Three Full-Page Whoppers from the Heartland Institute (Part Two)


The Heartland Institute has reared its hoary head again, this time fronting three full-page color ads in the Washington Post targeting lawmakers now debating the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) on Capitol Hill.

As I mentioned in my last post, it is not often the denial machine resorts to something as clumsy as buying media exposure. This indicates just how desperate their oily funders are to avoid meaningful regulation of filthy fuels.

That they have managed to dodge this bullet for so long, illustrates just how brilliant Big Oil has been at precluding pesky laws for their dangerous product.

I promised in my last post to pull apart some of the knee-slappers and nose-stretchers in these full-page propaganda pieces and I will try not to disappoint. There is plenty to work with…

The first ad hilariously complains that that the denial machine has been shut out of the media and political process. 

I thought I should stretch before I allowed myself to laugh at the thought, for fear I might break a rib.

That oil-funded deniers maintain they have not excelled at inserting their vested interests into the politics or the media, fully a decade after the scientific community ceased to seriously debate this issue, is truly the height of false modesty.

So-called climate skeptics and their shadowy backers may well represent the largest, most sinister and successful PR campaign in public relations history. Truly gentlemen, you are good at your job – as heinous as that job might be.

Numerous academic studies have documented how the media routinely pairs baseless claims of climate deniers beside the overwhelming consensus of scientific community.

This is ostensibly in the interests of journalistic “balance”, though the result is a public that remains shockingly badly informed on the greatest long-term threat to the United States, the planet and the global economy.

Likewise the public remains remarkably ill-informed on the well-documented benefits of shifting to a low-carbon economy.

The odious PR practice of fielding phony experts was famously pioneered by the tobacco industry decades ago. No doubt many thousands of people perished of cancer due to the resultant delay in tobacco regulation.smoking doctor

That Big Oil is now claiming that this ruse hasn’t worked for them, and they are somehow victims, truly exceeds my capacity for disgust.

The second ad accuses the entire scientific community of unethical behavior, implying that the public should instead throw their trust behind the Heartland Institute.

Desmog Blog readers will recall a recent demonstration of the ethical prowess of this $5.2 million organization that continues to conceal their corporate funders.

The Heartland leadership boldly proclaimed last year that 500 scientists agreed that climate change was a bunch of hooey.

The problem was that many of those researchers had no idea their research and reputations were being dragged through the mud by an industry front group.

That is, until we contacted them

Here is a small sampling of the outrage expressed by practicing climate researchers towards the Heartland Institute when they learned of this ruse:

“I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite.”– Dr. David Sugden. Professor of Geography, University of Edinburgh

“I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there.” – Dr. Gregory Cutter, Professor, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University

“I don’t believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article.” – Dr. Robert Whittaker, Professor of Biogeography, University of Oxford

“Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!” – Dr. Svante Bjorck, Geo Biosphere Science Centre, Lund University

I’m outraged that they’ve included me as an “author” of this report. I do not share the views expressed in the summary.” – Dr. John Clague, Shrum Research Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University

You get the idea…

The Heartland list also included several dead people who were clearly no longer in a position to defend their reputations. Heartland neither retracted the offending article nor issued an apology, although many of the scientists threatened legal action.

It is therefore rich that the Heartland Institute is now hectoring the world’s scientists for their lack of ethics and their shoddy research.

Heartland Ad #3Their last ad maintains that politicians and the media are ignoring the good work the Heartland Institute is doing.

They whine that: “politicians…and the media routinely ignore and silence the scientists, economists and other experts who say global warming isn’t a crisis.”

That’s strange – that’s not what the Heartland Institute is telling their funders.

In their latest annual report, their President Joseph Bast brags:

Our primary audiences are the nation’s 8,300 state and national elected officials and approximately 8,400 local government officials… 85 percent of state legislators and 63 percent of municipal officials report reading at least one Heartland publication. Nearly half of state elected officials say a Heartland publication influenced their opinions or led to a change in public policy.”

As for their penetration in the media, their annual report also shows that Heartland shelled out $1.48 million in 2007 on public relations efforts, that “produces a steady stream of news alerts, opinion-editorials, and letters to the editor; organizes events for its key audiences; schedules speaking engagements for Heartland’s senior fellows; and engages in joint projects with allies and other civic and business groups.”

They also produce five of their own monthly periodicals aimed at sitting politicians. In their own words:

The Heartland Institute has discovered a way to get the attention of busy elected officials. We package research and commentary on public policy issues as news, in the form of monthly public policy newspapers. These 20-page tabloid-sized publications are colorful, easy to read, arrive in the mail frequently, and feature short articles. They are far more likely to be read than policy studies, books, or media kits.

This lobbying onslaught adds up to 2.5 million policy newspapers pubished annually, targeted specifically at elected officials throughout the nation. Their on-line efforts also reached 18 million page views in 2007.

According to the Christian Lobby group Culturewatch: “If the name of the game is influencing public policy and shaping the political debate, then The Heartland Institute has created a perfect vehicle for accomplishing these goals.”

Clearly this strategy has worked for their clients – whoever they are. Since 1999, Heartland’s budget has ballooned from $1.1 million to $5.2 million – an increase of 370% in nine years.

So it is strange that Heartland is now moaning in full-page ads in the Washington Post that they are being shut out of the media and the political process.

If the Heartland Institute is by their own admission now so ineffective, perhaps their clients should take their business elsewhere.

Or maybe they just aren’t telling the truth…

The last knee-slapper in their quarter million dollar ad campaign is that moving to a low carbon economy will be a disaster for business, consumers and taxpayers.

Wow. What a load.

Perhaps they did not see the recent open letter from G20 Task Force on Low-Carbon Economic Prosperity that includes many of the world’s leading corporations. This blue ribbon panel concluded that: “one thing is crystal clear: to ensure our future prosperity, we need a high-growth and low-carbon economy.”

And then there’s the recent study by the Consumer Federation of America showing that strong renewable energy standards would save U.S. consumers $200 billion a year in differed energy costs by 2030.

Another recent report revealed the green energy sector was already growing 250% faster than the rest of the economy, even before the massive infusion of public money towards conservation and renewables.

Trade unions and environmental groups also released a report predicting stricter requirements for clean energy will produce 850,000 manufacturing jobs by 2025.

California has already reaped a massive economic windfall from its ambitious mandatory requirements for clean energy, with 10,209 new businesses and 125,390 jobs created in 2007 alone. Green venture capital investments in the Golden State totaled $6.6 billion from 2006 to 2008.

Another study from economists at Berkeley showed even stronger clean energy requirements would further boost economic growth in California, generating 500,000 jobs and $100 billion in cumulative payrolls over the next 40 years.

The tired media machine that is the climate denial lobby has clearly run out of steam, allies and credibility. These latest ads are enough to make the Heartland Institute and their clients a laughingstock.

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