Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether the propane industry has been secretly paying television personalities to promote the use of propane-based appliances.
For Pingree, pro-propane content on channels like HGTV could convince Mainers to avoid transitioning to electric appliances, which could in turn pose a grave threat to the planet.
Pingree’s dire concern over propane propaganda comes despite her own personal investment exposure to fossil fuel-based energy companies.
In a letter to Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Pingree said last week a recent New York Times story had revealed “possible disturbing manipulation by the fossil fuel industry.”
The New York Times story Pingree referenced reported that the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), a federal trade group funded through fees on propane sales, planned to spend $13 million this year promoting the benefits of propane over electrical appliances, including $600,000 on so-called “influencers.”
“I respectfully request the Department of Energy (DOE) use its oversight authority … to ensure the activities PERC is engaged in are consistent with the law,” Pingree wrote. “DOE can do more to curb these abuses by propane–and possibly other–trade groups, as well as investigate the findings of this report and take all appropriate action.”
In her letter, Pingree touts the benefits of electric heat pumps for Mainers, saying that the appliances could reduce heating costs for Maine residents by almost $2,000 per year.
Yet she fears that Mainers will watch someone on HGTV install a propane furnace and then decide they don’t want a heat pump.
Although Pingree is very concerned about fossil fuel-caused global climate change, her financial disclosures show she has hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal investments in funds with exposure to fossil fuel-based energy companies.
Through her investments in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), Pingree has exposure to dozens of oil and gas companies, including Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Conocophillips, Chevron, Marathon Petroleum, Shell, and Occidental Petroleum.
A financial disclosure Pingree filed in 2022 also shows that she continues to receive income of between $100,000 and $1,000,000 from her partnership in Paloma Partners, the investment fund operated by her ex-husband and former Portland Press Herald owner S. Donald Sussman.
Paloma Partners, a sprawling network of Cayman Island and U.S.-based hedge funds, has even greater exposure to fossil fuel investments through ETFs. According to publicly available filings, Paloma also has a direct investment in Transocean LTD, a Swiss company that operates off-shore oil and gas rigs.
It’s unclear whether Pingree’s proposed investigation would also examine Hank Hill’s potential nefarious connections to the fossil fuel industry.