By Denise Tessier
Yet another column by Marita Noon made its way into the Albuquerque Journal.
What’s interesting about this one (“Renewable Energy Can’t Compete With Fossil Fuels”, May 19), is that more than half-way into the piece, Noon criticizes media for giving too much credence to a 10-page right-wing strategy memo that was part of a February “brainstorming session” she attended on energy policy. The odd part is that she helped draw attention to the memo earlier this month via Twitter.
It’s enough to make one’s head spin — no pun intended.
Noon’s Journal article starts off criticizing renewable energy sources as “expensive boondoggles” the public should not support. Eventually, she weaves into it that “the anti-fossil fuel Checks and Balances Project dug deep to unearth a ‘confidential’ document about a brainstorming session” held by people “opposed to commercial wind power projects.”
During our meeting, we talked about whether to form a group to promote sensible energy policy and barely looked at the “document.”
It’s not surprising that this document that participants “barely looked at” is what captured media attention. Titled “National PR Campaign Proposal,” stamped “confidential,” the memo written by someone named Rich Porter had these goals:
A) Cause the targeted audience to change its opinion and action based on the messages.
B) Provide credible counter message to the (wind) industry.
C) Disrupt industry message with countermeasures.
D) Cause subversion in message of industry so that it effectively becomes so bad no one wants to admit in public they are for it (much like wind has done to coal, by turning green to black and clean to dirty).
From Noon’s column (no link available):
Several reporters who called me seemed determined to uncover a funding link to oil-and-gas-interests. There is no link, and most of the reporters recognized that our brainstorming session had been totally mischaracterized. A couple ran the story.
On the first point in this paragraph, the brainstorming session’s attendance list is likely what caused reporters to probe into a perceived link. Although her background is as a Christian book author and “personality expert,” Noon has spent the last several years extolling the extractive industries through her column-writing, and she’s currently executive director of CARE (Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy), a booster of oil, gas, coal and nuclear power.
Although it’s unclear what Noon means by “a couple ran the story,” I took it to mean that some media covered the alleged mischaracterization. The closest I could find was a story on the website of the Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition, of which New Mexico is a member, which quoted the editor of the leaked memo, John Droz, as saying The Guardian had the story all wrong:
The memo reflected (Rich) Porter’s views only. It was never adopted by participants at the Energy Advocates Conference, he said, and in fact was not even discussed. He said he had edited the memo himself, but only for grammar.
“When I looked at the ideas, I thought some of them had some merit, I thought some of them were not so good,” Droz said.
According to the Illinois Wind Energy Coalition, the memo’s author is likely a Richard Porter “affiliated with a wind opposition group known as Illinois Wind Watch. “
In the Governor’s Coalition article, Droz also echoed Noon’s claim that the “wind warriors” who gathered in February were a grassroots group. According to Noon’s Journal column, “Each of us was invited personally, and we paid all our own expenses.”
From the Governor’s Coalition article:
(Droz) said that as a “grass roots” group, the conference of wind energy opponents had to be open to any private citizen’s ideas.
. . .Droz also disputed that his meeting represents a coordinated effort by conservatives to go after wind. He said the participants were chosen by him, and they took part as private citizens, not on behalf of their organizations.
According to the Governor’s Coalition story, Droz is “a longtime opponent of industrial wind and a senior fellow at the American Tradition Institute.”
The American Tradition Institute, according to The Guardian:
. . .is part of a loose coalition of ultra-conservative think tanks and networks united by their efforts to discredit climate science and their close connections to the oil and gas industry, including the Koch family. Those groups include the Heartland Institute, the John Locke Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity, the organising arm of the Tea Party movement.
ATI is a relatively new entrant, coming to national attention only last year when it filed lawsuits against climate scientists including Michael Mann and James Hansen.
The leaked memo itself has an interesting section that lists organizations the wind opponents at February’s so-called Energy Advocates Conference might consider as allies in the proposed PR campaign. It suggests (sic):
Consider joining forces w some already established organization where there is substantial commonality and commitment (e.g. ATI, Heartland, IER, CEI, Marshall, Brookings, Cato, Manhattan, AfP, FW, CFACT, ALEC, NA-PAW, etc.).
In her column, Noon characterized the whole memo brouhaha as desperation on the part of wind advocates to “keep their industry alive.” She wrote:
Using their tactic of responding “quickly to unfavorable articles” attacks against our group – and me personally – are springing up all over.
Pointing fingers at concerned citizens who question the administration’s energy policy and have the ability – some might say the audacity – to think for themselves isn’t going to help renewable become more successful. Their pending failure will be based on their inability to provide value and compete with the affordable fuels.
Noon’s column prompted a Corrales resident to write a rebuttal, which the Journal ran May 24.
Here is the leaked document Noon and her fellow concerned citizens ignored.