Let's face it - being 'green' is the new cool. But sometimes an ulterior, industry-driven motive lurks behind the 'green halo' that we trust in so-called environmental organizations. This blog is dedicated to keeping individuals and organizations who claim to be for clean, renewable energy accountable.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Utility Propoganda Campaign - Texas style

Periodically on this blog I’ve talked about questionable activities by Big Utilities in other states, like when Colorado’s Xcel spent millions trying to quash a measure in 2004 much like CA’s Prop 7. This week, the Center for Media and Democracy posted a very interesting story from Houston that made me think of our David and Goliath epic that’s happening right now in CA. As you probably figured out from the television commercials these days, the Big Utilities are using their $27.5 million on disinformation commercials to defeat Prop 7. In Houston, another big utility has gone so far as to buy a web channel and hire Tommy Lee Jones in order to keep drilling in urban neighborhoods, including grocery store parking lots, city parks, and school grounds. Check this out:

A “for-profit energy corporation is starting an online video channel as "a brand-new media source," to be staffed with people who formerly worked in conventional broadcast journalism and who will report on the very subjects the company is involved with. This unorthodox entrant into new media is Chesapeake Energy, an Oklahoma City-based natural gas producer. At the top of its website's "Health, Safety and the Environment" page, Chesapeake touts natural gas as a substitute for gasoline, diesel and coal - and one that produces significantly less greenhouse gas.”

Now, I would just like to point out to you that this is a company that doesn’t believe that green house gas emissions are the cause of climate change. But that’s OK, because

“Climate change… is not the environmental issue most associated with Chesapeake's name in North Texas these days. That issue comprises a cluster of environmental and safety concerns that citizens have been expressing in and around Fort Worth about the company's accelerated drilling activities in the area. "Fort Worth is the focus of the largest urban gas-drilling boom in the country," NPR reported. "But some people are asking for a moratorium on drilling until its full impact is understood and there are stronger laws to protect the public." Among its other responses to public complaints about its new drilling in an urban area, Chesapeake hired actor Tommy Lee Jones to help deliver its point of view in different advertising venues.”

Chesapeake Energy’s web-tv channel is – I couldn’t make this up – shale.tv. Shale TV, of course, asserts that it will simply be a new entrant on the media market, making up for the journalists who’ve been forced out by mainstream media companies. Those in Texas have a more skeptical view:

“The Morning News' Blow is one of those wary about the journalistic character of the endeavor. Indicative of the challenge observers face in determining who is and who is not a "journalist" in the new digital era, Blow wrote of the Chesapeake Energy "high-powered team of journalists. Or I guess I have to say 'former journalists.' Or 'corporate journalists.' Or something." "So, are they trying to bamboozle us? Or do they just have cash to burn?" he wrote. "When Chesapeake starts hiring credibility heavyweights like Tommy Lee Jones and Tracy Rowlett [formerly a local news anchor] to tell me everything is hunky-dory, I have to start wondering what's really going on."

Bamboozled, indeed. You see a name and face on tv you trust, such as NRDC and the CLCV, and you want to trust the integrity of what they are saying to you. But then you start to wonder…..PG&E and Sempra and Southern Cal Edison do have pretty cozy relationships with the environmentalists in this state. CLVC proudly proclaims PG&E a Champion for sponsoring CLVC events on its website. NRDC is a regular guest for the utilities, even issuing joint statements with the American Gas Association about their great work together on natural gas. Shouldn’t we instantly be skeptical that a PG&E funded ad has NRDC and the CLCV on its face, the same way that Texans are skeptical of Chesapeake’s for-hire spokespeople? Shouldn’t it alarm us that over the years they (the enviros) have taken thousands in direct and indirect donations from the Big Utilities? And shouldn’t we be concerned that the head of Edison, one of the biggest contributors to defeating Prop 7, is the founder of NRDC?

The folks in Texas get it. The face can be shiny and pretty and trustworthy and make you want to believe. But then you peel away the layers and see it’s all for the Big Utilities. Who, incidentally, want to drill in your kids’ playgrounds and will hire Tommy Lee Jones to convince you that you want that, too.

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