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Archive for August 19th, 2009

As you may have read elsewhere on our blog, we tried to attend the “Energy Citizens” rally in Houston yesterday but were turned away.

Even far-right teabaggers, brought out to the event by FreedomWorks and a promise of a free meal, weren’t allowed in, despite actually being sympatico with Big Oil’s agenda.

The offending item that got one kicked out?  An American flag.  Why does Big Oil hate our freedom?


This is just the 30 second trailer– a longer, more in-depth interview with people who were not allowed in the rally will be posted in the next 24 hours.

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energycitizenYesterday the Public Citizen Texas team drove down to Houston to crash the American Petroleum Institute’s Energy Citizen event.  Billed as a “grassroots” rally against the cap and trade bill currently before Congress, this event was nothing more than a company picnic.

About 2500 energy employees were brought by charter bus to the Verizon Wireless Theater, a private location that could be easily secured to keep undesirables out.  David, Ryan, and Andy were all denied access, but stealthily dressed in Banana Republic and spectator pumps, I was able to blend in with the crowd and slip into the hot dog line.

Inside the theater it became evident quickly what a polished, professional event this was.  Right at the door you could pick up a bright yellow t-shirt with a clever slogan on it like “I’ll pass on $4 gas”, “I’m an Energy Citizen!”, and “Congress, Don’t Take Away My Job!”  The same lines could also be found on bumper stickers and the same kinds of cardboard signs you would wave at a football game.

donttakemyjob

In the middle of the arena was a giant action center where employees could voice their disapproval of climate change legislation through a variety of mechanisms.  Six or seven computers were cued up with petitions to Sens. Hutchison and Cornyn, and attendees were invited to text JOBS to 363749(ENERGY) to get involved.  Drop boxes for postcards were also positioned in the corners of the room, and “activists” could sharpie their signatures to 8 foot tall “shame on you” or “thank you” letters to Congressmen that voted for or against the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

My favorite aspect of the rally by far, however, was the high school marching band and star spangled dance team.  When I asked one of the teenage dancers what she thought the rally was about, she told me she thought that it was about conserving energy.

I was able to interview several rally attendees, but the majority of folks regarded me with suspicion or didn’t want to talk to me.  Others clearly didn’t have much of an opinion on the bill other than what they’d been told, but one gentleman I spoke to was actually concerned about the special interest carve-outs in the bill for dirty coal.  Stay posted for the video of these interviews later today, with the working title “Energy Workers Say the Darndest Things.” Teaser:

After about an hour I started to run out out of room on my camera, so I moved toward the front doors to see if I could trade off cameras with Andy, who was still stationed outside.  Big mistake.  Once the chief security guard saw me make eye contact with a marked man, I was out of there.  He grabbed my shoulder and asked “what energy company do you work for?”  When I said I wasn’t with an energy company but was a member of the media, he said I was misrepresenting myself and summarily kicked me out.

I was a little disappointed to miss out on the great list of speakers, especially rodeo man Bill Bailey, who was master of ceremonies (irony, irony, irony, seeing as this rally was all hat and no cattle).  But speaking to other individuals who had been denied access was even more enlightening than listening to Big Oil preach their sermon.

This was such a fake, Astroturf event that they didn’t know how to handle legitimate grassroots support. A couple of women who had been to some of the teabagger events and townhalls came down, armed with American flags and excited to protest “crap and tax” — but even THEY weren’t allowed in.  Several others who had heard about the rally through Freedom Works, on right wing radio, or in the paper were also locked out.

Yesterday’s rally was the first of about twenty rallies that will be staged nationwide over the next few weeks.  Thanks to Greenpeace, we already knew Big Oil’s game plan: rally up a bunch of Astroturf support to kill cap and trade.  But now we know the full story — they don’t even want to hear the voices of their real grassroots.  These events are by invitation only, and all other members of the public — for or against climate legislation — will be shut out.  If you don’t work for the company, you’re not invited to the picnic.

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Your intrepid friends at Public Citizen tried to attend the astroturf “Energy Citizens” rally yesterday in Houston.  We’re busy pulling together our bloggings and all the footage we shot, but keep checking back here for updates throughout the day.

We were not allowed in the meeting, as we did not work for an energy company, but we managed to sneak some great footage before being escorted out and being told to leave the premises.

We have:

Footage of the 34 busses used to bring people into the rally from different energy companies.

Normal Citizens who weren”t good enough to be “Energy Citizens”– people who weren’t allowed in the meeting, as this was for energy company employees only!  Interviews include lots of crazy conservative teabaggers who hate cap and trade (I understand why Public Citizen and Sierra Club might not be allowed in– why weren’t even they allowed?), nice ladies who were escorted out of the building because they dared to bring American flags to the rally (why does Big Oil hate America?), and lots of people angry at oil companies because they’re hiding this from the public.

“Energy Company Employees Say the Darndest Things” — watch as your friends in the oil and gas industry display ignorance as to the salient details of the ACES bill and spout misinformation about it, or, the people who do know a lot about the bill talk about how it’s a bad piece of legislation because of corporate giveaways to the coal industry!  Here’s one quick tidbit:

Want more?  Read my full press statement after the jump:

(more…)

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