Organizer Jumps Ship From Green Lobby to Oil Lobby

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


A grassroots organizer has quit the Nature Conservancy to head up grassroots outreach for the oil industry’s biggest trade group, a highly unorthodox career move that has set off nervous ripples in the capital’s green community.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) announced on Monday that it has hired Deryck Spooner to serve as their “external mobilization director.” Spooner will “coordinate the association’s efforts to develop, mobilize and sustain a political infrastructure of individuals, groups, and coalitions to advance priority advocacy issues with elected officials.” API President and CEO Jack Gerard called Spooner a “veteran of coalition building and grassroots” in a press release.

Of course, this veteran of coalition building acquired a good deal of his expertise as the climate change campaign manager for a group that’s usually on the other side of the fence to API when it comes to environmental issues. In an interview with Greenwire, Spooner tried to make light of his switch from big green to big oil:

“I have worked for vastly different organizations throughout my career,” Spooner said. “The bottom line is it’s all about advocacy, that’s what I’m passionate about. Mobilizing and organizing people to influence the public process and public policy is what I truly love to do.”

“At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily believe that the views of [the Nature Conservancy] and API are incompatible,” Spooner added. API members use technology “to ensure that the places that they drill are not impacted,” Spooner said, while the Nature Conservancy uses a scientific approach in deciding where to protect land and water. API members, he said, “don’t just want to drill anywhere for drilling’s sake. There’s a lot of science going into where they drill.”

His move comes as API is ramping up its efforts to oppose a climate bill and push for favorable provisions in energy legislation. The group sparked criticism last year for holding “grassroots” rallies against the climate bill last year that were directly coordinated by API lobbyists and attended by many employees, retirees, vendors, and contractors from API member companies.

Spooner brushed off API’s role in such activities, pointing out that the US Climate Action Partnership, the business-environmental coalition pushing for a cap-and-trade bill, contains members from the oil industry. (He didn’t note that two of the three the oil members left the coalition last month.) “What API wants is a really good climate bill at the end of the day,” Spooner claimed.

The Nature Conservancy is among the more conservative of the major green groups—it’s not heavily involved with climate bill lobbying and its main focus is working with major nongovernmental and corporate partners on conservation initiatives. Nevertheless, there is plenty of alarm in the environmental community over the oil lobby poaching one of their own. “They play tackle football,” John Passacantando, the former executive director of Greenpeace now consulting on environmental issues, tells Mother Jones. “We still use the little flags with velcro.”

 

 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate