Oil Industry Tears Page from Health Care Playbook to Battle Climate Bill

large_Health1.jpg Protesters march against the health care bill. The sign at far left reads "Cap and Trade + Socialized Medicine = No More USA..." (Photo: MassLive.com)
Thanks to conservative groups that have worked for months to stoke false rumors about Congress' health care effort, a wave of negative "town hall" stories is now dominating the media -- and inspiring the oil industry to work up a similar campaign of its own against the climate change bill.

The idea was hatched in a memo [PDF] written by American Petroleum Institute (API) President Jack Gerard, whose trade association represents the nation's largest oil companies. API's "Energy Citizen" rallies, according to the memo, would be aimed at convincing voters that the climate bill "could increase the price of gas to $4 and lead to significant job losses."

Gerard urged API members to remain quiet about the effort (which hit the Wall Street Journal's blog on Tuesday): "You can assume with confidence that the advocates for [emissions regulations] and the critics of oil and gas are going to be very active, particularly during the August recess."

The memo was later leaked to Greenpeace, which promptly sent it to reporters.

Whether the oil-industry rallies will command even a fraction of the attention that the health care events are getting remains an open question. Most of the health "town halls" were organized by Democratic lawmakers as a forum to hear constituent concerns, while the "Energy Citizen" events -- one of which appears to be slated for next week in Houston -- would be purely private-sector productions.

Environmental groups' advance knowledge of the anti-climate rallies, however, could lead to on-the-ground battles over the future of the climate bill. The ultimate intended audience for that showdown: Democratic senators who remain on the fence about regulating emissions.

A longer list of oil-industry "town halls" has been posted by the oil company ConocoPhilips (h/t Grist).