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Conservative Confidential Memo: Wind Power the Next Target


Conservative America’s fight against the advancement of a new energy economy continues to evolve.  The latest development is a concerted campaign to discredit the wind industry and shift public opinion against the technology.

A confidential memo published by The Guardian highlights a proposal crafted by John Droz, a fellow at the right-wing think tank the American Tradition Institute, which calls for the creation of a national organization and focused public relations campaign to use “subversion” to build a nation-wide anti-wind movement.

The nine-page memo was presented to a room full of self-titled “wind warriors” in Washington, DC in February.  One of the chief goals of the national PR campaign is to “cause subversion in message of industry so that it effectively becomes so bad no one wants to admit in public they are for it.”

In order to make this happen, the proposal calls for joining forces with established organizations that have “substantial commonality and commitment [to the cause].”  Unsurprisingly, the authors call for partnerships with some of the most well-funded and notorious challengers of climate science and clean energy.  These groups include the Heartland Institute, Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, American Legislative Exchange Council, and the American Tradition Institute.

Each of these organizations has received significant funding from major fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.  Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, and the Cato Institute have all been established by Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries, America’s largest privately-held oil company.

This close-knit group of organizations has continuously used subversive tactics to discredit the evidence around climate change, influence public opinion, and inhibit government action to shift toward a low carbon economy.  

Through their clever tactics, these groups have overwhelmingly been successful in their collective mandates to influence public opinion and insert doubt around climate change.  Over the past ten years this issue has become so polarized that any discussion of climate change legislation has been removed from the halls of congress.  Although, some of their activities have not created the desired result, such as the Heartland Institute’s recent Unabomber climate change campaign.

Yet, even with global warming off the table, calls from the public and government officials for the creation of a low-carbon economy remain strong and appear to be increasing.  So, the meme has shifted toward clean energy, and, naturally, so has the collective focus of these organizations.

Spokespeople for the wind industry confirm there has been an increasing rise in organized opposition to wind power and renewables since President Obama placed clean energy as a central piece of his economic recovery plan in 2009.

Peter Kelley, a spokesperson for the American Wind Energy Association, says, “We do see evidence of co-ordination.  The same rhetoric pops up all over the place.  Things that are disproven, that are demonstrably untrue, continually get repeated.”

The repetition can be found in Droz’s memo.  Creating astroturf of shell organizations has been a common tactic used in many campaigns.  Droz’s proposal is no different as it calls for the creation of a “dummy business that goes into communities considering wind development, proposing to build 400 foot billboards.”

Energy is fast becoming one of the largest campaign issues in the 2012 Presidential election.  This can be seen in the $6 million Americans for Prosperity has spent on an ad-campaign attacking Barack Obama’s investment in renewable energy, or in the email and telephone campaign by the American Legislative Exchange Council to repeal Renewable Portfolio Standards passed by states.  Finally, it can be seen in the political posturing of the two candidates running for President, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Either way, Droz’s memo highlights yet another example of the focused strategy of the fossil fuel industry to use whatever means necessary to protect its interests and maintain its rank as the most powerful industry in America.  It also illuminates just how steep a hill clean energy industries will have to climb in order to break through the current cartel.

Image Credit” Nightman1965

Nathanael Baker's picture

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Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on May 26, 2012 6:08 pm GMT

There’s a lot of disinformation and fear tactics being pushed around wind energy.  People are becoming much more afraid of this clean, safe, CO2-free form of generation than they should be.

Setbacks like those mandated by Ontario’s Regulation 359/09 of 550 meters for smaller wind turbines and 1500 meters for larger ones make sense.  The only risk from wind turbines is noise annoyance, and these setbacks follow ISO  and WHO guidelines for noise.  At these distances, rural dwellers are exposed to much less noise than city dwellers.

Wind turbines don’t make people sick.

Wind energy is much less subsidized than fossil fuels or nuclear, and negative impacts from fossil fuels especially are very large and borne by society, not the generator.  Whether its the PTC or FIT that you dislike regarding wind and other renewables, you must know that they are a fraction of what society is subsidizing fossil and nuclear generation.

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