The fine print: “Sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute”

On Wednesday, the Energy and Policy Institute (which tracks oil-industry influence-peddling) revealed that Rhode Island’s fossil-fuel lobby was putting on a private breakfast in Cranston. An invitation-only event, it excluded environmentalists and scientists, as well as journalists deemed unfriendly to fossil-fuel interests.

The event’s keynote speaker was ISO-New England CEO Gordon van Welie. ISO-New England is the nonprofit chartered to fairly manage our region’s transmission lines, power costs, and capacity planning. It is at least unseemly, and likely a violation of ISO-NE’s Code of Conduct, for their CEO to speak at an oil lobby funded event.

Van Welie delivered what the lobby was paying to hear: a message that “reliance on natural gas will last decades.” Seemingly ignorant of the plummeting price of renewables and large-scale battery storage, he said of the challenge to meet our power needs with renewable energy: “That’s not going to happen. For the most part, it will come from natural gas.”

Outside the event, not invited in from the blustery cold, a small group of protesters gathered to represent the alternative view: the scientific consensus that we must urgently transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035 in order to avoid catastrophic loss of quality and quantity of life on earth. The protest was covered by Uprise RI and the Providence Journal. The ProJo article concluded as follows:

Opponents to the project objected to van Welie’s appearance at the forum, arguing that as an impartial operator of the power grid, ISO-NE shouldn’t be represented at an event sponsored by groups that back fossil-fuel power generation.

Half a dozen protesters demonstrated outside the offices of heating and cooling company Taco, which hosted the morning event.

“The oil industry is rolling in dough and they can afford to put on fancy breakfasts and present their spin on our energy future to people who should be neutral like the CEO of ISO New England,” said Justin Boyan, vice president of Climate Action R.I., an affiliate of “We’re representing science and the environment and the future of the planet. And we don’t have a seat at this table.”

Join CARI • 350 RI to be informed of future events like this and help build our numbers. Only a growing movement of concerned citizens can resist the oil industry’s insatiable appetite to sacrifice our children’s future to serve their near-term profits.