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“Our Energy Moment:” The Blue Engine Behind Fracked Gas Exports PR Blitz

11:52 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog 

Our Energy Moment log

Blue Engine Media’s pro-fracking moment

Behind nearly every major corporate policy push there’s an accompanying well-coordinated public relations and propaganda campaign. As it turns out, the oil and gas industry’s push to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) plays the same game.

And so on February 5, “Our Energy Moment” was born. The PR blitz is described in a press release announcing the launch as a “new coalition dedicated to raising awareness and celebrating the many benefits of expanded markets for liquefied natural gas.”

Its member list includes industry heavy hitters such as Cheniere Energy, Sempra Energy, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and Freeport LNG.

Since its launch, “Our Energy Moment” has disseminated press releases about theU.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) conditional approval of Jordan Cove LNGexport facility in Coos Bay, Oregon and its conditional approval of Cameron LNG export facility in Hackberry, Louisiana.

So the industry is funding a PR campaign clearly in its self interest. But so what? You have to read all the way to the bottom of the press releases to find what’s perhaps the most interesting tidbit.

At the very bottom of “Our Energy Moment’s” releases, a contact person named Tiffany Edwards is listed with an email address ending in @blueenginemedia.com. If you visit blueenginemedia.com you’ll find the website for PR and advertising firm Blue Engine Message & Media.

Further, a domain name search for ourenergymoment.org reveals the website was registered by another PR and web development firm called Liberty Concepts by its founder and president Jonathan Karush. Karush registered the site on May 8, 2013, a full ten months before the campaign’s official launch date.

Who are these firms and why do they matter? That’s where the fun begins.

Blue Engine Media

According to its website, Blue Engine helps “develop and implement strategic public policy campaign plans for corporations, coalitions, non-profits and national trade associations, particularly when reputation, brand or market position face a threat or opportunity.”

Clients past and present include Citibank, Ford, Delta, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions and Obama for President in 2008 and 2012, among others.

The firm was founded by Erik Smith — self-described “recovering political hack & aspiring corporate hack“ — served as senior advisor for advertising and message development for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns and former Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Smith also founded and helped coordinate the Common Purpose Project, set up to “discuss White House plans, priorities, and messages with [progressive] groups,” according to Mother Jones’ David Corn. “But some of the outside participants considered the meetings mostly sessions where the administration tossed out talking points and marching orders.”

Common Purpose has received strong criticism from both investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and founder of FireDogLakeJane Hamsher.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 990 tax forms show Common Purpose was run out of Blue Media’s office as of 2012 (the phone number listed on its IRS 990 formsmatches the one listed on Blue Engine’s website, as well) and Erik Smith received over $1.3 million between 2009 and 2012 to work on this account.

Other Blue Engine luminaries include:

  • Adam Abrams: The former regional communications director and spokesperson for President Barack Obama, Abrams was also on the communications team at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and sat on the communications staff for both the Obama 2008 and John Kerry 2004 presidential campaigns.
  • Amber McDowell and Jacob Sittig: McDowell formerly served as Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the new head of theU.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sittig was Landrieu’s former Deputy Press Secretary.
  • Jessica Borchert: Borchert worked on the Obama 2012 campaign. In that capacity, she did “production of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and [worked] on the ground in Colorado coordinating press operations.”
  • Catherine Lavelle: Lavelle worked on the Obama for President team in 2012 and also was the Media Logistics Manager for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Further, Laura Burton Capps — former Assistant to George Stephanopoulos in the Bill Clinton White House and speechwriter for Clinton — was a Blue Engine principal until 2013. Capps also formerly worked on the staff for the Common Purpose Project and is listed as the principal officer on its 2011 IRS 990 form.

Laura Capps is married to Bill Burton, former Deputy Press Secretary for Obama and co-founder of Priorities USA, a “dark money” Democratic Super-PAC set up to compete with Republican “dark money” Super-PAC Crossroads GPS.

And then there’s Tiffany Edwards, the point person for the “Our Energy Moment” file and where this whole inquiry began.

Before coming to Blue Engine, Edwards served as Deputy Press Secretary at the Department of Energy — the agency with final legal decisionmaking power overLNG export proposals — for the first two years of the Obama Administration. Prior to that, she worked for the 2008 Obama campaign’s press staff in the Chicago headquarters.

Roll Call reported she was hired on February 3, meaning “Our Energy Moment” was likely the first file on her Blue Engine account. Edwards hasn’t responded to questions sent to her via email by DeSmogBlog.

Liberty Concepts

Like Blue Engine, Liberty Concepts maintains tight ties with the Democratic Party and groups with close ties to the party, describing itself as a “full service digital communications agency that specializes in helping create brands and develop online communities around them.”

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Revealed: Gen. David Petraeus’ Course Syllabus Features “Frackademia” Readings

12:32 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Records obtained by DeSmogBlog pertaining to City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College’s hiring of former head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) David Petraeus to teach a seminar this coming fall reveal that his syllabus features two of the most well-known “frackademia” studies.

“Frackademia” is shorthand for oil and gas industry-funded research costumed as independent economics or science covering the topic of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the controversial horizontal drilling process via which oil and gas is obtained deep within shale rock basins.

According to the syllabus, Petraeus will devote two weeks to energy alone, naming those weeks “The Energy Revolution I” and “The Energy Revolution II.” The two “frackademia” studies Petraeus will have his students read for his course titled “The Coming North American Decade(s)? are both seminal industry-funded works.

One of them is a study written by industry-funded National Economic Research Associates (NERA) concluding liquified natural gas (LNG) exports are beneficial to the U.S. economy, despite the fact that exporting fracked gas will raise domestic home-heating and manufacturing prices. NERA was founded by “father of deregulation” Alfred E. Kahn. The study Petraeus will have his students read was contracted out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to NERA.

The other, a study written by then-Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research professor Ernest Moniz - now the head of the DOE – is titled “The Future of Natural Gas” and also covers LNG exports. DOE oversees the permitting process for LNG exports. That study was funded by the Clean Skies Foundation, a front group for Chesapeake Energy and covered in-depth in the Public Accountability Initiative’s report titled, “Industry Partner or Industry Puppet?

Noticeably absent from the reading list: studies tackling the climate impactsair quality impacts, over-arching ecological impacts such as water contaminationwastewater impacts and supply issues (aka diminishing supply).

Together, the two crucial studies on the syllabus reading list – and the lack of critical readings on the topic of fracking – offers a gimpse into the stamp of legitimacy industry-funded studies get when they have the logo of elite research universities on them. It’s also another portrayal of the ascendancy of the corporate university.

From “Petraeusgate” to “Frackademia”-gate

In the case of Petraeus, the original “Petraeusgate” scandal centered around the $200,000 fee the Honors College planned on paying him for his role as an adjunct professor set to teach one course. A normal CUNY Honors College adjunct receives $3,000 per course.

Recently, Petraeus – who the late Rolling Stone investigative journalist Michael Hastings pejoratively referred to as “King David” in reference to the role he played in implementing counterinsurgency doctrine in U.S.-occupied Iraq – took a pay cut down to $1 to teach the course. That doesn’t include the money he’ll still get from an unidentified “private donor” referred to in other documents.

That scandal sat on top of the scandal that led to his resignation from the CIA in the first place: an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, who at the time of the affair was writing a biography about him titled, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”

Petraeus Teaches Frackers Counterinsurgency, Psychological Warfare

Petraeus has also taught the shale gas industry some important things, as well.

Namely, Petraeus was one of the co-authors of the “Counterinsurgency (COIN) Field Manual” that Anadarko Petroleum PR hand Matt Carmichael said he has employees read at the “Media & Stakeholder Relations: Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011” conference in Houston, TX in 2011.

“Download the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual because we are dealing with an insurgency,” said Carmichael at the conference. “There’s a lot of good lessons in there, and coming from a military background, I found the insight in that extremely remarkable.”

One of the key COIN tactics covered in the Field Manual is psychological operations (PSYOPs), also discussed at the Houston conference by Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella.

“We have several former PSYOPs folks that work for us at Range because they’re very comfortable in dealing with localized issues and local governments,” Pitzarella said to the audience in Houston.

“Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that. But very much having that understanding of PSYOPs in the Army and in the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”

As Hastings covered in another Rolling Stone investigation, the U.S. military employed PSYOPs tactics on members of Congress. That’s illegal within U.S. borders under theSmith-Mundt Act of 1948, though it seems rather unlikely the co-author of the COIN Manual – “King David” himself - will cover these details in his course.

Petraeus’ Wall Street Job Description Mirrors His Course Description

Petraus also has a teaching gig at University of Southern California (USC) and a day job working at the Wall Street firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).

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“Gasland 2″ Grassroots Premiere in Illinois Highlights Industry PSYOPS and Ongoing Fracking Fights

11:10 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 

Gasland Promo image

Gasland Part 2 continues documenting energy industry spin and climate change.

Gasland 2 screened yesterday in Normal, IL and DeSmogBlog was there to gain a sneak peak of the documentary set for a July 8 HBO national premiere.

Josh Fox’s documentary played at the Normal Theater, the second-ever screening since the film officially premiered on April 21 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City

The movie builds on Fox’s Academy Award-nominated Gasland, further making the case of how the shale industry’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom is busting up peoples’ livelihoods, contaminating air and water, polluting democracy and serving as a “bridge fuel” only to propel us off the climate disruption cliff. 

A central theme and question of the film is, “Who gets to tell the story?” That is, industry PR pros and bought-off politicians utilizing the “tobacco playbook” and saying “the sky is pink,” or families directly injured by the industry? Fox explains how the industry has gamed the system, ensuring the communities have their voices drowned out. The Gasland films seek to tell some of the victims’ stories. 

Another theme is the bread and butter of following any big industry’s influence: following the money. In depicting the financial clout of Big Oil, Gasland 2 shows that the oil and gas industry has gone to the lengths of deploying warfare tactics – literally – on U.S. citizens to ram through its agenda. 

PSYOPs Use by Gas Industry PR Flacks Featured

Much of the content in Gasland 2 has also been covered on DeSmogBlog over the past few years.

Robert Howarth’s and Anthony Ingraffea’s prominent “Cornell Study” receives some good play in the film. Howarth and Ingraffea demonstrated that from cradle to grave, fracked gas has a more dangerous global warming effect than coal, a death knell to the “natural gas as a bridge fuel” meme. President Obama’s deployment of American Petroleum Institute “jobs” talking points for fracking is in there too.

Former head of the Dept. of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and Republican Gov. of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, also takes a beating in the film. His appearance on “The Colbert Report” is righteously roasted, the same appearance in which he lied to U.S. citizens and declared he was “not a lobbyist” even though he was registered to lobby at that time for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Tailsman Terry the Fracosaurus,” which demonstrates the industy’s willingness to utilize propaganda on young children, receives a similar round of ridicule in Gasland 2. Fox also explains the oil industry’s use of Big Tobacco’s Playbook through interviews with Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, a major theme of our coverage of both the shale gas industry and the Tea Party

Steve Lipsky, who was left in the dust by Range Resouces and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is one of the central characters of the film. The major villain of that tale is former PA Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who helped derail and censor the EPA’s fracking groundwater contamination study motivated by Lipsky’s water contamination in Weatherford, TX.

While the prospective shale gas export boom is covered in some depth in the film, so too is the concept of the government-industry revolving door, particularly as it pertains to Pennsylvania. The Public Accountability Initiative’s study “Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania” is featured in the film, a study we also covered.

Last but certainly not least, Gasland 2 devotes an entire section to the industry’s admitted use of psychological warfare tactics (PSYOPs) on U.S. citizens, as we first revealed in Nov. 2011.

The Houston PR conference referred to in the film is one I attended and covered in some depth. It was a gathering of industry public relations executives talking among friends about how to best manipulate mainstream media journalists, divide and conquer anti-fracking activists, and intimidate local communities to go along with fracking operations that endanger their health and drinking water.

Gasland 2 presents the audio of Range Resouces Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Matt Pitzarella revealing that Range hires PSYOPs Iraq War veterans to use their skills to pressure local communities. The film also features Anadarko Petroleum External Affairs Manager Matt Carmichael advising gas industry PR pros to read the Army “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” and “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” because “we are dealing with an insurgency.”

Both audio clips were obtained by Earthworks’ Sharon Wilson at the conference and provided to media by Earthworks and DeSmogBlog. CNBC first broke the story on Nov. 8, 2011.

Illinois Fracking Fight Wages On

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Ties That Bind: Ernest Moniz, Keystone XL Contractor, American Petroleum Institute and Fracked Gas Exports

9:53 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Ernest J Moniz

Ernest J Moniz, Obama's candidate for Secretary of Energy, has many conflicts of interest due to energy industry ties.

Congress will review the Obama Administration’s nomination of Ernest Moniz for Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) in hearings that start today, April 9.

Moniz has come under fire for his outspoken support of nuclear powerhydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas and the overarching “all-of-the-above” energy policy advocated by both President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent in the last election, Mitt Romney.

Watchdogs have also discovered that Moniz has worked as a long-time corporate consultant for BP. He has also received the “frackademic” label for his time spent at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At his MIT job, Moniz regularly accepted millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry to sponsor studies under the auspices of The MIT Energy Initiative, which has received over $145 million over its seven-year history from the oil and gas industry.

MIT’s “The Future of Natural Gas” report, covered by many mainstream media outlets without any effort to question who bankrolled it, was funded chiefly by the American Clean Skies Foundation, a front group for the shale gas industry’s number two domestic producer, Chesapeake Energy. That report concluded that gas is a “bridge fuel” for a renewable energy future and said that shale gas exports were in the best economic interests of the United States, which should “not erect barriers to natural gas imports and exports.”

As first revealed on DeSmogBlogMoniz is also on the Board of Directors of ICF International, one of the three corporate consulting firms tasked to perform the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) for TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. KXL is slated to bring tar sands – also known as “diluted bitumen,” or “dilbit” - from Alberta to Port Arthur, TX, where it will be sold to the highest bidder on the global export market.

Moniz earned over $300,000 in financial compensation in his two years sitting on the Board at ICF, plus whatever money his 10,000+ shares of ICF stock have earned him.

Moniz’s American Petroleum Institute Ties to Shale Gas Export Advocacy

Another controversial oil and gas industry export plan exists for fracking.

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Congressmen Supporting Fracked Gas Exports Took $11.5 Million From Big Oil, Electric Utilities

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

south texas oil

South Texas Oil Refinery

On Jan. 25, 110 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 94 Republicans and 16 Democrats - signed a letter urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to approve expanded exports of liquified natural gas (LNG).

It was an overt sign of solidarity with the Obama Administration Department of Energy’s (DOE) LNG exports study, produced by a corporate consulting firm with long ties to Big Tobacco named NERA Economic Consulting (NERA is short for National Economic Research Associates), co-founded in 1961 by the “Father of Deregulation,” Alfred E. Kahn. That study concluded exporting gas obtained from the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process - sent via pipelines to coastal LNG terminals and then onto tankers – is in the best economic interests of the United States.

A DeSmogBlog investigation shows that these 110 signatories accepted $11.5 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil and electric utilities in the run-up to the November 2012 election, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

Big Oil pumped $7.9 million into the signatories’ coffers, while the remaining $3.6 million came from the electric utilities industry, two industries whose pocketbooks would widen with the mass exportation of the U.S. shale gas bounty. Further, 108 of the 110 signers represent states in which fracking is occurring.

Exhibit A: Human Geography of Campaign Finance Post-Citizens United

Energy issues are almost always questions of infrastructure, geography, and geopolitics. So too is the case of LNG exports, with this letter serving as Exhibit A of the new human geography of campaign finance in the post-Citizens United world.

Texas

The expression always seems to ring true: everything is bigger in Texas.

This letter is no different, as 19 of the 110 signatories represent congressional districts in The Lone Star State, 12 Republicans and seven Democrats. Texas is home to both the Eagle Ford Shale basin and the Barnett Shale basin, as well as prospective LNG export terminals in Sabine Pass (co-owned by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Qatar Petroleum), Freeport (partially owned by ConocoPhillips) and Corpus Christi (owned by LNG export giant, Cheniere).

The “Texas 19″ alone raked in $2.5 million from Big Oil and electric utilities. 

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX8), a recipient of $166,000 from Big Oil and another $23,000 from the electric utilities industry, oversees a congressional district in part based in Houston, the corporate epicenter for the oil and gas industry and home to the innovative leader in the sphere of LNG exports, Cheniere Energy. ExxonMobil and Chesapeake Energy, the number one and two producers of unconventional gas in the U.S., each gave Brady $10,000 before his 2012 electoral victory. Anadarko, Marathon and Valero also followed suit with $10,000 contributions and ConocoPhillips chipped in an extra $7,500.

Brady’s Texas colleague Joe Barton (R-TX6), whose congressional district in large part overlaps the Barnett Shale basin, took $162,150 from Big Oil and another $124,950 from the electric utilities industry. He received $13,000 from utilities giant Exelon Corporation, $12,500 from ExxonMobil, $10,000 from Koch Industries, $7,000 from Chevron and $5,000 from Chesapeake Energy. Koch Industries’ Koch Pipeline runs from the Eagle Ford Shale basin to Corpus Christi.

The Dirty, Dirty South

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Revealed: NERA Economic Consulting is Third Party Contractor for DOE LNG Export Study

7:33 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Retuers has revealed the identity of the mysterious third party contractor tasked to publish the economic impact study on LNG (liquefied natural gas) exports on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE). Its name: NERA Economic Consulting.

“NERA” is shorthand for National Economic Research Associates, an economic consulting firm SourceWatch identifies as the entity that published a June 2011 report on behalf of coal industry front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). ACCCE’s report concluded, “clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration would cost utilities $17.8 billion annually and raise electricity rates 11.5 percent on average in 2016.”

That report went so far to say that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations of the coal-generated electrcity sector would amount to some 1.5 million lost jobs over the next four years.

NERA was founded by Irwin Stelzer, senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. In Oct. 2004, The Guardian described Stelzer as the “right-hand man of Rupert Murdoch,” the CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News.

According to NERA’s website, the late Alfred E. Kahn, the “father of deregulation,” advised NERA’s 1961 foundation.

In 2010, NERA published a letter to the New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protest the prospective closure of theIndian Point Nuclear Power Plants.

A NERA report from earlier this year provided the basis for the popular King Coal refrain that the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule would cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars and “kill” 180,000-215,000 jobs.

These figures were picked up and cited by climate change denier U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) in June when he spoke out against President Barack Obama’s mythological “war on coal,” as well as by the Republican Policy Committee in a May policy paper titled, “Obama’s War on Coal.”

With a track record like this, it’s best to view whatever report the Obama Administration’s DOE (aka NERA) produces on the economic impact of LNG exports, set to come out by the end of the year, with extreme skepticism if not downright hostility.