Source: The Guardian
When Rick Perry was interrupted by climate-change protesters during his address to the National Petroleum Council in late September, the energy secretary was ready with a retort.
“You want to talk about something that saves lives? It’s the access to energy around the globe,” Perry said, countering a woman worried about deadly hurricanes and a man whose hometown is being submerged by the rising Philippine Sea. “I am proud to be a part of this industry. I am proud to be an American.”
It was an opportunity for the former Texas governor to champion an industry he’d long embraced by showing fealty to the petroleum council, an arcane federal advisory committee dominated by energy executives. Picking up on Perry’s message was interior secretary Ryan Zinke, who has pledged to fast-track drillingand open more areas to fossil-fuel development.
The two took turns reassuring the council’s nearly 200 members during a meeting at the opulent Hay-Adams hotel in Washington DC, that the White House would be a friend, not foe, to big oil. “We’re now in the business of being partners, rather than adversaries,” Zinke said. “If I were in the industry, I’d be pretty happy.”
It wasn’t the first time that global warming had been cast aside by the energy department’s petroleum council, successor to a wartime body created by Harry Truman. In 1972, the council buried the industry’s own climate research with the help of top executives at the American Petroleum Institute, a longtime ally that once shared a building with the council.
API has gone beyond the lobbying typical of trade associations, helping spawn permanent substructures within the executive branch that ensure its voice is heard. These government entities, which include the petroleum council and an obscure but powerful White House office, have for decades worked in tandem with API to fortify the oil and gas industry, often, its critics say, at the public’s expense.
API’s history on climate issues goes back farther than most realize. As early as 1959, it grappled with global warming, hosting a conference where the looming, manmade catastrophe was discussed. As the environmental movement was blossoming, API – with the government’s support – was working behind the scenes to undermine it by distorting projections of regulatory costs. An enduring false narrative was constructed: the economy or the environment.