The Wall Street Journal is staying mum about an allegation it ran an editorial criticizing U.S. President Joe Biden using “really good content” supplied by a Canadian fossil fuel company.

The editorial, published in February, criticized a major climate policy announcement by the White House to pause permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

A few days later, a U.S. executive from Calgary-based TC Energy told colleagues during a “lunch and learn” call that the firm was involved in getting the editorial published. The call was internal, but The Narwhal reviewed a leaked recording.

On the call, Edward Burrier, TC Energy’s director of public policy, discussed how Biden’s announcement prompted the company to spring into action by reaching out to the newspaper.

“I wouldn’t say this much outside the walls of the TC tower, but this editorial wouldn’t have happened without our involvement,” Burrier said on the call. “Our communications team packaged that for the Journal editorial page and they went with it, … so some really impactful teamwork there.”

The editorial argued Russian media were “thrilled” about the pause, which it said would force Germany and other European countries to lift sanctions on Russian oil and gas. On the call, Burrier said an analyst working for the multinational fossil fuel company “dug through Russian-language media, got a sense of their reaction, worked to validate [and] bolster the research through a native Russian speaker and then our communications team packaged that for the Journal editorial page and they went with it.”

Later on the call, the analyst, Michael Oberman, told his TC Energy colleagues the editorial is “a great example of how you can kind of really change discussions across the continent if you have really good content.”

“Incidentally it took a lot of time to review many, many dozens of Russian-state propaganda media sources,” he added. “It was an interesting pastime. We have great people on the U.S., Canada and Mexico side who can kind of interact with key decision makers and say, ‘Look at this story.’ ”

Caitlyn Reuss, a spokesperson for the newspaper, which is published by Dow Jones, a unit of NewsCorp, said in an email, “We do not comment on sourcing and/or editorial processes.”

TC Energy did not respond to questions about the remarks made by Burrier and Oberman, but said in a statement the company engages with all levels of government and across every community where it operates in order to achieve its mission of delivering “secure, affordable and sustainable energy.”

TC Energy also said that some comments — made by at least one employee who is no longer with the company — were inaccurate and “portray a false impression of how we do business.”

Wall Street Journal editorial board speaks ‘for free markets and free people’

The Wall Street Journal says on its website its opinion pages are independent from its news department. “We speak for free markets and free people,” the newspaper’s website says of its editorial board.

“Our analyses represent our best independent judgments rather than our preferences, or those of our sources, advertisers or information providers,” reads the code of conduct the Wall Street Journal adheres to, adding, “Our opinions represent only our own editorial philosophies.” 

The members of the editorial board aren’t named on the Journal’s website: at many major newspapers, the board is a group of senior journalists who take turns writing opinions individually and together, which are published without individual bylines. This means there is no way for non-board members to know who exactly wrote a specific editorial and what their connections to sources or subjects might be.

The editorial TC Energy employees appeared to take credit for was titled “Biden’s LNG ‘Gift’ to Vladimir Putin.” It was signed by the newspaper’s editorial board on Feb. 15, 2024, 20 days after Biden’s LNG pause was announced. Citing several Russian media sources, it outlines an argument that frames the decision as a major political blunder and a boon to Russian oligarchs.

“President Biden is trying to strike a contrast with Donald Trump by promising to stick by America’s European allies. Perhaps he hasn’t heard Vladimir Putin’s media organs crowing that his administration has double-crossed Europe by halting permits for new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects,” the editorial said. 

“Mr. Biden’s LNG export ban increases Mr. Putin’s economic leverage and it undermines the credibility of the U.S. as a reliable ally.”

Trump, Biden have presented vastly different visions for oil and climate

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 dramatically affected global energy security and supply chains. 

An International Energy Agency report on the war said it plunged the European Union into an energy crisis, with countries including the United States increasing LNG exports to replace Russian supplies. 

For his part, Trump described oil and gas as “the liquid gold under our feet” during the June 28 presidential debate against Biden.

In January, the Biden administration said in a press release it was halting LNG exports because “climate change is the existential threat of our time — and we must act with the urgency it demands to protect the future for generations to come.” Natural gas is about 95 per cent methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that is the second biggest contributor to global warming after carbon emissions.

“The U.S. is already the number one exporter of LNG worldwide — with U.S. LNG exports expected to double by the end of this decade,” the White House press release noted. “At the same time, the U.S. remains unwavering in our commitment to supporting our allies around the world. Today’s announcement will not impact our ability to continue supplying LNG to our allies in the near-term.”

This week, a Louisiana judge granted a preliminary injunction to put Biden’s decision on hold, in response to legal challenges launched by 16 Republican-led states, the Associated Press reported.

Biden’s stance on LNG exports has major implications for TC Energy projects — and the natural gas sector at large — according to executives heard on the leaked recording. Burrier and one other executive on the call said Biden’s pause had become an election campaign issue and they expected Trump would reverse it.

“It 100 per cent is an election campaign issue,” Burrier said. “The weekend when the pause was announced, Trump … was saying, ‘On day one I’m going to overturn that.’ ”

By Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Mike De Souza

Original Published on Jul 03, 2024 at 14:01

This item reprinted with permission from   The Narwhal   Victoria, British Columbia

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