Keystone XL Theatre | Why did Obama Choose NRDC Founder John Bryson as his Commerce Secretary?

Published January 26, 2012 by Political Context and The Wrong Kind of Green

By Cory Morningstar


Frances Beinecke, president of NRDC, on the nomination of NRDC founder John Bryson by President Barack Obama: “As one of the founders of NRDC, John Bryson is a visionary leader in promoting a clean environment and a strong economy. He has compiled an exemplary record in public service and in business that underscores the strong linkage between economic and environmental progress.”

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” – David Rockefeller, the current patriarch of the Rockefeller family

As 350.org/1Sky/Tar Sands Action Coalition continue to fill the self-proclaimed “progressive media” airwaves with self-congratulatory articles of strategic grassroots efforts and so-called victories, many are aware of the fact that a key player collaborating with the “Tar Sands Action” coalition is the NRDC (Natural Resources Defence Council). Forgetting for a moment the beginnings and correlation between 350.org/1Sky, the Rockefellers, the Clintons and big business, what other ties to the very industry and administration could these “environmental groups” such as NRDC behold? One such revelation known to few is the fact that NRDC’s John Bryson was confirmed as Barack Obama‘s Commerce Secretary on 20 October 2011. Who nominated Bryson to fill this position? President Barack Obama himself nominated Bryson as Secretary of Commerce on 31 May 2011. Obama’s nomination was endorsed by key corporate players including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Bryson co-founded NRDC in 1970 by way of a $400,000 grant, courtesy of the Ford Foundation. Bryson has served on the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change alongside other elite associates of powerful corporations such as Tata (India) and ESKOM Holdings (South Africa). (And as Rio+20 will prove, the United Nations has become as corrupt an institution as the nations that control it; an instrumental tool for serving the world’s powerful oligarchy. It is nothing less than a Greek Tragedy that it has taken 20 years to figure this out – a further tragedy being that we citizens still delude ourselves that we can influence these negotiations, in any meaningful way. We cling to denial, our fingers blue, eyes wide shut. [1])

Bryson is a former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Edison International, a California-based energy company, inclusive of nuclear. Bryson served Edison until 2008 when he retired with a $65 million retirement package. In addition, Bryson is the founder and co-chair of the Pacific Council on International Policy, founded in 1995 in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations, the promotional arm of the ruling elite in the U.S. Further, Bryson served as independent director to the Boeing Corporation, a key player in the Military Industrial Complex, bleeding the United States dry as children go hungry. No wonder we don’t see any corporate greens demanding the diversion of the trillions of dollars from global military expenditures to environmental mitigation.

These positions/relationships that Bryson entertains are just a few of many. Bryson also served as director to Walt Disney Corporation and the W. M. Keck Foundation (assets in excess of $1 billion) founded by William Keck, founder and president of Superior Oil Company, now part of ExxonMobil. It is important to note that four of the top ten media corporations share board director positions with the major defense corporations comprising the Military Media Industrial Complex (2009). Bryson represented one of the four. Bryson resigned from his positions at Disney and Boeing only after being nominated for Secretary of Commerce by Obama.

One of NRDC’s funders is none other than the Tides Foundation, which has been a key component in the “North American Tar Sands Coalition.” This is a coalition that “seeks to keeps its decision-making body ‘invisible to the outside,’ while funnelling millions of dollars to its preferred groups.” [Report: The Secret Structure of the Tar Sands Coalition]. As well, NRDC is infamous amongst grassroots justice movements for their past support of cap-and-trade climate legislation as a false solution to the climate crisis. [2]

Photo: NRDC (co-founder John Adams) & 350.org/1Sky (Bill McKibben) at White House Keystone XL rally. All good fodder for creating the illusion of dissent while retaining/repairing President Barack Obama’s voter base.

In my recent article with respect to the comments put forward by one of Rockefeller’s 350.org/1Sky “agents” (no pun intended – this is what they actually call themselves), I noted that within an article titled “Grassroots Strategy Is Key to Winning Keystone XL Fight,” the author writes:

The effort was also deeply grounded in the need for collaboration amongst environmental groups. While Tar Sands Action formed a progressive, action oriented edge for the campaign, groups like NRDC perfected policy arguments and lobbied on the Hill, online campaigns like CREDO sent tens of thousands of emails and phone calls to the White House, BOLD Nebraska led a strategy to block the pipeline on the ground in their state, Friends of the Earth focused on a conflict of interest scandal over the pipeline at the State Department …. We likened the approach to a ‘swarm,’ a team effort that was light on formal processes and meetings and dedicated above all to speed, efficiency, and an ambitious plan of attack.”

A “swarm” all right. A swarm of black flies on the dead carcass of climate justice. Of course groups like NRDC will perfect policy arguments, especially with the co-founder serving as Obama’s Commerce Secretary. The question is, who will such policy serve? The largest donors to the NRDC include the Pew Foundation (Sun Oil/Sunoco), the W. Alton Jones Foundation (Citgo), and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (Standard Oil/Exxon Mobil). NRDC is featured on the front page of the PCAP website (Presidential Climate Action Plan Institution), which is also a Rockefeller project. [3]

18 January, 2012: After Obama announced the rejection of the Keystone XL permit due to time constraints, NRDC president Frances Beinecke proclaimed for all American voters to hear: “President Obama put our air, land, water and health  our national interest  above the interests of the oil industry.” This cheerleading for Obama should be of little surprise to anyone  Beinecke doesn’t take home a yearly salary of over $432,000 for nothing.

26 January, 2012: “President Barack Obama will announce today a new oil and gas lease sale in the central Gulf of Mexico to be held in New Orleans on June 20. The lease sale, which will include all available unleased areas in the Central Planning Area off of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, will make about 38 million acres available, and could result in the production of 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to Interior Department estimates.”

On June 14, 2010, NRDC’s Beinecke was appointed by Obama to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Today, the relationship between the non-profit industrial complex and the Imperialist plutocracy continues less and less blurred as the veil begins to lift. Most recently, Suzanne Nossel, Hillary Clinton’s Deputy Assistant for International Organization Affairs, was “selected” as the new Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. Nossel is also “Visiting Senior Fellow for Global Governance” at the Council of Foreign Relations. Nossel was instrumental in the resolution put forward to the U.N. by 77 NGOs, which opened the door for the invasion of Libya, a country that had the highest standard of living in Africa. Under the false pretext of a “humanitarian intervention,” as many as 100,000 Libyan men, women and children were killed, while foreign interests continue to steal and plunder every last drop of wealth from Libya – both monetary and cultural, as well as ecological. All allegations within this resolution, a death warrant for a country, have been proven to be false.

Image: John H. Adams, Founding Director of NRDC. In February 2011, Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the U.S.’s highest civilian honour – from President Obama. He has also served on governmental advisory committees, including President Clinton’s Council for Sustainable Development.

The big business conservationists and their professionals didn’t buy off the movement; they built it.” – Katherine Barkley and Steve Weissman, The Eco-Establishment

In reality, both the Obama administration and the corporate elite are arm in arm with their allies who comprise the non-profit industrial complex. Of course, the staged “battles” demanding environmental protection do play out well on the public stage of perception. After all, what is the point of a non-profit industrial complex if the public does not believe they are legitimate? Appearing to be legitimate is critical.

Citizens, supporters and the majority of the climate justice movement itself (whatever that even means at this point) dismiss the fact that these corporate NGOs are absolutely dependent upon the industrialized global capitalist system that is destroying us. Awash in foundation funding (foundations that serve as mere front-groups for corporations and plutocrats), the non-profit industrial complex, like the industries and the administrations they claim to oppose, is absolutely unsustainable. To truly pull the plug on the massive profits that stream in from continued growth, exploitation of people, and decimation of our natural resources and shared environment, would be nothing less than slitting their own throats. This is why all are dead silent on the elephant in the room, that of the global industrialized capitalist system, while knowing full well that this is the root cause of climate change and environmental destruction. Yet, these organizations were never intended to truly protect the environment, rather, from the onset their primary purpose was to protect and further corporate interests. In that respect, they certainly have served their masters well.

“I would also point out that not only do these NGOs jet around the world, they will [only] fund those IPs, or peasant farmers (or women or youth) who happen to agree with them by raising funds under the banner of being a Global organisation. I went to the People’s conference in Bolivia (funded by a private individual because it was not prioritised by my NGO at the time) only to see the large NGOs show up with sometimes dozens of troops (and yes, I use that word deliberately because it is a war). At times, they even appeared to push and bully and bribe as much as any of the Parties at the official negotiations. And they still lost. I am not surprised that the marginalisation of Bolivia escalated after that, I am just surprised at the NGO role in it.” – Sandy Gauntlett, Maori Activist, Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition, Aotearoa

One thing we can be certain of is this: Any “solutions” offered up by the corporate greens (outside of symbolic actions and focus on individual behaviour) will have been prepared and approved, well in advance, by the global plutocracy. The same elites who bankroll the eco-establishment. All “solutions” presented by corporate greens will serve to protect, distract, perpetuate or build/sway public support for their funders’ corporate agenda. In short, the corporate green role is to pacify all/any resistance, building complacency while framing any dissent as unreasonable. In the case of the “Tar Sands Action” campaign, it served the establishment in more ways than one. 1) It allowed for the false impression of environmental leadership by Obama to a dwindling voter base. 2) An initial grassroots campaign calling for “Shut Down the Tarsands!” (meaning all production at source) was marginalized as all focus shifted to a single pipeline (which in reality is already 2/3 complete and in operation). One must note that not long ago, on the world stage, U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, NASA climate scientist James Hansen and other high profile individuals spoke openly on the imperative of shutting down tar sands production in its entirety. 3) It distracted from the expanding Imperialist invasions/wars/occupations happening at an unprecedented pace in Africa and the Middle East. 4) It successfully ensured continued silence on the fossil fuel subsidies to the tune of trillions of dollars. Rather than united campaigns demanding the end of fossil fuel subsidies (as urged even by ultra conservative, pro-capitalist institutions such as IEA and the World Bank, who are waking up to the realization that we are on a certain path to self-annihilation), corporate greens would rather have us play ring-around-the-White-House, knowing full well that the end of fossil fuel subsidies would mean not only the end to the Keystone pipeline (the expansion/third phase, that is), but the death toll to all fossil fuels, as well. [4]

This is just a taste of what’s happening in a massive web of compromise, deceit, delusion and manipulation.

This is not grassroots, my friend. This is theatre. It’s past time to wake up and smell the bullshit.

Cory Morningstar is writer /ecological activist whose recent writings can be found on Canadians for Action on Climate Change, Political Context and The Art of Annihilation site where you can read her bio. You can follow her on Twitter: @elleprovocateur



 [1] Negotiations on what became the UNFCCC (Framework Convention on Climate Change) were initiated in December 1990 by the UN General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (the “Earth Summit”). The ultimate objective of the Convention was to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous climate change. Today we are far beyond dangerous (John Holdren, 2006; James Hansen, 2008). Every organization within the environmental movement has, in part or in sum, collectively failed humanity as emissions have risen approximately 40% since 1990.

[2] Backgrounder on NRDC and their climate policy: http://www.actforclimatejustice.org/tools-resources/issues/mcj-take-on-corporate-polluters-and-corporate-environmental-organizations/nrdcs-greatest-environmental-hits/

[3] The advisory committee of this influential Rockefeller project looks somewhat more progressive than the typical elite climate projects of the past. This is no accident. In order to have maximum effect, it is critical that these groups have credible, high-profile individuals who have demonstrated in the past they have the ability to engage citizens. Such individuals successfully help the project deflect criticism and minimize skepticism. Bill Becker, the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, was integral to the creation of 1Sky, which has since merged with 350.org.

[4] In addition to eradicating energy wastage (56% of all energy is wasted in the U.S. economy alone) through extensive conservation, if we transferred all fossil fuel subsidies to zero-carbon energy, the dent would be astronomical; over half a billion dollars in direct subsidies are handed over each year to the most profitable fossil fuel corporations on the planet. This does not include indirect subsidies (via externalized costs), which equate to approximately three times that of the direct subsidies. Further, a recent study suggests that indirect and direct subsidies for coal alone in the U.S. amount to a half billion dollars per annum. This equates to more than a trillion dollars per year and tens of trillions of tax dollars (in direct and indirect subsidies) over the upcoming decades gifted to the very industry ensuring our demise. Although this is fairly common knowledge with most NGOs (even the World Bank reached this logical conclusion over a decade ago in 1990), none of them campaign on this imperative. It is a sad statement that the World Bank has more effective solutions than the environmental movement who claims to represent civil society. [http://onlyzerocarbon.org/uploads/Stop_Switch_Subsides.pdf]

“Criminology” – “Let’s walk through this criminal enterprise” (the outspoken and controversial Farrakhan):