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Author Topic: Fossil Fuel Propaganda Modus Operandi  (Read 29885 times)

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    • Renwable Revolution

September 8, 2021

Embrace Plastics Or We’ll Kill Elephants For Ivory , New 🦕 Pro-Plastic Propaganda from CEI Suggests

A couple weeks ago, we noticed that old-school-PR-man 🦖😈 Rick Berman, the kind of guy 60 Minutes calls “Dr. Evil” when reporting on him, was up to his old tricks in defending the beef industry in the Washington Examiner. 

Well Berman’s been busy, because now he’s also working on behalf of the fossil fuel industry to defend plastics, this time in a Washington Times op-ed. In the piece that opposes plastic bag bans, Berman plays up how wonderful plastic is (“masks, gloves, and syringes have saved lives throughout the pandemic”) and tells readers “waste researchers are seemingly developing new ways to recycle plastic every day.”   

Meanwhile, the industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute has also launched a new pro-plastics campaign, starting with a paper that claims that “plastics benefit wildlife and the environment.” 

Which animals are helped by the plastics that are literally killing them by the millions? We wish this were a joke, but it’s not. CEI thinks that if we weren’t using “synthetic products like plastics,” then we would “have to harvest such resources from wild animals—such as ivory from elephants.”

Yes. Of course. Either we let the fossil fuel industry dump its byproduct plastics into our oceans, atmosphere, and bodies, or it’s back to an ivory-dependent economy. No middle ground. Plastics definitely saved elephants and destroyed the ivory trade, and any reduction in plastic use now would mean we’d go back to using ivory for pool balls and piano keys and everything else. (To be honest, they really missed an opportunity to threaten that we'd have to go back to killing great blue whales for their baleen and sperm whales for lubricants.)

this kind of very logical and good faith argumentation really bodes well for the rest of the CEI campaign! CEI will also highlight the “value that plastics have for humanity, enriching our lives in many ways, including helping improve our health and ability to fight dangerous diseases, including COVID-19." And for their third act, they’ll acknowledge “legitimate concerns about the impact of plastic litter on the environment, particularly wildlife, and how we can address those problems without banning useful products.” And then finally, they take aim at “unworkable legislation proposed on Capitol Hill.” 

Through both Berman and CEI we can see the industry is fighting plastic bans with the usual playbook, with a particular focus on using recycling as a distraction to argue against bans and as we noted in the spring of 2020, using the pandemic to score PR points. 

And as we know well, the focus on recycling is straight from the very-well-documented plastic disinformation handbook. Back in 2019, the Center for Public Integrity published a lengthy investigation into the long war to protect plastic, starting with a 1988 plastic bag ban in New York’s Suffolk County, and continuing to the present. It has all the same tactics as climate denial, likely because people like Berman are behind the fossil fuel industry’s disinformation on both fronts.

For example, the piece by CPI’s Tik Root explains how “when Charleston, South Carolina, was considering a plastic bag ban in 2015 and 2016, the industry countered with materials that ranged from a ‘myth vs. fact’ sheet about recycling to academic research.” The industry cited a Clemson University study saying plastic bags aren’t a litter problem, but didn’t mention that the industry paid for the research and funds Clemson’s Center for Flexible Packaging. Recycling, meanwhile, is described by industry trade official Roger Bernstein as a “guilt eraser,” and a powerful one at that, as recycling has long been a successful counter to bans. What it hasn’t been successful at, though, is actually recycling plastic. 

“Today,” Root explains, “many US cities don’t accept plastic bags in their recycling stream because the thin sacks gum up sorting machinery. Just 9 percent of all plastic waste in the US was recycled in 2015, according to the latest federal estimate. That rate is almost certainly lower now: Cities were relying heavily on China to take the plastic they collected and finish the job, but last year the country all but stopped accepting those imports.” 

If these fake solutions, fake experts paid by the industry, and fake arguments about the benefits of a complete source of pollution sound familiar, it should! 

Because as Jim Puckett told Rolling Stone last year for its big plastic-pollution-disinformation investigation, “Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels.” Puckett is the executive director of a group called the Basel Action Network, which is focused on the international treaty called the Basel Convention. It prevents rich countries from using the developing world as a hazardous waste dump, and as of January 1, 2021, that includes plastics, which might be why the industry is ramping up its pro-plastic messaging. 

That, and, of course as Rebecca Leber wrote last year for Mother Jones, “🦖 fossil fuel companies are staring down a time when their signature product will no longer be so critical in our lives. As the world transitions slowly but surely away from oil-guzzling cars, gas-powered buildings, and coal-fired power plants, industry execs must count on growth that comes from somewhere else—and 😈 they see their savior as plastics.”

And yet, the best they can do to defend their savior is recycle old myths about recycling plastics, and talk about plastics replacing ivory, all while ignoring the elephant in the room that is plastic pollution and the climate crisis.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matt 10:37


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