Can I cover Heartland Institute events as media? It depends on who’s watching when I ask the question.

Back in March 2008, the Heartland Institute held its “First International Conference on Climate Change” in New York City. Heartland is one of the leading oil industry-funded deniers of global warming. According to ExxonSecrets.org, it’s received $561,500 (unadjusted for inflation) from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2005.

When I emailed to request credentials to cover the event as a blogger, Heartland’s events manager told me, “I am so sorry but we are sold out, I have no extra space.” But when I showed up in New York anyway and started blogging from the lobby, attracting the attention of CNN and the BBC, the events manager suddenly changed her tune. “I never said you couldn’t register,” she claimed as the cameras rolled.

So when I learned Heartland plans to hold its “Third International Conference on Climate Change” in DC tomorrow, I immediately emailed to request credentials. (How can this be the third if they just had the first last year? If you want to make your events start sounding more prestigious, just have a bunch of them in a row and number them sequentially. May damage your credibility, but if you have no credibility to damage, hakuna matata.)

Here’s the response I received back:

Dear Mr. Grant.

The Heartland Institute accredits legitimate online media for its conferences, and will waive registration fees. As a blogger for Grist.org, you are welcome to attend at the basic registration fee of $150, payable at the door.

Regards,
Dan Miller
Publisher.

So the question is, should I just show up at the event tomorrow? It would be an awful lot of fun to call over to CNN to see if they’d be up for another test of Heartland’s media policy.

But let’s be honest — they’re not worth it. If the event is anything like the last Heartland meeting I attended, it won’t be a real discussion of climate science and carbon policy. It’ll be fringe conservatives claiming big polluters are the real underdogs and blaming all our problems on Leonardo DiCaprio.

I know everything I need to know about Heartland and its industry-funded “science.” And with the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act expected to come up for a vote before the full House by the end of the month, I have a new project for Heartland’s researchers — are there limits how irrelevant you can get? Like, an absolute zero where all possible relevance comes to a complete halt?

If they can ever announce an answer to that question, I’ll be the first to request credentials to cover it.