Smoked Out: How the American Oil Lobby has cost us 10 years

A documentary by Paul Moreira
First broadcast December 9, 2009 on France 4

On the occasion of the UN Climate summit, PREMIERES LIGNES presents “Smoked Out…”, a documentary by Paul Moreira on the US oil lobby and Climate Change deniers. The reporter looks at this political storm and shows how the oil, coal and automobile industries have managed to sneak influent agents into the very heart of the American administration. Remember, the United States alone is responsible for 30 to 35% of all the greenhouse gas emissions caused by man. The first economic superpower appears to be based primarily on carbon dioxide emissions…

Kyoto, December 1997. For the first time, 160 nations are considering reducing their CO2 emissions. Among them, the United States of America without which no real binding global agreement is possible. Vice President Al Gore makes a statement that sounds like a declaration of war, “In my country, we remember that the tobacco industry once told us that smoking was not bad for our health. To those who will try to obstruct our efforts we say ‘We will not let selfish private interests come before the interests of all mankind’”.

Some industries will fight the decisions made in Kyoto because CO2 emissions go along with profits. A discreet and implacable lobby will do everything to stop the process. Lobbyists infiltrate the state apparatus, cajole, threaten policy and change the law. They will finance an extraordinary war machine aimed at denying the climate emergency. In 2001, George W. Bush becomes president. The documentary shows how the various lobbies were able to infiltrate the very heart of his administration. One of them, Philip Cooney, will become the interface between the climate change scientific community and the Presidency of the United States.
As for Rick Piltz, a minor official in charge of editing the work of the climate scientists, he was much less regarded. Piltz will witness the pressure applied by Philip Cooney on the researchers. He discovers that the scientist’s reports are massively altered, amended and truncated by Cooney. By sowing doubt, he’s able to make solid scientific facts appear questionable. Rick Piltz decides to quit his job but takes with him documents that show just how far the oil lobby has penetrated. He blows the whistle. His information makes the headlines of the New York Times.
In 2007, Democratic lawmakers call for a commission of inquiry. They want to question Philip Cooney and make him admit he’s not what he claims, the simple official working for the public good, but an agent of the oil lobby. Paul Moreira is allowed to film the Congressional hearings. In a moment as dramatic as in any movie, the lobbyist is thoroughly cross-examined. The hearings reveal the somewhat unusual methods of the Bush administration as well as its strong ties with the oil industry. And a secret document is disclosed: an elaborate action plan designed by the oil lobby, a guide on how to manipulate the public opinion and delay decisions. A form of intimidation that affects not only the administration but also government agencies such as the NASA.

Because of the industrial lobbies’ manoeuvring and the Bush administration’s obstruction, valuable time was lost. Experts say a decade. Barack Obama’s election raises new hope among climatologists and environmentalists. The objective of the new U.S. administration, which is ready to fight against global warming, is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States to 1990 levels by 2020.