Ceres Foundation Deceives Members, Launches Campaign of Intolerance

Ceres Foundation Deceives Members, Launches Campaign of Intolerance
March 4, 2013

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

The Ceres Foundation, which recruits corporate members by claiming to be a cooperative advocate for environmental education and a sustainable future, is instead aggressively and intolerantly picking fights with corporations and public policy organizations who don’t share Ceres’ political agenda.

Dozens of corporations are funding Ceres’ campaign of political intolerance against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Among the more prominent corporate funders are Allstate, Bank of America, Best Buy, Citi, Coca-Cola, Consolidated Edison, Dell, Dunkin’ Brands, eBay, Exelon, Ford, Gap, General Mills, General Motors, Green Mountain Energy, Levi Strauss, Native Energy, Nike, PepsiCo, Recycled Paper Printing, Sprint, Suncor, The North Face, Timberland, Time Warner, Virgin America, Walt Disney, and Wells Fargo.

Other corporate funders include Advanced Micro Devices, Aspen Snowmass, Aveda, Baxter International, Ben & Jerry’s, Bloomberg, Brighter Planet, Brown-Forman, CA Technologies, Clif Bar, Concept A, Cone Communications, Credit 360, Deckers Outdoor, Dignity Health, EarthColor, Eileen Fisher, EMC, Energy Management, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Haley & Aldrich, Intuit, ITT, Jones Lang LaSalle, Legg Mason, National Grid, Northeast Utilities, PG&E, Prudential, Saunders Hotel Group, Seventh Generation, Sodexo, State Street, The Co-operators Group, Vancity, and William McDonough + Partners.

Bullying Campaign Targets Energy
The latest example of Ceres playing the intolerant bully against other corporations and public policy groups is a campaign targeting ALEC and its members. ALEC invites state legislators who believe in free markets and limited government to attend ALEC meetings and exchange ideas on ways to preserve economic freedom in the states. Non-legislators, such as public policy organizations and corporations, may join ALEC and share their ideas with ALEC legislators.

In 2012, ALEC legislators responded to escalating electricity prices and the failed promises of the renewable power industry by approving the Electricity Freedom Act. The Electricity Freedom Act is model legislation, presented by the Heartland Institute, that repeals laws requiring electricity customers to purchase expensive renewable power.

Neither ALEC nor the Electricity Freedom Act singled out for criticism the Ceres Foundation or any other public policy foundation or industry group. The legislation merely pointed out the shortcomings of renewable power mandates and proposed replacing the mandates with a freedom-focused energy economy. Renewable power would be free to compete in an open and fair market but would no longer be given the unique benefit of a legally enforceable market share.

Aggressive Personal Attacks
Intolerant of ALEC and ALEC members holding a different view on energy markets than its own, the Ceres Foundation has decided to get personal and aggressive against ALEC. During February 2013 Ceres began contacting ALEC members, making false claims about renewable power mandates and pressuring the members to withdraw from ALEC.

“The purpose of this letter is to ask you to think seriously about your ALEC membership, and the degree to which it may be detrimental to [your company’s] credibility and ability to follow through on its public commitments.”

Although Ceres makes no mention of political ideology on its website or in its self-assessments, Ceres sent to ALEC members a letter conveying a clear agenda and a particular hostility to groups supporting economic freedom. Singling out for disdain two entities that prominently advocate for “conservative” economic freedoms: the Ceres letters assert “ALEC … is now partnering with the Heartland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank, and Americans for Tax Reform, led by Grover Norquist….”

Coalition of Extremists
Although the Ceres Foundation has taken great pains to mask its anti-market agenda, Ceres’ political bias is readily apparent in the company it keeps. On its main webpage, Ceres boasts about sharing common goals in the “Ceres Coalition” with such extreme leftist advocacy groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Oxfam.

The Ceres letter and an accompanying memo sent to ALEC members make dozens of false and misleading claims about renewable power mandates, ALEC, and ALEC members. Most strikingly, Ceres claims wind power and other forms of renewable power are less expensive than conventional power sources. Common sense dictates that if such were true, the renewable power industry would not need laws forcing consumers to purchase their product.

Backing up common sense with objective economic data, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports wind power and other forms of renewable energy are substantially more expensive than conventional power sources and will remain so for at least many decades to come.

Ceres’ aggressive intolerance against people and groups who don’t share its desire to force people to purchase expensive renewable power can be explained in large part by the groups that Ceres works with as members of the Ceres Coalition. A small sampling of these groups include the American Council on Renewable Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Sierra Club, Solar Electric Light Fund, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sustainable Business Alliance of Berkeley, SustainableBusiness.com, the Climate Registry, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wildlife Fund, and many labor unions and government groups.

Anne Stausboll, CEO of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, co-chairs the Ceres Board of Directors, along with Norman Dean, who is president of the environmental activist group TopTen USA. Several other top officials for environmental activist groups and public employee unions also serve on the Ceres Board of Directors.

James M. Taylor (jtaylor@heartland.org) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. 

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)