Astroturfing: Inside The War On Canadian Oil
For a while now, Canadians have been
slowly waking up and seeing what's behind the anti-pipeline and
anti-oil protests across the country. Vivian Krause has been a
one-woman army in the battle to expose the money behind efforts
to shut down Canada's oil industry. Her reporting has uncovered a
network of foreign interests that have been coordinating a strategic
take-down of Canada's competitive energy industry. Using their wealth
and some interconnected environmental organizations, interests
from the United States and the Middle East have been funneling
resources into Canada to fund, organize and coordinate protests
against our oil industry. The latest batch of leaked emails from John
Podesta give us a glimpse into how easily astroturfing can be
accomplished with the right amount of money and influence.
I'll start by showing you an email
exchange between John Podesta and billionaire environmental activist,
Tom Steyer – in which Bill McKibben is named as Steyer's pal. In a leaked email dated from March 2015, Podesta asked
Steyer if he could contact McKibben to organize a protest at Harvard:
Can you get your pal McKibben to organize Harvard student protests against him. I'm all for academic freedom when it's not bought and paid for by Peabody coal. – John Podesta to Tom Steyer, March 20, 2015, Wikileaks
By “him”, Podesta meant Harvard professor, Laurence Tribe. In 2014, Tribe began involving himself with Peabody Energy and – in 2015 – Tribe made comments that Podesta and fellow Democrats didn't like, as revealed in other leaked emails. Although Tribe is a well-known Democrat, his involvement in helping Peabody Energy sue the EPA clearly rubbed Podesta and his peers the wrong way, leading to his eventual request for protests.
About three weeks later, an activist
group known as Divest Harvard rallied
and blockaded the entrance to Harvard's Massachusetts Hall. The
150 protesters were led by none other than Bill McKibben, who
addressed the crowd and invited speakers like senator Tim Wirth of
Colorado. The protests didn't single out Laurence Tribe, but they did
target Harvard's connections to fossil fuels. Tribe is a respected
professor who taught both Barack Obama and Ted Cruz, which likely
made McKibben reluctant to target him directly. However, protesters
clashed with police, blocked students from entering their dorms and
called for Harvard to divest from fossil fuels. All of this
conveniently happened three weeks following Podesta's email to
We hear a lot about George Soros and
his connections to the Tides Foundation and other environmental
groups, but we hear less about Tom Steyer. It's a shame, because Tom
Steyer is almost as rich and just as involved. His pal, Bill McKibben, also has connections that run deep.
Steyer made news in 2014 when he
pledged $100 million to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. That was one
of the only times Canadian media gave him any attention. Steyer is a regular supporter of the Tides
Foundation, just like George Soros. If you're unfamiliar with the
Tides Foundation, you're probably familiar with at least one of their
environmental off-shoots or funding recipients. Records show that
Tides USA has funneled money into Canada by contributing
directly to the Pembina Foundation, The Sierra Club,
ForestEthics, Greenpeace Canada, LeadNow, the Living Oceans Society
and the Great Bear Initiative. That's just some of the Tides
recipients in Canada that you might have heard about. Many of the
Tides recipients have directly paid Canadian First Nations, like
Fort Chipewyan, to oppose pipelines. Fort Chipewyan was even paid
$35,000 through the Exchange Fund to cover legal costs and
communications associated with anti-pipeline activism.
In 2014, I wrote about Steyer's
connections to Tides and his speaking gigs at the
Tides Momentum Conference. In the United States, Steyer ran an
environmental super-PAC called NextGen Climate Action PAC, which
dealt mainly with senate and local state races. He has been directly
and indirectly involved with environmental advocacy groups for years,
many of which have opposed fracking and the construction of
pipelines. The biggest facade created by some American environmentalists is that they work to oppose all fossil fuel extraction and
refining, without any bias against non-American energy. The deeper we dig, the more that facade crumbles.
Dakota Access Pipeline
You may be aware of the recent protests
in North Dakota against the Bakken Pipeline System being headed by
the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline is also
referred to as the Dakota Access Pipeline and protesters have staged
aggressive actions to stop it over the course of recent months. Just
last week, over 140
protesters were arrested and pepper sprayed. It's also important to note that the pipeline doesn't actually cut through reserve land. It's being built beside reserve land, on what is supposedly part of a sacred burial site. Originally, concerns revolved around the pipeline being built underneath a river, which is a source of fresh water for some Dakota tribes. Following environmental assessments, the pipeline was deemed safe. It was then that some tribes began claiming that the land was sacred and that local native bands weren't properly consulted. Another important fact to note is that not all of the local native bands are opposed to the pipeline.
One thing stands out when we compare
the Dakota Access Pipeline to other pipelines currently under
construction, proposed or built in the United States. How about the Double
H Pipeline from North Dakota to Wyoming, or the ATEX
Express ethane pipeline from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast? Just like
the Dakota Access Pipeline, those pipelines cut through private and
Indian land – but they haven't attracted any protesters. So, what
makes the Dakota Access Pipeline so special?
North Dakota happens to have a lot of
Indian land, so it's easy for the same environmental groups that
funnel money to Canadian First Nations to do the same in their own
country – for the same reason. Both the Double H Pipeline and the
ATEX Express are missing something that makes it worthwhile for
American environmentalists like Tom Steyer, Tides and the Climate
Disobedience Center to throw money at. Unlike the Dakota Access
Pipeline, those other pipelines aren't threatening to give Canada's oil industry more market access.
According to the Enbridge website,
the Canadian company has a significant investment and interest
in the Dakota Access Pipeline:
As part of Enbridge's overall strategy to improve market access and boost energy security, Enbridge Energy Partners, LP (EEP), has announced an agreement to acquire an equity interest in the Bakken Pipeline System.
The agreement is worth $1.5 Billion USD and is touted to “extend the reach of Enbridge's existing crude oil and liquids pipeline network”. The co-opted agreement puts Enbridge in charge of 49% of the company that holds 75% of the Bakken Pipeline System. That means this isn't just a normal investment meant to hedge or strengthen Enbridge's portfolio, it's meant to give Enbridge long term access to other markets.
As we've learned, Canada's energy
industry isn't allowed to outpace the US/Saudi industry. Over the
past ten years, Canada's oil industry has increased output
significantly, meaning that Canada could have surpassed Iran and the
United States in output within the next couple of decades. Economic
pacts between the United States and Saudi Arabia, like the US-Saudi
Arabian Joint Commission On Economic Cooperation, are designed to
protect the economic interests of both countries. Unfortunately,
little old Canada was never included in that agreement. You can read
more about that and the petrodollar here.
Putting all of these economic interests
into perspective helps us understand why there's such an effort to
suppress Canada's oil industry. These efforts have less to do with
the environment and more to do with preserving US hegemony and
economic interests. Protecting American investments and long term
economic interests also means protecting the interests of wealthy
American industrialists. If Tom Steyer and the Tides Foundation were
really interested in protecting the environment, they'd be staging
protests against their own pipelines and against Saudi interests. But, they aren't. That tells us everything we need to know as
Climate Disobedience Center
One of Climate Disobedience Center's founders is Tim Dechristopher, who also founded another environmental organization called Peaceful Uprising. Again, Climate Direct Action is directly linked to Dechristopher's Climate Disobedience Centre, as per their own website. Dechristopher has been to jail and railed against capitalism, but his organizations receive funding from large enough donors that they can hire “compensated volunteers”. The protests that have disrupted the Dakota Access Pipeline are directly associated with Dechristopher and his CDC – those organized protests also require a considerable amount of funding, transportation and PR.
The link that connects Climate
Disobedience Center and most of its founders to the Tides
Foundation's cash stream is yet another climate oriented organization
called 350.org. Dechristopher, Marla Marcum and CDC's other founders
are all directly linked to 350.org. They've all collaborated, worked
with and coordinated campaigns with 350.org and its members. In fact,
Marla Marcum herself is a
co-founder of both 350.org's Massachusetts wing and Climate Disobedience Center.
So who is one of the founders of
350.org? None other than Tom Steyer's pal, Bill McKibben.
According to Vivian Krause, McKibben
ran another campaign called 1Sky that later merged into 350.org in
April of 2011. Where the organizations got their funds is the most
astonishing, along with the direct connections the donors have to
More than half of the US$10 million came from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), the Rockefeller Family Fund and the Schumann Center For Media and Democracy, where McKibben, a trustee, was paid US$25,000 per year (2001-09). Since 2007, the Rockefellers have paid US$4 million towards 1Sky and 350.org, tax returns say. – Vivian Krause, Financial Post, February 14, 2013
Who else gets funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund? You guessed it. One of the Tides Foundation's many donors is the Rockefeller family, through the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and their other organizations. For example, RBF gave Tides $2.8 million in 2005; Rockefeller Family Fund gave Tides $1.2 million; the Rockefeller Foundation gave Tides $4.5 million; and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors gave $819K to Tides in 2005. You can see a list of other Tides donors here.
More directly, Tides is listed as a
donor to 350.org in their 2014
annual report. Their annual report also lists the Rockefeller
Brothers Foundation and the Tides Foundation Bridge Fund. Canada's own Naomi Klein also sits on 350.org's board of directors.
So, there you have it. The current protests in North Dakota, against a pipeline that could expand Canada's reach into the oil market, are indirectly connected to the infamous Tides Foundation. Just like the Kinder Morgan protests in BC and the violent protesters who invaded a National Energy Board office in September, the Dakota Access protests are another example of astroturfing courtesy of wealthy American industrialists.
With the help of Wikileaks, we've been
able to expose the ease in which political opponents can request
instant protests from their wealthiest friends, like Tom Steyer and Bill McKibben.