The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is an industry front group established to influence public perception and government regulation in favor of extractive energy industries. CEA specializes in coordinating “astroturfing” efforts that are frequently funded by oil and gas interests. The group was founded by Republican lobbyist Michael Whatley of HBW Resources, a leading proponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Canadian tar sands industry.
In 2018, CEA was linked to the Energy4US front group, as the campaign’s website had demonstrable ties to CEA. Energy4US.org was used to gather and bundle public comments to the Department of Transportation that supported a rollback of fuel efficiency standards. CEA has faced multiple accusations (in 2014, 2016, and most recently in 2018) of submitting fake comments in support of legislation that would benefit utility companies, often at the cost of higher energy prices for consumers.
The CEA receives financial backing from petroleum giants, with its member groups including BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron, among many others. With operational support from petroleum, gas, and energy infrastructure associations, the CEA engages in targeted media messaging and government lobbying to advance pro-industry agenda items such as offshore drilling, deregulation, and refineries expansion.
The Center for Public Integrity (CIP) reported the group was founded in 2006, with a formative board consisting of executives from Shell and Hess Corporation, as well as a number of other industries. Jim Martin, Chairman of the 60 Plus Association, was also a board member.
According their website, CEA “is the leading consumer advocate in support of affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors, and small businesses across the country.”
CEA and HBW Resources are so intertwined it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. HBW Resources received half of CEA‘s expenses in 2016, as shown in IRS filings and reported at the Energy and Policy Institute. From 2010 to 2016, HBW received a total of $7,717,053 from CEA according to tax forms. The two organizations also have staff that largely overlaps, as outlined by LittleSis.