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Are We In The Tank?

Lots of commenters have raised concerns about BP sponsoring (er, "powering") this blog, and I wanted to chime in, too. Oil companies, as we know, have been trying to influence the energy debate for a long time—famously, the American Petroleum Institute hatched a scheme in the late 1990s to fund pseudo-scientists who could sow doubt about whether climate change was man-made or not. So I have a lot of qualms about an enviro blog that's "powered" by BP, even if none of us bloggers have anything to do with TNR's business side, and we even if were hoping to keep this blog running after the sponsorship ends.

Anyway, some context: BP has spent a lot of money over the years trying to brand itself as "green," and there was a great New York Times Magazine piece in 2002 about the contradictions inherent in an oil company trying to market itself as environmentally friendly. BP was, to its credit, one of the first oil companies to accept that global warming was happening, but it's also a business whose main focus is, well, fossil fuels—and putting carbon into the atmosphere. See also this Time piece on the company's patchy environmental record.

Now, does BP dictate our content? No. Would we shy away from criticizing them? No. For one, I'm in favor of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade regime to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and BP has been pretty shamefully working behind the scenes in Congress to oppose strong climate legislation. I'm in favor of funding for renewable energy, whereas BP has slashed its investments in renewables while pouring money into dirty energy sources like the tar sands of Canada. And yes, technically, there's nothing to stop those disagreements from being aired on the blog or on our site. But that doesn't mean everything's fine and dandy here, so, by all means, sound off in comments.

Update: Okay, looks like it's all been cleared up. Thanks all for weighing in.

--Bradford Plumer