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The Guardian: Internet hoax raises pressure over emissions

· Bogus website trumpets drastic cuts by oil groups
· Anarchic humour suggests work of ‘Yes Men’ satirists
Terry Macalister
Tuesday December 4 2007

Environmentalists opened up a new front for climate change yesterday, by establishing a bogus website and sending a press release committing BP, Shell and other oil majors to a 90% cut in carbon outputs by 2050 with no strings attached.

The internet portal looked identical to that run by the US Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP, a consortium of 33 prominent corporations and organisations, except that the news section of the copycat site had a release proclaiming “major businesses announce commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions by 90%”.

Supposedly from Washington but also with the phone number of a London public relations firm, the release went on: “In an effort to encourage decisive action [at the climate change talks] in Bali this week, USCAP’s members have committed to a 90% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” said Matt Leopard, a spokesperson for the consortium. “This commitment should send a strong message to the assembled countries and businesses about the type of reductions needed to stop global warming.”

The release listed USCAP’s members Alcoa, BP, Caterpillar, ConocoPhillips, Dow, DuPont, Ford, General Electric, General Motors Corp, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, and Shell, adding that “USCAP’s goal is to further public policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the climate.”

BP’s press office in London agreed it was a member of the USCAP consortium, which had suggested the US government should introduce mandatory legislation for CO2 emissions to be cut by 60% to 80% by 2050 but denied it would commit itself to a 90% reduction without conditions.

Later a BP spokesman said that he believed the release and website were a hoax and not USCAP’s real portal.

Similarly, a Shell spokeswoman came back saying: “From what we understand this is a bogus press release.”

Greenpeace also believed it was all a hoax, but said it was not dissimilar to the group’s own direct actions and could be an effective way to show corporations acting in an “unacceptable” way. It questioned whether the site had been created by the Yes Men, activists who specialise in dressing up and pretending to be oil executives and making outrageous statements.

Recently the Yes Men posed as executives from ExxonMobil and the National Petroleum Council (NPC) and delivered a satirical speech to 300 delegates at Canada’s largest oil conference, GO-EXPO.

US and Canadian oil policies, especially the tar sands schemes in Alberta, would increase the chances of global calamities, the imposters told their audience – but reassured them that the industry could keep “fuel flowing” by transforming the billions of people who died into oil.

“We need something like whales but infinitely more abundant,” said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men, in the guise of NPC representative Shepard Wolff – before being bundled off by security officers and handed to Calgary police officers.

Tom Simmons, named as a spokesman for the USCAP press release and attached to a PR firm called Parsons & Fischer, insisted he was unaware of any hoax: “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’ll have to make some inquiries of my own.”

Too good to be true

In 2005 a release briefly carried by agency AFX described ‘the independent state of Narnia’ quitting WTO talks in Hong Kong, and Susan Aslan saying it was ‘tired of bullying by EU and US delegations’ ; Aslan, of course, is the lion in CS Lewis’ books.

In 2000, shares in the computer networking firm fell 60% after a fraudster posted an internet release saying its CEO had quit.

In April 2007 the agency reported a US financier leading a $12.5bn bid for Gold Fields, the world’s fourth largest gold producer; its shares spiked 11%. Edward Pastorini didn’t come up on Google or any other source. The letters happen to form Top Insider Award. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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