Fossil Industry Fielding TV Spox to Keep Propane King of the Hill

January 11, 2023

New York Times:

For D.I.Y. enthusiasts, Matt Blashaw is a familiar face, judging bathroom remodels or planning surprise home makeovers on popular cable television shows.

Mr. Blashaw also has an unusually strong opinion about how Americans should heat their homes: by burning propane, or liquid petroleum gas.

“When I think of winter, I think of being inside. I think of cooking with the family, of being by a roaring fire — and with propane, that is all possible,” he said on a segment of the CBS affiliate WCIA, calling in from his bright kitchen. “That’s why we call it an energy source for everyone.”

Less well known is the fact that Mr. Blashaw is paid by a fossil fuel industry group that has been running a furtive campaign against government efforts to move heating away from oil and gas toward electricity made from wind, solar and other cleaner sources.

The Propane Education and Research Council, or PERC, which is funded by propane providers across the country, has spent millions of dollars on “provocative anti-electrification messaging” for TV, print and social media, using influencers like Mr. Blashaw, according to the group’s internal documents viewed by The New York Times.

As a federally-sanctioned trade association, PERC is allowed to collect fees on propane sales, which helps fund its marketing campaigns. But according to the law that created this system, that money is supposed to be used for things like research and safety.

In 2023, the organization plans to spend $13 million on its anti-electrification campaign, including $600,000 on “influencers” like Mr. Blashaw, according to the documents, which were obtained from PERC’s website as well as a public records request by the Energy and Policy Institute, a pro-renewables group.

The overwhelming majority of scientists around the globe agree that the burning of coal, gas and oil produces greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet. Scientists commissioned by the United Nations have warned that nations must deeply and quickly cut those emissions to avoid a catastrophic escalation of deadly flooding, heat waves, drought and species extinction.

The propane industry sees things differently. It needs to “combat the growing narrative that fossil fuel combustion is the main cause of climate change, and that propane is a dirty fossil fuel,” Stuart Weidie, chairman and chief executive of North Carolina propane company Blossman Gas, told the propane council at a February 2021 meeting.

“The movement to electrify everything is rapidly gaining momentum, and poses a substantial threat to the sustainability of our industry,” he said, according to meeting minutes.

Erin Hatcher, who heads communications at PERC, said its campaign “asserts propane’s role in a clean energy future” and “promotes the advantages of a wide path to decarbonization.” Influencers like Mr. Blashaw, she said “use and specify propane in their construction projects and are very familiar with propane’s advantages.” Ms. Hatcher would not say how much her group has paid Mr. Blashaw.

Mr. Weidie said that his fundamental belief in the importance of a low-carbon future had been “lost in out-of-context conversation.” He said he believed electrification was set to “play a big role but is not the only answer,” and that propane was “a great energy for generations to come.”

Mr. Blashaw referred questions to PERC.

Most American homes are heated by natural gas or oil. But in states where the energy grid is increasingly powered by wind, solar and other renewables, electric heat pumps are fast becoming a lower-carbon alternative to gas and oil. They heat as well as cool.

Researchers at Princeton University found that for the United States to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2050, nearly one-quarter of American homes would need to switch to heat pumps. That’s double the number today.


One Response to “Fossil Industry Fielding TV Spox to Keep Propane King of the Hill”

  1. Jim Torson Says:

    For people who would like to reject this disgusting pro-fossil fuel propaganda, here is the website for Rewiring America:

    At the top of their main page is a link to download their excellent 34-page document “Rewiring American’s Guide to the Inflation Reduction Act.” This discusses the new federal incentives for things like heat pumps and electric vehicles.

    Under the “News & Publications” menu at the top there is a link to the “Electrify Everything” Home Guide. This 106-page document contains a lot of additional useful information.


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