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Big Oil Support Protests of Emissions Bill

HOUSTON -- Oil companies are backing a citizen movement opposing Washington's efforts to tackle climate change, according to a report in The New York Times.

During a rally in Houston earlier this week, a group calling itself Energy Citizens, which has oil company employee members and is backed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), protested proposed legislation that would set a limit on emission of heat-trapping gasses and require many companies to buy emissions permits.

Rally participants described the system as an energy tax that would undermine Houston's economy, the newspaper reported. Protesters wore yellow T-shirts with slogans like "Create American Jobs Don't Export Them" and "I'll Pass on $4 Gas."

Since the House narrowly passed the bill earlier this summer, oil executives have complained their industry would incur sharply higher costs, while federal subsidies would flow to coal-fired utilities and renewable energy programs.

"It’s just a sense of outrage and disappointment with the bill passed by the House," James T. Hackett, chief executive of Andarko Petroleum, told the newspaper. He defended the use of buses financed by oil companies and Energy Citizens to carry employees to the rally. "If we all drove in cars, it wouldn’t look good," he said.

The oil industry plans to raise the pressure in coming weeks through public rallies so that it can negotiate more favorable terms in the Senate. The strategy was outlined by the American Petroleum Institute in a memorandum sent to its members, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. The memo was obtained by Greenpeace, according to the New York Times.

In the memo, API President and CEO Jack N. Gerard said the rallies were meant to send a "loud message" to the senate and should focus on higher energy costs and jobs. "It’s important that our views be heard," Gerard wrote.

API spokesperson Cathy Landry confirmed the contents of the memorandum, but told the newspaper the rally was not strictly an institute event and that Energy Citizens included other organizations representing farm and other business interests.

Royal Dutch Shell said it had told API it would not participate in the rallies, although its employees would be free to attend if they wanted.

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