API's Recycled Astroturf

| Wed Jul. 21, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

Have you heard about the massive public uprising to protect Big Oil's tax breaks? No? Oh, probably because it doesn't exist. But that doesn't mean the American Petroleum Institute won't try to convince you it does!

API has launched a "new" Energy Citizens campaign to convince you, the average American, to help the oil industry trade group protect the lavish tax loopholes they currently enjoy. With that whole oil disaster in the Gulf, it looks like Congress might cut off the gravy train for oil companies when it comes to billions of dollars in tax breaks and direct subsidies every year. Now API has launched a new ad campaign to protect the handouts, as well as a new "grassroots" campaign to protect them. One big problem: Their latest astroturf effort looks a whole lot like their last astroturf effort.

Let us recall last summer's Energy Citizens campaign, wherein the oil industry trade group (and No. 5 on our list of the top dozen organizations supporting climate change denial) took the liberty of organizing "citizen" rallies around the country in protest of cap and trade legislation. Turns out, as I reported last summer, nearly all of the rallies were directly organized lobbyists for API and its state affiliates.

API's newest effort, also called "Energy Citizens," introduced itself in an email blast on Tuesday as a "new movement of citizens focused on countering reactionary policies and restoring a common-sense perspective." The email claims to come from an organization called Partnership for America's Energy Security, and it's signed by Deryck Spooner, the executive director of Energy Citizens. (Spooner also happens to be the "external mobilization director" that API hired away from the Nature Conservancy earlier this year.)

The Energy Citizens website (the "new online headquarters of our nationwide movement") doesn't make much mention of API, other than to note that it is "supported by" the trade group. The site warns that Congress is considering "crippling tax hikes that will threaten thousands of jobs and hurt investments in new technologies"—without mentioning anywhere which "job-killing energy taxes" they mean, specifically. They're also endorsing an anti-moratorium rally in Louisiana taking place tomorrow, as Josh notes on the MoJo blog.

Here's what the letter they sent out Tuesday has to say about the oil spill:

Nonetheless, this tragedy is being exploited to undermine realistic energy policies that would benefit our nation. In fact, some policymakers are attempting to levy billions of dollars in new taxes on America’s energy companies—taxes that could impact every American industry employee, and every American energy consumer.

If you're going to fake grassroots citizen mobilization, API, it would probably be worth the time (and money, which I am well aware API has quite a bit of) to come up with a new name, or at least make an attempt to cover your tracks.