An independent researcher says revelations of ExxonMobil’s secret lobbying campaign against US government climate change policies are not unique to the oil giant nor are they restricted to the US.
Economic anthropologist Dr Terrence Loomis, who has been studying the New Zealand petroleum industry for over a decade, says the industry and its trade association PEPANZ have been carrying out a concerted lobbying and public relations campaign for years to challenge legislation and regulations that threaten the industry and to slow the country’s transition away from fossil fuels.
According to Dr Loomis, for several years PEPANZ (who recently rebranded themselves Energy Resources Aotearoa) hired a PR company to undertake an annual public opinion survey, whose findings they massaged to say what PEPANZ wanted and then used to inform their ‘reports,’ social media campaigns and lobbying.
In 2018, just before Select Committee hearings on the amendment to ban oil and gas exploration, PEPANZ launched a website called ‘Energy Voices’ to give a voice to ‘average Kiwis’ (most were industry insiders and cheerleaders) whom it claimed the Government wasn’t listening to. After the bill passed, the website and associated Twitter account became a key propaganda mouthpiece for the petroleum industry.
Dr Loomis said according to his research, the petroleum industry’s propaganda campaign seems to have at least five aims:
- “Trying to generate popular support for overturning the offshore exploration ban and defeating the Government at the next election, or weakening their mandate for more radical climate measures if re-elected;
- “Increasing public support for the industry and continued dependency on oil and gas as a ‘practical necessary’ for ‘energy security’ while we transition to a low carbon economy decades from now;
- “Avoiding paying for climate impacts and losses that could result from aggressive government climate mitigation initiatives (which is why they’re actively lobbying to water down the Government’s Decommissioning Bill at present);
- “Maintaining business as usual for as long as possible to extract as much profit as possible from existing operations; and
- “Obtaining a seat at the policy table to influence planning for Covid-19 recovery and the pace of transition to a low carbon economy.
Minister for Energy and Resources Megan Woods recently announced additional permits for onshore oil and gas exploration, upsetting many environmental organisations and climate activists.
Dr Loomis, who is coordinator of the Fossil Fuels Aotearoa Research Network, noted that research by political economists here and overseas has turned to documenting the role the oil and gas industry has played since the Paris Climate Agreement in trying to discourage governments from taking bolder action on climate change.