Corporate Lobbying, A Lapsed 'Ecowarrior' and Compromised Media

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Wed Dec 7 13:05:31 GMT 2005

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Corporate Lobbying, A Lapsed 'Ecowarrior' and Compromised Media

Media Lens, December 6, 2005

After 4.6 billion years of planetary history, we may become the first species 
to monitor our own extinction. In impressive detail, humankind is amassing 
evidence of devastating changes in the atmosphere, oceans, ice cover, land 
and biodiversity.

And yet mass media, politics, the education system and other realms of public 
inquiry demonstrate a stunning capacity to focus on what does not really 
matter. Meanwhile, the truly vital issues receive scant attention to the 
point of invisibility: the parlous prospects for humanity's survival and the 
root causes underlying the global environmental threat.

Current patterns of 'development' and consumerism, fuelled annually by 
billions of advertising dollars, are unsustainable. Huge corporations and 
powerful investors have governments and societal institutions in a 
stranglehold, delivering policies that demand endless 'growth' on a finite 
The Corporate Killers

Take the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the most influential 
business lobby group in the UK. Friends of the Earth (FoE) note that the core 
objective of the CBI, and other "corporate lobby groups who favour short-term 
profit over sustainable development", is to promote endless opportunities for 
business 'growth', and to do so by bending the ear of the UK government. 
(Friends of the Earth, 'Hidden Voices: The CBI, corporate lobbying and 
sustainability', June 2005)

FoE reported: "many companies are using their influence over Government to 
promote public policies that are bad for communities and the environment." As 
years of New Labour in power have shown: "the Government seems to readily 
accept the CBI arguments at face value." A major consequence is that the 
government "is failing to reach its targets to reduce greenhouse gases 
because it is promoting policies that encourage more pollution, such as 
significantly expanding airports following intense lobbying by big business 
lobby groups."

Tony Juniper, head of FoE in England & Wales, observes that the "CBI agenda is 
a simple one - to increase deregulation and reduce business taxes." There are 
"serious concerns about how the CBI uses the threat of potential damage to UK 
business and job losses to oppose regulations that would improve workers' 
rights, benefit the environment and deliver economic benefits." (FoE, ibid.)

Thus, Sir Digby Jones, CBI director-general, criticised even the government's 
modest target to reduce carbon dioxide as "risking the sacrifice of UK jobs 
on the altar of green credentials." (Andrew Taylor, 'Jobs warning over tough 
move on emissions', Financial Times, January 20, 2004). Note the standard 
rhetorical device of expressing concern for "jobs" when the focus of business 
worries is, in fact, "profits."

The CBI not only has a discernible influence over state policies, the 
government is "in thrall to the CBI." FoE explains why:

"There is a clear 'alignment of values' between the CBI and many similar 
figures in Government [in] that they broadly agree in minimising Government 
intervention in the market (ie neo-liberal economics)."

Moreover, the CBI is able to get "critical comments on Government policy put 
out through the media, which obviously attracts Government attention. This is 
further entrenched by many business journalists who simply do not challenge 
the CBI claims and accept them as representing totally the views of 
business." (FoE, ibid.)

As we have noted before, the corporate media industry is a vital component of 
the business world. It is therefore not surprising that journalists working 
in the business sections of the media - indeed, throughout the news media as 
a whole - promote corporate aims.
Corporate Defenders of Climate Myths

There are other corporate groups which, like the CBI, are determined to 
prioritise short-term greed. One of them is the Cato Institute, a US 
"non-profit public policy research foundation" which "seeks to broaden the 
parameters of public policy debate" to promote the "traditional American 
principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets and 

This perspective satisfies the Institute's sponsors who mainly consist of 
"entrepreneurs, securities and commodities traders, and corporations such as 
oil and gas companies, Federal Express, and Philip Morris that abhor 
government regulation." ('"Evidence-based" research? Anti-environmental 
organisations and the corporations that fund them', October 19, 2005;

Among Cato's sponsors are ExxonMobil, Chevron Texaco, Tenneco gas, 
pharmaceutical companies Pfizer Inc. and Merck, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, 
RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and many others, including those with business 
interests here in the UK. Shell Oil Company, a sister company of Shell in 
Europe, is a past sponsor of the Cato Institute.

One of the Institute's "adjunct scholars" is Steven Milloy who publishes a 
website devoted to exposing "junk science." Milloy has a background in 
lobbying for the tobacco industry. John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, analysts 
of the 'spin' industry, explain that "junk science" is the term that 
"corporate defenders apply to any research, no matter how rigorous, that 
justifies regulations to protect the environment and public health. The 
opposing term, 'sound science,' is used in reference to any research, no 
matter how flawed, that can be used to challenge, defeat, or reverse 
environmental and public health protection." (Corporate Watch, ibid.)

The Institute has published reports with titles such as 'Climate of Fear: Why 
We Shouldn't Worry About Global Warming', and 'Meltdown: The Predictable 
Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media.' In 
May 2003, in response to a report by the Worldwatch Institute which linked 
climate change and severe weather events, Jerry Taylor, the Cato Institute's 
"director of natural resource studies" retorted:

"It's false. There is absolutely no evidence that extreme weather events are 
on the increase. None. The argument that more and more dollar damages accrue 
is a reflection of the greater amount of wealth we've 
created." (

Another major US-based lobby group whose tentacles of influence extend across 
the Atlantic is the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful trade 
association for the US oil industry - an industry which has sister companies 
in many other countries, including the UK. Among the API's members are 
Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, BP Amoco and Shell. Researcher Robert 
Blackhurst has described how the API has "sustained a long guerrilla campaign 
against climate scientists." A memo leaked to the New York Times in 1998 
exposed its strategy of investing millions to muddy the science on climate 
change among "congress, the media and other key audiences." (Blackhurst, 
'Clouding the atmosphere', The Independent, September 19, 2005)

The API recently funded a scientific paper in the journal Climatic Change 
denying that 20th century temperatures had been unusually high, giving 
well-publicised ammunition to climate sceptics. After finding the paper's 
methods and assumptions had been flawed, six of the journal's editors 

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), an Amsterdam-based research and campaign 
group, notes that "Shell and BP Amoco, both formerly ardent critics of global 
warming theory, have shifted their strategies dramatically." CEO continues:

"These masters of climate greenwash have undergone expensive corporate 
makeovers and now present themselves as leaders in reducing CO2 emissions and 
supporting renewable 
energy." (

Shell and BP Amoco employ a sophisticated public relations approach:

"Expensive TV and newspaper advertisements portraying an 
environmentally-friendly image are at the heart of this strategy. In many 
cases, small-scale environmental projects which the companies fund are used 
to justify the green credentials of the corporation as a whole - projects 
which often cost less than the advertisements used to showcase them to the 
general public... Both Shell and BP Amoco continue to increase oil production 
year after year and have no intention of changing that in the next 
decades." (CEO, ibid.)

Corporate news media rarely report the influence of corporate lobby groups on 
governments, or expose their expensive PR campaigns, and how detrimental 
these business activities are for the climate stability of the planet.

The news media also take capitalism as a given, much like the laws of physics. 
What rare discussion there might be is only permitted to reinforce the 
corporate prejudice that the system is irreplaceable.
The 'Ecowarrior' and the War Criminal

For instance, the Independent recently granted extensive space to Sir Jonathan 
Porritt, formerly a great green hope in Britain, to promote his new book, 
'Capitalism: As If The World Matters'.

He believes that "the emerging solutions [to the climate crisis] have to be 
made within the embrace of capitalism." (Porritt, 'How capitalism can save 
the world', Independent Extra, 8-page supplement, Independent, November 4, 

Porritt, Blair's top environmental adviser, fails to see that current 
government policies are almost wholly opposed to social justice and 
environmental health. Instead, he claims that "almost all key policy 
processes continue to move slowly in the right direction" and that "the 
benefits of today's globalisation process still outweigh the costs."

For Porritt, once leader of the Green Party in England & Wales, this: "means 
working with the grain of markets and free choice, not against it. It means 
embracing capitalism as the only overarching system capable of achieving any 
kind of reconciliation between ecological sustainability, on the one hand, 
and the pursuit of prosperity and personal wellbeing, on the other." As for 
current ecological activism: "Unless it throws in its lot with this kind of 
progressive political agenda, conventional environmentalism will continue to 

We are to believe that Tony Blair - forever bending to the will of business 
and exposed as one of the most cynical and dishonest politicians in living 
memory - is at the vanguard of this "progressive political agenda":

"I admire a lot about him [Blair]. I do, genuinely. I have to keep saying this 
because people forget it: on climate change, if he hadn't done what he has 
done, we would be looking at a world in which there was no political 
leadership on this agenda." (Marie Woolf, 'Jonathon Porritt: The constant 
ecowarrior', The Independent, November 6 2005)

The Independent, owned by billionaire Sir Tony O'Reilly, can manage to provide 
an eight-page supplement for a former 'ecowarrior' to explain why 
environmentalism must throw in its lot with capitalism. But there are no 
multi-page supplements to present community initiatives and grassroot debates 
around the world on alternatives to the present disastrous system. We await 
the day when the Independent, or any other mainstream newspaper, publishes a 
major supplement on, for example, participatory economics, a radical vision 
detailed by ZNet's Michael Albert (see Albert, 'Parecon: Life After 
Capitalism', Verso, London, 2003; and

Tony Blair has put down his corporate cards on the table, declaring bluntly:

"The truth is no country is going to cut its growth or consumption 
substantially because of a long-term environmental problem." (Andrew Balls 
and Alan Beattie, 'Insurance for terror risk is "key to Gaza"', Financial 
Times, September 16, 2005)

But Ross Gelbspan, author and journalist, points to the essential truth that 
economics is subservient to nature, not the other way around:

"...nature's laws are not about supply and demand. Nature's laws are about 
limits, thresholds, and surprises. The progress of the Dow does not seem to 
influence the increasing rate of melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet; the 
collapse of the ecosystems of the North Sea will not be arrested by an 
upswing in consumer confidence." (Gelbspan, 'Boiling Point', Perseus Books, 
2004, pp. 128-129)

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for 
others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to 
maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to one or more of the editors below. You could ask them to report the 
impact of corporate lobbying and greenwashing on government climate policy; 
and to report on the worldwide justice movement campaigning for alternatives 
to global capitalism. It is more effective to write in your own words.

Write to Tristan Davies, editor of the Independent on Sunday:
Email: t.davies at

Write to Simon Kelner, editor of the Independent:
Email: s.kelner at
Write to Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian:
Email: alan.rusbridger at

Write to Roger Alton, editor of the Observer:
Email: roger.alton at

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"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burroughs, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul's new book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
For details see

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at
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