Affordable Energy for New Jersey
Affordable Energy for New Jersey is a front group created in 2020 that promotes methane gas and fights renewable energy and electrification policies. Many business organizations and pipeline labor unions support the group, but it is unknown who explicitly funds its operations.
The organizations supporting Affordable Energy for New Jersey include the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, and the Southern New Jersey Development Council. Gas utility members of these associations include South Jersey Gas, New Jersey Natural Gas, and PSEG.
Affordable Energy for New Jersey initially listed the Consumer Energy Alliance, a pro-fossil fuel front group run by Houston-based lobbying firm HBW Resources, as a member of the group, but Affordable Energy for New Jersey’s “Partners” page no longer lists CEA as a partner.
Ron Morano, a former FirstEnergy Senior Public Relations Representative, has served as Affordable Energy for New Jersey’s executive director since its inception. Morano is the owner of RTM Communication. Public relations firm MikeWorldWide (MWW), which is tied to Democratic party politics and fundraising, works for Affordable Energy for New Jersey.
Affordable Energy for New Jersey has spent significant amounts of advertisement dollars attacking Governor Phil Murphy’s Energy Master Plan. The Energy Master Plan outlines a statewide strategy to reach 100% clean energy by 2050, prioritizing the rapid electrification of buildings. In response, the front group has deployed a steady onslaught of advertisements since the beginning of 2022.
Additionally, Affordable Energy for New Jersey has been partnering with a climate denier. In October 2020, the group announced it began working with economist Jonathan Lesser, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a Koch-funded group with a long history of denying or obfuscating the science of climate change while attacking renewable energy and promoting fossil fuels. In the past, Lesser rejected the established science of climate change, saying, “[A]lthough many scientists view global climate change as a serious problem, many others continue to express doubt regarding both its magnitude and causes. Clearly, the Earth’s climate has changed continuously throughout its history and long before mankind was mucking about.”
In recent years, Lesser produced several reports for Affordable Energy for New Jersey to promote “clean, affordable natural gas” and warn of “the astronomical cost increases” that will occur if New Jersey achieves its 100% clean energy goals under the Energy Master Plan.
Affordable Energy for New Jersey’s Ad Spending
Utilities continue to stall and limit climate action by funding front groups to spread climate misinformation and false solutions to solve the crisis through advertising on social media networks.
Using data from the Meta Ad Library API and existing code from Brown University, EPI created a tool to expose the amount utility front groups are spending on advertisements about social issues, elections, or politics across Meta technologies, along with the specific regions the advertisements target.