Higher energy prices in society are caused by well-funded, increasingly powerful environmental groups, and the energy industry needs to do a better and more comprehensive job of mobilizing its own supporters to counteract this trend, according to a Bellevue, WA-based author and official with the nonprofit Center for Defense of Free Enterprise.

“There is a direct relationship between price and access to production, and these groups are committed to blocking production,” said Ron Arnold, author of “Undue Influence: Wealthy Foundations, Grant-Driven Environmental Groups and Zealous Bureaucrats that Control Your Future.”

Speaking last week at the GasMart conference in Denver, Arnold said there are vast natural gas supplies still underground in the United States, but the environmental groups are blocking the access to them. “When prices go up, those who block that production are responsible.”

He said the environmental groups claim to be “helping the environment,” but actually they are hurting it when they block new gas supplies driving up the price, which makes it harder for it to compete with other alternatives. Calling the natural gas industry employees the “real pro-environmental” people, Arnold urged the industry to tell this story to its customers and stakeholders.

Part of Arnold’s message is that the industry has lots of various allies in government, among its customers, public health groups and even some environmental organizations that are on its side, but it needs to be mobilized on a local level where issues arise. “There are a number of different groups that support the need for natural gas, and they understand the message that there is a direct relationship between price and production,” said Arnold.

He stressed that the industry needs to “drive home” that message to policymakers, and that takes a “mass,” grassroots movement. It also takes greater understanding of the sophistication, financial backing and strategic approach of the environmental groups, all of which have collectively become more powerful in the past 20 years since a “environmental grantmakers’ association” was formed by foundations in 1985.

There are now between 14,000 and 15,000 environmental groups with collective funding of some $23 billion, according to Arnold. Grantmakers write “prescriptive social changes that ought to happen in the form of specific grants to specific groups willing to do what is called for,” he said. “You have grant-driven green groups as a result. It is the grants (not the specific environmental cause) that are driving their activities, not their own internal agendas.”

Green groups use the foundation money to grow their memberships, stir-up and “anger” contributors, to get other contributions, and to take action, said Arnold, noting that the whole thrust of the groups is to influence public policy. “These are people that are aggressive, in your face, and they are never going away,” he said, adding that they are strategic in their thinking and action, citing the Endangered Species Act as a prime example. Underscoring the environmental movement’s sophistication, Arnold said the average educational level on the national Sierra Club’s mailing list is 8 years of graduate school education.

“You have to learn to operate on the playing field of your opponent, there is no other way you can do it,” he said. “You’re not on the same playing field, so that is unfamiliar territory.”

If the industry accepts the challenge, they then need to determine how to get active, and one way Arnold suggested is to “donate,” but make sure it is only to “proven supporters of access to production.” A lot of corporations give to a wide variety of philanthropic causes, and to some environmental groups, particularly ones that “are giving them trouble,” but Arnold warned that companies should not think they can “buy them off. That won’t happen.” Grants for specific projects with really good “bangs-for-the-buck” — not for general purposes — should be how the industry helps fund these groups, he said.

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