THE BLOG
10/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What if They Held an "Energy Citizen" Rally and Nobody Noticed?

Yesterday was the BIG DAY for Michigan's "Energy Citizens"! Yes, the giant groundswell of corporately-funded astroturf outrage at climate change legislation that would put a serious hurt on the profit statements of Big Oil concerns found its way into Livonia, Michigan.

It was going to be big. At least that's what the Michigan Farm Bureau insurance company said.

It was going to show our Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin that Michigan "Just Says NO!" to clean energy, reduced carbon emissions and promoting a new energy economy.

I was unable to attend because, not surprisingly, they held the event in the middle of a workday ,when most working people are otherwise occupied. So, this morning, I opened up the newspapers to see just how well it went.

Here's what I saw:

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Wait. What?

The Detroit Free Press didn't cover it?

The Detroit News didn't cover it?

Nothing on Topix?

Let's check MLive...[click, click...read, read...] -- Nope. Nada.

Surely the Michigan Chronicle or Wayne State University's paper, The South End will have something...[click, click, click...read, read, read...] -- Crap. No. Not a darn thing.

No, no, no. This can't be right. Let's do a Google search on Energy Citizen Rally:

Hit #1: Houston's "Energy Citizen" rally was just a glorified company picnic
Hit #2: Majority of 'Energy Citizens' rallies organized by oil-industry lobbyists
Hit #3: HuffPo: 'Energy Citizen' Rallies: Send Us Your Photos, Videos, And Eye-witness accounts
Hit #4: Big Oil Manufacturing "Energy Citizen" Rallies To Oppose Clean Energy Reform
Hit #5: Houston Energy Citizen Event not a Rally - it was a company picnic

Ooo. Not looking too good for the Bad Guys.

Wait. Okay, here we go, Hit #6 is to the Energy Citizens webpage. This is the American Petroleum Institute's (API) astroturf site. I bopped over there to see what kind of coverage they had on the "big event".

Hmmm...nothing.

Wait, here's something. It's from the Wayne County Tax Payers blog. One entry saying they are blogging from the event with no real news other than a list of some of the groups presenting. Oh, and no comments or any type of follow-up.

Could it possibly be that they held an "Energy Citizens Rally" in Michigan and nobody actually noticed? Not one single media source picked it up?

I'm gonna go out on a pretty stout limb here and call this ridiculous astroturf effort completely FAIL. And I'm not the only one who thinks that. Heck, even Shell Oil wouldn"t sign up as a sponsor:

"We have expressed to API our position not to participate in the upcoming Citizen Energy rallies," said Royal Dutch Shell in a statement. "Shell is not encouraging nor discouraging participation in the rally ... and we have asked employees who wish to attend to do so on their own time."

Or how about this tasty headline: "American Petroleum Institute Demonstrates How to Screw Up a Grassroots Event ":

When a member of a dance team performing at the event was asked what the rally was for, she answered that it was about conserving energy. Not exactly.

The API actively discouraged grassroots participation by kicking out non-energy employees who agreed with their cause. This was astroturfing at its finest, and rest assured we'll see plenty more of it -- at least 19 more rallies are expected to pop up in oil-producing states in the coming weeks. Will it work? Probably not...

Considering that the Big Oil interests tipped their hand and were exposed before the campaign even got underway, it's really no surprise that it's such a FAIL enterprise. The DeSmogBlog is doing a great job keeping tabs on this stuff.

Ooo! Just got an update from a friend that attended the rally as a cheerful protester. Here's her report:

Okay, so the event was very much inside this "manor", so we couldn't see it. But it seemed like the only attendees were bussed in (oil company emplyoees, we assume) and a few others that drove themselves. I would say about a hundred, definitely less than two hundred. Looks like all of them were given t-shirts -- yellow ones with "I'm an Energy Citizen" on the front and "It's the JOBS climate, stupid" on the back. Not bad messaging! Nice how WE acknowledge that and want to solve BOTH problems at the same time! Also saw some black ones with CAP & TRADE crossed out on the front.

There were about a dozen of us protesters there and we were cheery and adorable and having a grand old time. We were much more visible to passersby on the road -- they were almost all hidden in their Oil Manor the whole time.

So there you have it. Bussed-in Big Oil supporters hiding in their Oil Manor, rallying the troops to protect the healthy/wealthy Big Oil profit lines.

Meanwhile, Michigan leads the country in unemployment at 15+% and in the metro Detroit area where this rally was held, one in three people are out of work. At least our governor, Jennifer Granholm, is trying to revive our economy by pushing forward a Green Jobs agenda.

But, really, you'd think with all that money Big Oil could have gotten at least one article, wouldn'tchya?