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Merchant of Climate Doubt Hosts the Hottest Parties at the DNC

(Photo: Texas Public Radio)

Global warming skeptics who fan the flames of controversy over climate change are generally thought to be far right ideologues, associated primarily with the Republican Party. Nonetheless, a powerful purveyor of climate change denial is holding court this week at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte.

Darrell Henry, a lobbyist for firms that specialize in promoting climate change denial, will be one of the key players behind the parties – and the Democratic Party – at this week’s national convention in North Carolina, home of Duke Energy, a coal industry giant with a huge stake in federal climate policy.

Duke’s role as DNC patron was detailed in a previous Truthout story about the powerful behind-the-scenes forces at this year’s DNC; but Henry’s role offers unique insight into the politics of global warming.

As mentioned in the previous Truthout story, Henry works for a lobbying firm set up specifically to peddle influence at both the Republican and Democratic conventions through LLCs (limited liability corporations), which skillfully skirt lobbying ethics laws.

From 2000 to 2005, Henry served as the head lobbyist for the American Gas Association (AGA). The shop he currently runs – ROQ Strategies – shares an office with DNC Convention Strategies Group – the child of Conventions 2012 LLC – and sibling to GOP Convention Strategies Group.

Truthout reported in its previous story that this family of newly minted LLC’s share the same Washington, DC address – and lobbyist Henry, the glue that holds them together.

Left out of the first installment is the answer to a simple question: What did Henry do between the time he left the AGA and founded ROQ? Enter the “merchants of doubt,” a moniker coined by historian Naomi Oreskes to describe the people behind a systematic campaign to cloud public perceptions about the science of climate change.

Henry and the Merchants of Doubt

The merchants of doubt are the lobbyists, scientists and public relations flacks cashing in climate change denial, a well-oiled propaganda machine bankrolled by the oil and gas industry. From 2006 to 2008, Henry was one of them, on the payroll of Policy Communications Inc. – a firm that, according to DeSmogBlog, played a sophisticated “astroturf shell game.”

The game worked like every other political shell game works: Various fronts were created to mask what was a propaganda campaign for the oil and gas industry. Here’s an example:

In 2007, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) was created by the Governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington, all of whom “signed an agreement directing their respective states to develop a regional target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and) participate in a multi-state registry to track and manage greenhouse gas emissions in the region,” according to the WCI website.

The response to the WCI followed an often-repeated pattern. As DeSmogBlog noted sardonically, “like ants to a picnic, you can bet some industry-funded front group is bound to show up whenever there is serious talk about reducing carbon emissions.” And show up the ants did in droves, in the form of the Western Business Roundtable (WBR).

Though dues-paying members are no longer posted on WBR’s web site, a Way Back Machine search from January 2006 shows dues-paying members such as Arch Coal, Marathon Oil Corporation, Peabody Energy and Royal Dutch Shell. The listed address in an October 2008 Way Back Machine search, was the same address and phone number that is now DNC Convention Strategies Group and ROQ: 444 N. Capitol St., Suite 216, essentially next door to the national lobbying headquarters of the American Gas Association.

The WBR, though, was merely a front group – actually, a front group of a front group – for another lobbying firm: Policy Communications Inc., the original registrant of the WBR web site, upping the ante of the shell game to a whole new level. The doors for Policy Communications are still open, according to Open Secrets. The money spent lobbying was much higher during Henry’s time at Policy Communications than it is today, maxing out at a grand total of $360,000 spent on it in 2008.

Big money from the merchants of doubt is routinely accompanied by conspiracy theories. Policy Communications’/WBR’s president and CEO, Jim Sims, for example, has stated of climate change, “It is fashionable these days to say that the ‘debate is over’ on the science underlying climate change. But in the arena of science, a debate continues to rage on many aspects of this issue.”

Who is Sims? He “served in the White House in 2001 as President George W. Bush’s director of communications for the National Energy Policy Development Group,” which helped forge the administration’s National Energy Policy, according a biographical sketch.

It was this group, riddled with oil and gas corporate executives, that crafted the “Halliburton Loophole,” which makes the chemical stew that’s in fracking fluid for shale gas extraction a “trade secret” to average citizens, exempting the oil and gas industry from both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act when they perform hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

Aside from being a lobbyist for an oil and gas industry front group, Henry is also a former Chairman of the National Energy Resources Organization (NERO), another group funded by the usual suspects: The American Petroleum Institute, ConocoPhillips, EnCana, Duke Energy (major sponsor of the DNC; its CEO Jim Rogers sits on the DNC Host Committee, and the company has lent a floor of its corporate headquarters to the Committee), General Electric and others.

Importantly, Dittus Communications is also a corporate member of NERO, which itself does public relations work for the shale gas industry’s public relations machine, Energy in Depth.

Climate Denial Drives Destructive Energy Policies

During his time working under the watchful eye of Sims, Henry lobbied for many policies with a common thread: All were environmentally destructive, at least to those looking at the situation through a scientific lens, as opposed to the lens of the merchants of doubt.

In 2007, Henry lobbied against any provisions of the Clean Energy Act of 2007 that would decrease domestic energy production. Later that year he lobbied on behalf of three bills calling for greater domestic energy production – at any ecological price.

Then in the first quarter of 2008, Henry and Friends lobbied on behalf of “responsible implementation” of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the one that includes the”Halliburton Loophole.” The oxymoronic nature of such a statement to those citizens whose water has been contaminated with toxic fracking fluid, but don’t know what chemicals they were actually contaminated with due to the fact it’s a “trade secret,” could only leave them laughing – or crying.

At the end of 2008, Policy Communications, Inc./WBR lobbied policymakers by “educating them on the costs vs. benefits of domestic regulation of greenhouse gases,” while also pushing for increased domestic production of oil and gas, an end to the moratorium for drilling on the outer continental shelf and a beginning of extreme oil shale production.

Connect the Dots

Lobbyists like Darrell Henry are among many people behind the parties – and the Democratic Party – at the DNC. Perhaps this is why President Obama, who is up for a second four-year stint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and will receive the Democratic Party’s nomination for President on Sept. 6 in Bank of America Stadium, has mirrored the Sarah Palin “drill baby drill” approach (and the Romney approach) to oil and gas extraction in his “all of the above” energy policy.

Couple this with a new-fangled Democratic Party platform calling for expedited processing of oil and gas pipelines like the Keystone XL of Tar Sands Action/Tar Sands Blockade fame and an “all of the above” energy policy being touted by the Party at large, and soon it becomes quite clear for those with eyes to see that the people behind the taxpayer- and corporate-sponsored parties are also the people behind today’s Democratic Party.

The planet is burning, but the hot parties have only just begun here in Charlotte at the DNC.