Astroturf Groups Claim Environmentalist “War on the Poor”
A gathering led by Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality, Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, and the new group Americans for American Energy held a press conference yesterday demanding increased “American Energy” production. Their contentions were twofold: that high energy costs disproportionately harm low-income families, and that increased domestic oil drilling would solve the problem. Standing in the way: the “elitist Volvo-driving” environmentalists. Watch:
Although CORE was once a prominent civil rights group, after Niger Innis’s father, Roy, took control in 1968, he led it to the far right, honoring Karl Rove at its Martin Luther King dinner, backing extreme Bush judges, and defending oil companies. According to a Mother Jones article, “Innis has been accused by founder James Farmer and other black leaders of renting out CORE’s historic reputation to corporations like Monsanto and ExxonMobil. (CORE even mounted a counterprotest to environmentalists picketing an ExxonMobil shareholders’ meeting.)”
For CORE, this event was no different. Niger Innis proclaimed his coalition to open up domestic drilling to be “very much like the civil rights revolution in its diversity and in its moral passion.”
Early in the press conference, Harry Jackson defined the enemy: “The fact is that we have environmental groups who are basically elitist, they are trying to dramatically change our lives, they are basically saying that they want to have a wholesale transformation of our culture and society.” Limiting drilling in ANWR, he said, is “a huge problem.”
While he once again claimed to be a Democratic voter, Jackson is a frequent spokesman for groups and causes on the Religious Right, and he’s apparently expanding his portfolio to issues of the economic Right. Jackson took the time yesterday to hawk the new book he co-wrote with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, which included a chapter on anti-environmentalism as a “faith” issue.
A long series of Congressional Republicans followed, extolling the virtues of American energy, gleefully leading the crowd in chants of “Stop the War on the Poor,” and continuing the assault on environmentalists. A representative of Americans for American Energy, Colorado State Sen. Bill Cadman, called out the “environmental racists, environmental terrorists.” Democrats were also a favorite target.
While President Bush conceded yesterday that any short-term effects of new drilling would be “psycholog[ical],” a poster prominently displayed throughout the event promised that Republican policies would lower the price of gas to $2.13 a gallon. The Democratic plan, according to the poster, would only reduce the price of gas by five cents. Cost estimates were attributed to “various sources.”
Oil companies were mentioned only once, by Leland Hogan of the Utah Farm Bureau, who asserted that they make their decisions “by what the political climate is,” not “business decisions.” Hogan and his compatriots evidently hoped that the political landscape would change enough to allow the white knight of the poor, Big Oil, to roll over the “extreme environmentalists” and roll out $2.13 gas.
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