“We are going to county fairs, tractor pulls, big events where you see a lot of people,” Miller said.
Environmentalists say that industry groups are overestimating the damage to the economy a climate bill would do, and underestimating the economic consequences of doing nothing to address global warming.
Several pro-climate legislation supporters are also using August to build support. The Alliance for Climate Protection, a group founded by former Vice President Al Gore, is running a television advertising campaigns stressing the clean energy jobs that would be created by a climate bill, and could even lower energy prices for some households.
In addition, Repower America, which is affiliated with the climate alliance, and the Blue-Green Alliance, which includes the steelworkers union and environmental groups, plan to launch a grassroots campaign in 22 states, many of the same ones the anti-climate activity is focusing on.