In the Pocket of the Gas Lobby?

Liberals (and, to be fair, some non-liberals) often assume that any organization or politician who gets donations from a company, organization or industry must be in the pocket of the donor. In general, that assumption is unfair: what actually happens is that people donate to organizations and politicians that share their views. Still, contributions can sometimes seem malodorous. Here is an example, from the Science and Environmental Policy Project’s The Week That Was:

On Thursday, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune admitted that between 2007 and 2010 the organization took $26 Million from Chesapeake Energy Corporation for the Sierra Club’s campaign against coal-fired electrical power plants. Chesapeake is one the nation’s largest producers of natural gas and extensively uses deep underground hydraulic fracturing “fracking” and sees its future in natural gas-fired power plants.

In making the announcement on the Sierra Club’s web site, Brune implied that it will be joining in the campaign against “fracking” for natural gas. No doubt, the leadership of Chesapeake Energy is elated to hear that the animal they fed so generously to use against their competitors may soon turn on them, probably using the same tactics it used against Chesapeake’s competitors in fuels to power electrical generation.

So the Sierra Club takes tens of millions of dollars from a natural gas energy company to trash the competition, coal-fired power plants. One wonders: who is now financing the Sierra Club’s attacks on natural gas?

The power companies could, of course, spend the same money on advertising campaigns attacking each others’ forms of energy. Why do they run the money through the Sierra Club? Presumably because the attacks seem more credible that way–an assumption that is, to say the least, entirely unwarranted.