From gust to gale


Back in February, I wrote on the Goat blog about "sWINDle", an anti-wind energy billboard campaign in Idaho that was developed by the Energy Integrity Project, an obscure nonprofit that fancies itself a grass-roots watchdog.  The group believes that wind energy projects in Idaho -- specifically those near EIP members' houses -- are not based on "genuine" science and that they threaten the economy, taxpayers, and the environment.

The Energy Integrity Project is one of a growing number of "grass-roots" groups around the country that aggressively lobby against regional wind development projects and renewable energy policies.  And while most are small, NIMBY-type outfits, documents recently obtained by the Checks & Balances Project -- a government and industry watchdog organization -- suggest that these local groups are more coordinated in funding and strategy than the average citizen-run non-profit. With the help of prominent conservative think tanks -- a number of which have ties to the fossil fuel industry -- these smaller groups are working to combine their small gusts of regional anti-wind rhetoric into a national gale aimed at subverting the renewable energy industry.

In a press release issued this week, the Checks & Balances Project, whose watchdog work to date has largely focused on exposing the fossil fuel industry's influence on energy issues -- says that a network of anti-wind activists, including the members of several high-profile conservative organizations with funding ties to the oil and gas industry, gathered in the nation's capital in February 2011 to "confirm plans for a coordinated national disinformation campaign against wind energy."

The plans were detailed in a confidential public relations campaign proposal that Gabe Elsner, co-director for The Checks & Balances Project, found (along with a number of related documents) via a Google search. The proposal was edited and presented to participants at the February gathering -- dubbed the D.C. Energy Advocates Conference -- by John Droz, Jr., a longtime opponent of commercial wind energy and the conference's organizer. From The Checks & Balances Project:

The document details a series of wind energy attacks ranging from "counter intelligence," setting up a "dummy business" and steering kids away from science projects on wind because "it doesn’t meet the criteria we set up." The document also notes that the groups should coordinate national messaging but make sure the same message "appears to come from as many as a dozen separate sources."

While Droz and other participants describe the conference as a gathering of concerned citizens opposed to government support for the wind energy industry, which Droz says has failed to "justify its existence," environmental groups and clean-energy advocates feel the gathering is "evidence of a concerted effort on the part of fossil fuel companies to squash a sector that could someday threaten their business interests," reports E&E News (subscription only).

Indeed, in addition to Droz's strategy memo, Checks & Balances' Elsner also found a list of conference participants, some of whom have ties to the oil and gas industry or are associated with groups that receive significant funding from fossil fuel interests.

For example, Droz is a senior Fellow at the American Tradition Institute, a conservative think tank that, Elsner says, receives 75 percent of its funding from Doug Lair, founder of Lair Petroleum, a business that billionaire oilman William Koch bought from Lair back in 1989. Paul Driessen, a Senior Policy Analyst at conservative free-market policy institute the Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) was also in attendance. CFACT received $577,000 from ExxonMobil between 2000 and 2007, according to the company's tax records and giving reports, but Driessen maintains that he was at the conference representing only himself. Marita Noon, Executive Director of the Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE) -- a New Mexico-based anti-wind lobby -- also participated. CARE is funded in part by New Mexico oil and gas producers.

This brings us back to the Idaho-based Energy Integrity Project. According to that list of conference participants, Tauna Christensen -- the president of the EIP -- was there as well.

The EIP incorporated only recently and so it's unclear as yet who funds the group. Christensen claims the EIP is paid for by concerned citizens "out of their own pockets." But, like the other supposedly self-supported anti-wind groups at the conference, notes Elsner, the EIP is -- in its "sWINDle" campaign – running what appears to be a very well-funded effort against local wind energy projects and policies. In fact, Elsner looked into how much it costs to advertise via billboard in Idaho: A quote he got from a Boise billboard company said 14 billboards would run $13,000 a month. So buying anti-wind billboards is a pricey endeavor for a group that Christensen says has only 4 active members.

For its part, The Checks & Balances Project, is not exactly a disinterested party in the wind energy debate: "We are pro-clean energy", says Elsner. But, unlike the EIP and other clean-energy-bashing groups, The Checks & Balances Project believes in transparency and is open about its funding sources: Renew American Prosperity (RAP) and the New Venture Fund.  RAP supports Elsner's work, and it, in turn, is funded by clean technology attorney Mike Danaher.

If groups like the EIP are going to embark on subversive local and national campaigns of disinformation about wind energy -- an industry they claim is non-viable despite the fact that electricity generation from wind increased from 6 billion kilowatt-hours in 2000 to about 95 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010 and that, since 1998, wind capacity has grown by an average of more than 25 percent per year -- then the least they could do is show us the money.

Marian Lyman Kirst is an editorial Fellow for High Country News

Images courtesy flickr users Wayfinder_73, calwest, and twicepix.

Mary Kay  Barton
Mary Kay Barton
May 14, 2012 09:08 AM
Ms. Kirst, If folks are interested in learning why so many citizens nationwide do NOT like industrial wind, they will be most interested in checking out this very thorough slide presentation: EnergyPresentation.Info.

For those truly interested in the truth about why so many grassroots groups across the nation have formed, and are working to stop the taxpayer- and ratepayer-funded corporate welfare being handed over to Big Wind by the Big Government crony capitalists enabling the wind industry, they should read: The Wind Farm Scam, by Dr. John Etherington.

Of course, I won't be surprised if this comment is not allowed to appear on your blog, as I have had it removed from a number of the sites mentioned within your article here.

When people control the information they allow to reach the public, it only underscores the fact that they are not truly interested in pursuing unbiased, science-based research of an issue, but instead are only interested in pushing through a "green" agenda that they refuse to even consider all pertinent information about.

Doesn't it only make sense to be sure that you have thoroughly researched ALL the facts on both sides of the issue to ensure that our nation is pursuing economically, environmentally, and scientifically-sound energy policies?

Just so that you know that people who understand why wind won't work are not against the environment, as your article insinuates -- My background is in Health. I have been involved with local water quality organizations in my area for a number of years. I am a Cornell-certified Master Gardener who gardens strictly organically. Our backyard is registered as a National Wildlife Federation-certified "Backyard Wildlife Habitat", and we raised our twenty-something year old children in cloth diapers. Obviously, I have a life-long commitment to the environment. I would be more than happy to discuss the issue with you further - that is if you are truly interested in researching and understanding all sides of the issue.
Stephanie Paige Ogburn
Stephanie Paige Ogburn Subscriber
May 14, 2012 09:50 AM
Thanks for your comment, Ms. Barton, which we have no intention of deleting -- our goal is to support open dialogue in our comments section about issues affecting the American West, and if you read our comments policy ( you'll see we delete comments only for specific reasons such as personal attacks, profanity, or straying from the subject matter of the article.

I will take the opportunity to point out that Ms. Kirst's blog is not about the environmental background and credentials of those opposing wind power, but, rather, about allegations regarding some of their funding sources coming from fossil-fuel interests and about their development and organization of a centrally coordinated campaign against wind energy, while at the same time trying to maintain the appearance of the opposition being grass roots and local.

Thank you,

Stephanie P Ogburn, online editor
Tauna Christensen
Tauna Christensen
May 14, 2012 11:03 AM
Well said Mary Kay Barton.

Ms. Ogburn: Energy Integrity Project IS grassroots and IS local -- however, we are also networked in with many, many other "local" grassroot organizations across the nation. Nowhere have I said different -- in fact, I have made this very clear to those on my Energy Integrity Project email list. This is a true blue citizens' grassroots movement.

And please see this article for more information:[…]/wind_energy_the_next_green_blackhole

From the article:

"A common thread in the news stories is that we are really an oil-and-gas funded entity. They’ve tied us to the Koch Brothers. We all wish. Apparently they can’t believe that individuals and local groups can think for themselves and impact public policy without a puppet master telling us what to do and say."

"In fact, the group has no funding. As we began to email back and forth over the sudden reporter interest, one meeting attendee quipped: 'My trip was funded, in part, by MY brother, Paul, who donated frequent flyer miles for my trip. I can assure you that my brother is not part of the Koch family. I paid for the rest of the trip out of my own pocket.' Yet, the reporters seemed determined to find a funding link. I told the Bloomberg reporter that we each paid our own way, that the meeting was held in a budget hotel outside of DC (unlike the AWEA meeting held at the prestigious La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA), and that we each had to pay for our own transportation, food, and lodging. My comments never made it into print. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am the executive director of companion organizations that do receive funding from oil and gas companies and individual donors. But I, like the others, was invited as an individual, not as a member of any organization."

"Additionally, we are not even a formal group. We met to consider forming a group. The 'leaked' memo, addresses finding a group that might absorb us, affiliate with us, or align with us."

To reiterate: all of the participants who attended these DC meetings went as individuals, not as members of organizations. And we were all responsible for finding our own way to DC and responsible for our own food and lodging – even right down to pitching in some money so that we could have snacks and sandwiches during the meetings.

Now let me specifically comment on what Ms. Kirst has said about Energy Integrity Project. The "4 active members" is a complete misrepresentation of what I said in the DC particants' information. Here's what was said:

# of active core members/leaders: 4
# of marginally active members: 10
# of inactive,but supportive members: approx. 200

Those 4 members are our leadership positions. And if the actual participants' info document would have been looked at, you would have seen the above information. Clearly a different picture than what's painted in the blog above.

As a side note, Energy Integrity Project has 6 billboards -- not sure why the number 14 was used for the blog? We just recently launched the 6th billboard -- a new design. You can see it on our EIP website. And advertising companies are far more willing to cut deals when they understand they are dealing with a not-for-profit organization.

The bottom line is: EIP IS a grassroots citizens' organization advocating for scientifically sound, affordable, reliable electricity.

Tauna Christensen
Energy Integrity Project
Mary Kay  Barton
Mary Kay Barton
May 14, 2012 11:34 AM
Thank you for the courtesy of your response, Ms. Ogburn. The problem is though, Ms. Ogburn, that Ms. Kirst's article repeated much false information without first speaking with those of us who did attend the DC meeting to verify if what she was reporting was fact or fiction.

The obvious intent of the false allegations initiated by "Checks & Balances" (seemingly, a wing of Big Wind's lobbyist organization, AWEA), that were repeated within this article, are clearly meant to undermine the credibility of anyone who questions the worthiness of continuing to support industrial wind with massive amounts of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars.

The many grassroots citizens groups from across the USA that were represented at the DC meeting are -- like the citizens & groups that I represent from NYS -- all self-funded. Many of us, including my husband & I, have spent tens of thousands of dollars of our own money over the past decade fighting what is a complete scam, and travesty to our communities, environment, and all U.S. taxpayers & ratepayers.

Unfortunately, nary a single media source has done the kind of investigative journalism and reporting on the wind issue that that the U.S. public deserves. Instead, what we have commonly seen is the parroting of false claims by wind industry lobbyists, Big Wind LLC salesmen, and energy-illiterate "green" enthusiasts -- all usually taken directly from the wind industry's "As seen on TV" multi-million dollar advertising campaign.

What people don't get is that Big Wind is connected to Big Energy BIG TIME! Wind REQUIRES inefficiently run fossil fuel generation as a condition of its existence on the grid. In fact, one of the group's at the DC meeting told us that one of their members did approach the Koch Brothers for funding, but were turned away. Why? Because the Koch Bros gotta love wind, as wind ties us to fossil-fuel dependence. It is fossil fuel that is used to balance out wind's volatile skittering flux on the grid (more often than not, natural gas - thus T. Boone's love affair with wind).

Soft 'renewables' like wind can never replace traditional sources of energy, and oil doesn’t even work into the mix. But this fact does not seem to register with wind advocates. In their mind, oil, coal, and natural gas industries are synonymous. And in their minds, the mentioned industries oppose wind energy. While in fact, implementing wind only ensures these traditional sources stay at the ready. Here are just a few Big Corporate examples of those who own coal, oil, natural gas, and/or nuclear facilities, and have wind interests, too: GE, BP, AES, Floridaa Power & Light, etc. Get the picture???

If groups like "Checks & Balances" are truly interested in following the money, ask them if they've investigated a financial connection between AWEA and David Koch, particularly since George W. Bush has supported wind since his halcyon days in Texas with Ken Lay.

If the guys at "Checks & Balances" are truly interested in putting some checks & balances on the wasteful spending that is helping to drive our national debt to $16 TRILLION Dollars, ask them if their time isn’t better spent digging in to this document from Big Wind's lobbyist organization, AWEA:

The real game - the one that AWEA is finally making public after hiring Republican strategist Mike Murphy, is the selling of wind to Republicans as a substantial mechanism for tax sheltering, which is what we’ve known all along. This is why all those Big Energy multinationals continue their swoon for wind, even as they profit from coal and natural gas. They know that wind can neither be an alternative nor an additive source of energy for modern power grids. Rather, wind is a gift that keeps on taking - from ALL of us!

As stated in this good satirical commentary on the Checks & Balances & related articles,[…]/

"One of my favorite parts of [Droz's] memo (designed to fool the American people) is to 'ENCOURAGE CRITICAL THINKING from members and the public.'” We can’t very well have that type of thinking running amok in the American public! It’s a conspiracy!!!"
Kevon Martis
Kevon Martis
May 14, 2012 05:09 PM
At risk of alienating my co-conspirators, Ms. Barton and Ms. Christensen, I think it is time to tell the truth about who actually funded us. No more lies, no more hiding from the truth. And who is our secret funder? None other than the American Wind Energy Association. "Cannot be!" you squeal! Why would the do that? It is simple. In order to justify their regular shakedown of all the Big Wind developers and to justify AWEA's existence they need to have bogeyman to point to. We are just that highly paid group of professional bogeymen and bogey women. You see, it is impossible to find anyone who opposes wind on technical or economic grounds. Wind's benefits are self-evident. That means that AWEA has been so successful in PROVING wind works that they have nearly worked themselves out of a job. The obvious answer? AstroTurf "opposition" groups like us. We are paid by Big Wind to create false opposition to wind projects and pretend that people abandon their homes due to turbine noise. We also create thousands of clever dead raptor carcasses to litter around turbine installations to make them appear to kill bird. Our bats are fantastic too! Very life-like in their death-like-ness. (They are NOT cheap!) And we have co-opted the major grid operators to complain about wind energy integration issues like with BPA on the the west coast. And the utilities are more than happy to raise rates and claim it is due to wind energy. And we have developed an alliance with the Freemasons (Who control the weather, as we all know) to make wind appear capricious and arbitrary in its performance. All of these things are secretly funded by AWEA, the Bilderbergs and the Trilateral Commission. The Illuminati have not signed on yet but give us time. Maybe one more trip to DC.

Wow. I cannot believe I spilled the beans. But to Mary Kay and Tauna I say "CONFESS! Come clean!" My conscience is so free now!I can sleep like a baby...if only that 494' tall turbine a thousand feet form my house would quit thumping.

Kevon Martis
Rosa Goldman
Rosa Goldman
May 15, 2012 08:03 AM
"an industry they claim is non-viable despite the fact that electricity generation from wind increased from 6 billion kilowatt-hours in 2000 to about 95 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010 and that, since 1998, wind capacity has grown by an average of more than 25 percent per year"

That is evidence of the growth of wind power, not viability. Cancer is known by its impressive growth, too. Indeed, the AWEA's dedication of millions of dollars to get the Production Tax Credit extended suggests an industry that is in fact non-viable, since despite tremendous growth and more than 20 years of taxpayer support it still can't stand on its own.
May 31, 2012 09:42 PM
FREE POWER from wind sounds like a dream to an engineer. The dream is too good to be true. Not only is wind burdened with all sorts of technical & financial problems. It is an industrial scale operation, and has no business operating anywhere live people live. Can't write 1000 pages on all the problems with people made sick and driven out of their homes, of all the disputes begun between neighbors, the dangers of ice & other things flying off at 200 mph, loss of tv, & cell phone operation, loss of emergency copter medical service, birds & bats killed, machinery running only 22% of the time creating big problems for the grid, loss of property values. If you had been here the last couple years, you could have heard & read about the above in great detail, from people who were there. Nobody helped me with fees to bring in people impact experts. Bruce Roe