Ayesha Rascoe

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Rally against climate bill exposes anger against govt

September 3, 2009

A rally in Richmond, Virginia on Thursday was supposed to be a protest against Washington’s climate bill. But like the raucous healthcare townhall meetings of recent weeks, there was plenty of anger to go around.

Sponsored by a powerful oil lobby and other business groups, the Energy Citizens Alliance event was a pep rally of sorts to encourage  residents to rise against the recently passed House of Representatives climate bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the protesters grumbled not only about the issue at hand but the direction of government in general.

“It’s a lousy Congress, they’re doing nothing,” said Ray Oberleitner, a retiree who brought his wife Rita to the event. The couple said they are also worried about the plethora of so-called czars appointed by President Obama — such as the Health Czar and the Green Jobs Czar — to oversee issues, calling them dangerous.

Another woman said she was worried the United States would become a third world country, while others fretted about Washington’s growing deficit.

Some carried the signs provided by organizers with phrases like “Congress don’t take away my job!” while others milled around eating hot dogs and hamburgers while taking in the sounds of local of rock band.

Speakers at the event painted a dire picture of U.S. economy if the House climate bill becomes law.

“Our small businesses will whither and entrepreneurship will suffer,” said Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.

They seemed to be preaching to the choir, as the crowd loudly applauded calls for more energy production and booed when the climate bill was mentioned.

“I don’t want $4 gas, and I know with that bill, I won’t even be able to afford to even have heat,” said retired loan officer Nancy Graham, of Richmond.

On a large cardboard petition some wrote things like “Don’t kill capitalism” and “You have no constitutional authority to do this.”

With financial backing from the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, environmental groups have derided these as little more than “company picnics” held by big polluters.

“This is really an effort to confuse the public about what comprehensive, strong and effective energy legislation will do. It’s misinformation,” said Greenpeace spokesman Michael Crocker.

Cathy Landry, a spokewoman for API, objected that some call the rallies “astroturf” or manufactured events. “It is organized, but does that make it less grassroots? I don’t think so.”

Photo Credit: Reuters/Ayesha Rascoe  (Sign distributed at Energy Citizens rally)

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  • About Ayesha

    "A Howard University graduate, I began my career at Reuters as an intern covering hotels and airlines in New York. I now work in Washington D.C. covering energy policy and regulations."
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