Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions (C4BES)

Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions (C4BES) launched in February 2019 as the first front group in the United States to fight building electrification. The now-defunct organization served as a template for other anti-electrification front groups, including Partners for Energy Progress, created in March 2020 by gas utilities in Oregon and Washington. 

C4BES was set up and primarily funded by Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) to challenge policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with buildings, including electrification. SoCalGas initially told reporters it was “invited” to join the front group. Documents, however, soon emerged and exposed SoCalGas’ role in setting up, funding, and recruiting members for C4BES. C4BES withdrew from regulatory proceedings at the California Public Utility Commission in response to the revelations.

SoCalGas hired two contractors to operate C4BES: Imprenta Communications Group and Marathon Communications Group. Jon Switalski, a former Democratic state senator in Michigan, served as the executive director before the organization imploded. 

Between 2019 and 2021, C4BES was frequently entangled in scandals. For example, Eric Hoffman, the chairman of C4BES, wrote to the City of San Luis Obispo staff that he would create a public health threat by bussing in protestors possibly infected with coronavirus to stop an ordinance vote restricting gas hookups in new construction. In a separate incident, a C4BES contractor with Imprenta Communications group posed as a Culver City resident on the social media platform Nextdoor to foment outrage over a building electrification ordinance.

Ad Spend

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.

Posted by Energy and Policy Institute