Just three days after the Senate released its report on the CIA's torture program, a Koch-funded organization named the American Energy Alliance (AEA) released a blog post comparing recently proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to CIA enhanced interrogation techniques, which included forced rectal feeding, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and mock executions.
The post appeared December 12th on the AEA's website and featured a cartoon of a tome titled "EPA Torture Report, Volume IV." Trapped beneath the report is Uncle Sam. Listed on the report's cover are "raising energy costs," "killing jobs," and "harassing property owners," among other alleged offenses.
"Whether it's the costliest regulation in history or the coal-killing power plant rules (that Obama's law professor says raise "constitutional questions"), it's clear that the CIA isn't the only government agency engaged in torture," says a caption. "At least the CIA isn't torturing Americans."
"It's no surprise that a fossil-fuel-funded front group would try to attack climate regulations coming from the EPA," Gabe Elsner, Executive Director of the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI), a clean energy think-tank, told VICE News. "But comparing it to torture is absolutely out of step and unbelievable, to be honest."
In 2012, Freedom Partners, an organization funded by Charles and David Koch, gave $1.5 million to AEA, Elsner said. AEA's research arm, the Institute for Energy Research (IER), has received funding from both ExxonMobil and a Koch family organization, the Claude Lambe Foundation. The chair of both AEA and IER, Wayne Gable, is a Freedom Partners board member and has been a president of various Koch family foundations.
"The EPA regulations would directly impact the financial interests of Charles and David Koch," Elsner told VICE News, "and that's why they fund organizations like the American Energy Alliance to attack EPA regulations and to be the public face of their advocacy efforts."
In November, the Obama administration proposed regulations that would lower the allowable level of ground-level ozone, which can cause asthma, premature death, and other health issues, from 75 parts per billion to as low as 60 parts per billion. The EPA estimates billions of dollars of savings in health care costs due to lower ozone levels. But industry experts say the heavy cost of upgrading factories and power plants to comply with the regulations, which could reach $15 billion by the time they're enacted in 2025, according to EPA estimates, would hurt the economy and destroy jobs.
The EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan aims to cut carbon emissions produced by US power plants. Last month, President Obama announced a goal of cutting US carbon dioxide emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Industry representatives and officials from states heavily dependent on fossil fuels have said the regulations are an overreach of the EPA's power.
The Senate's report on CIA practices documented enhanced interrogation techniques used against suspected members of al Qaeda in the years following the September 11th attacks. These techniques yielded no "unique" or "valuable" information, according to the report. Among the methods used by the CIA were threats of sexual violence against detainees and their family members, including one instance of an agent threatening to sodomize a captive with a broomstick. CIA agents also imposed extreme isolation, leading to hallucinations and self-inflicted abuse among prisoners, and deprived detainees of sleep. The report also highlighted the practices of waterboarding and mock executions, as well as rectal feeding, in which food was forced into detainees' anuses through a tube.
In June, EPI analyzed an Americans for Prosperity ad attacking a tax credit designed to promote wind energy. Of the 117 parties endorsing the ad, more than half were tied to the Koch brothers and other fossil-fuel industries.
But AEA's latest effort, Elsner said, achieves a new level of misinformation.
"I haven't seen them come out with a message that is this ridiculous," he told VICE News.
Follow Laura Dattaro on Twitter: @ldattaro