In our view, the following news items constitute a pattern of disdain by the fossil fuel industry for the public interest, as well as for the free flow of information in a democracy. Put these items together, and you can see why the public is suspicious of the fossil fuel industry, despite the enormous amount of time and money that industry spends portraying itself as a positive, benign force in our country.
First, we had Tim DeChristopher's imprisonment two years ago:
On December 19, 2008, he protested an oil and gas lease auction of 116 parcels of public land in Utah's redrock country, conducted by the Bureau of Land Management. DeChristopher decided to participate in the auction, signing a Bidder Registration Form and placing bids to obtain 14 parcels of land (totaling 22,500 acres) for $1.8 million. DeChristopher was removed from the auction by federal agents, taken into custody, and questioned. On July 26, 2011, Judge Dee Benson sentenced DeChristopher to two years in prison; his lawyers appealed.
Two years in prison? For what, attempting, non-violently, to stop wasteful government spending and environmental destruction?
More recently, we had this news from Utah:
DOWN THE HATCH: A Utah woman trying to find out if Sen. Orrin Hatch would be holding town hall meetings near her so she could talk to him about opposing the Keystone XL pipeline got a call from Capitol Police after their received "a complaint about her from Hatch's office and that they felt she might be a suspicious person," Salt Lake City Tribune columnist Paul Rolly writes. They may also have tapped her phones, Rolly implies.
A U.S. Senator intimidating a citizen simply for asking to talk to the Senator about a fossil fuel project she opposes? Wow.
Need more evidence? How about an Inside Climate News reporter being threatened with arrest "after she entered the command center for the cleanup operation in Mayflower, Ark., where a major oil pipeline spill occurred" A "threat?" Really? Is that supposed to be a bad joke? Of course, as Politico reports, "ExxonMobil is disputing the report by InsideClimate News that a journalist seeking information about the company's oil spill cleanup in Arkansas was threatened with arrest this week." Except there's just one problem with ExxonMobil's account: it didn't just happen to one reporter, but to multiple reporters. As Mother Jones reported, a radio reporter and other media were also threatened with arrest for attempting to report on a visit by Arkansas' attorney general to the oil spill site. Sensing a pattern here?
The bottom line is that this is how fossil fuel companies behave far too frequently, and with apparent impunity. In stark contrast, can anyone seriously envision clean energy companies and supporters engaging in this sort of anti-democratic skullduggery? And can anyone imagine PR people for the fossil lobby being bewildered at public skepticism of them when they make outlandish claims? No, we didn't think so.