American Petroleum Institute

Mock commercial undermines new Vote 4 Energy oil advertisement

  • Posted on: 4 January 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

A Greenpeace activist hands out flyers promoting a mock Vote4Energy commercial calling attention to Big Oil's astroturf campaigns.

Today, the American Petroleum Institute unveiled its 2012 Vote 4 Energy astroturf campaign, centered around a major election-linked CNN advertising package that PolluterWatch helped expose last month with audio recordings from inside the studio. Vote 4 Energy attempts to show 'real Americans' who are 'energy voters,' meaning they are committing to vote for whichever politicians support Big Oil's dirty agenda in this election year. Typical. API also bought the back page of the A section of the Washington Post with a Vote 4 Energy ad, space that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to normal people.

Anticipating this new misinformation campaign, PolluterWatch created a mock commercial to show how API and it's oil company members (Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron and all the usual suspects) have to fake citizen support for the oil industry:

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is Big Oil's top lobbying firm, using a $200 million budget to push dirty energy incentives and tax handouts for oil companies into our national laws. They have been caught in the past staging rallies for their Energy Citizens astroturf campaign, as revealed by Greenpeace in a confidential API memo to oil executives. Why do they fake citizen support? Probably because Americans overwhelmingly support clean energy over dirty oil development.

Knowing that API is rolling out the astroturf on cable TV, we decided to roll out actual astroturf at the location of their press conference today, literally making attendees walk down a long astroturf 'green carpet' shrouded by Big Oil logos as they entered the event. The K St lobbyists seemed downright confused by seeing the corporate logos that are normally invisible at API events.

Inside, API CEO Jack Gerard announced the campaign and promoted dirty energy development like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in his "State of American Energy" address. Apparently Jack thinks he's the President of United States of Energy, I thought he was just an oil lobbyist. Reporters leaving the session spoke about how bogus the event was--same old same old from Jack.

Jack Gerard may want to trick Americans into his Vote 4 Energy nonsense, but he demonstrates the same predictable rhetoric that oil companies always use to make themselves sound somewhat responsible, when everyone knows they aren't--see our profiles for ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, all multi-billion dollar corporations, making record profits even in a global recession, and looking for more tax breaks and handouts. If you are watching election coverage on CNN and spot API's astroturf ad, don't buy the lie. Vote for yourself, not oil executives.

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Upcoming American Petroleum Institute 'Vote 4 Energy' TV campaign disrupted by undercover activists

  • Posted on: 20 December 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Greenpeace exposing API's astroturf activity in 2009

UPDATE: story covered in Yahoo News today.

Recently, Greenpeace got a rare look behind the curtain at how Big Oil stages citizen support for huge oil companies, when activists got inside a TV commercial shoot in Washington DC. The American Petroleum Institute (API), and their PR firm Edelman, were filming a new series of TV commercials that we learned API plans to air nationally on CNN starting in January. The ads, aimed at the 2012 elections, will aim to demonstrate authentic citizen support for the oil industry's agenda.

Greenpeace disrupted API's astroturf commercial plans by not following instructions and going off script, declaring support for a clean energy future and demanding an end political interference by the oil industry's lobbyists and PR firms.

Inside API’s Secretive Commercial Shoot:

Details of the CNN January ad campaign as described by API and other clips are posted below.

Activists (or…citizens) were led through the wardrobe and makeup process, approved for looks by representatives from API and Edelman Blue Advertising, before waiting their turns to go on set. Participants were required to be registered voters, explained an API representative, to protect API from ”opponents” who may inquire if actors stating “I vote” are actually eligible to do so. Other recruited actors were being watched by the industry representatives during their takes, repeating lines like “That [energy independence] will come from our own energy resources – like oil and natural gas.”

Late in the morning, the API Edelman team filmed three unexpectedly honest ‘citizens’ who made clear the script did not represent their real opinions on energy. Greenpeace researcher Connor Gibson of the PolluterWatch project repeated their scripted line, “I vote,” then declared, “But I am a clean energy citizen. I will not believe the lies and influence peddling of the American Petroleum Institute, which would leave you to believe that I am a citizen that is okay with giving my tax payer dollars to billionaires and millionaires that run oil companies, the most profitable industry on the planet.” Gibson stressed movement away from a “perpetual petroleum future” and finished his speech by telling Edelman Blue President Robert McKernan “we need clean sources of energy, like wind and solar.” Listen to Gibson's full declaration and read the transcript, below.

In addition to Gibson, two other participants refused to recite API’s script. Peter Roquemore of the Sierra Student Coalition and Gabe Elsner, Deputy Director of the Checks and Balances Project showed up to the shoot with the expectation that they would provide their own assessments of American energy. Both decided not to participate once they were fed oil industry talking points on camera.

API’s New “Vote4Energy” Ad Campaign Exposed

In a taped conversation with the activists, an API communications advisor described the upcoming Vote 4 Energy advertising package in great detail: "This is scheduled to launch in January in a commercial on CNN, so it'll be a national spot...API—American Petroleum Institute—bought into an election package so anytime CNN does anything like covering the presidential debates, cover a caucus, anything like that, those will be the kinds of programs where the commercial is seen." The commercial debuts on January first. How much the deal with CNN cost remains an open question.

The API rep also said, “we are shooting a ton of people so, you know, you may make the cut, you may not, it all depends on the demographic.” Earlier in the morning, API agents were overheard expressing a need for more people of color in the commercials, noting that black and Asian demographics tend to disagree with Big Oil's warped political positions. API has been caught in the past photo-shopping print ads to include racial minorities in purchased iStock Photo to make their already fabricated supporters appear more diverse.

API BUSTED: Staging Grassroots Support for Dirty Energy

Over two years ago, Greenpeace obtained a confidential memo [pdf] from American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard, asking API member oil companies to support a campaign to fake a grassroots movement called “Energy Citizens.” Under the guise of this astroturf group, Big Oil would pay for public events similar to Tea Party rallies in support of their absurd wishlist: killing global warming legislation, unrestricted offshore oil drilling, increased tar sands development through the looming Keystone XL pipeline, hydraulic fracturing for “natural” gas, and no form of accountability for their immense contributions to climate change.

Luckily, the leaked memo was revealed on the front page of the Financial Times and covered in the Washington Post, Guardian and on Huffington Post. The New York Times Editors called it "Another Astroturf Campaign," revealing what a fluke Energy Citizens was before Chevron had the chance to bus its employees to API’s first round of staged rallies, the majority of which were organized by oil lobbyists. Greenpeace called attention to API’s tactic by installing astroturf on the front entrance of API’s Washington DC headquarters, featuring the logos of its largest members: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP and the banner CLIMATE FRAUD: FUNDED BY BIG OIL.

Greenpeace - Astroturf climate fraud funded by Big Oil, American Petroleum Institute Energy Citizens

Given the nature of API’s newest commercial shoot, its Energy Citizens rallies where participants had to be instructed to clap (see [Astro]Turf Wars), and its repeated use of iStock Photos to boost the perception of public support for Big Oil, it is reasonable to question the authenticity of similar PR moves like the “1’m One” or “One in a Million” advertising campaigns, also run by PR company Edelman, which purport to show real people who work for the oil industry.

The American Petroleum Institute, the top lobbying firm for the oil and gas industry, has spent at least $30 million peddling its dirty influence to our federal government in the last five years, and recently announced it would start funneling oil money to politicians. With it's $200 million Big Oil budget, API has played a key role in the industry’s climate denial movement by funding junk scientists like Willie Soon and coordinating a public relations strategy to create doubt over climate change.

 

Recordings from Inside the American Petroleum Institute Vote4Energy Commercial Shoot:

API explains the commercial deal with CNN (click to listen)

API: "Just so you know, I don't know how much they told you, but this is scheduled to launch in January in a commercial on CNN, so it'll be a national spot...API--American Petroleum Institute, uh, bought into an election package so anytime CNN does anything like covering the presidential debates, cover a caucus, anything like that, those will be the kinds of programs where the commercial is seen."

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API reveals commercial debut date (click to listen)

Greenpeace Activist: “So what date is this going to launch?”

API: “Um, January first.”

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API Says Chance of Being in Commercial “Depends on the Demographic” (click to listen)

API: “And so to your point though, we are shooting a ton of people so, you know, you may make the cut, you may not, it all depends on the demographic.”

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API explains concern over “opponents” (click to listen)

API: "And I'm sure they checked with you but you're a registered voter and all that stuff?" 

Gibson: "Yeah, they asked me. I don't know how you check that, but I am."

API: "We, um...the only reason is really a lot of the, you know, the script is saying "I vote," "I vote for energy," "I vote for..." so, we at least want to be genuine in the sense that you are a registered voter. As you can imagine, there are some opponents of the oil and natural gas industry and so we always have to be very careful of, you know, what our opponents could use against us. And that is, you know, if they found out that we were using people who aren't actually registered voters, or not even eighteen, or whatever, so..."

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Production staffer explains how lines are fed to participants (click to listen)

“No they put them in costumes and then the makeup lady takes care of them and then they walk them out, and all they do is the director feeds them the lines and he talks them through it. It’s…he’ll [Gibson] be fine.”

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Transcript of Greenpeace Activist going off API script (click to listen)

Director, prompting the first scripted line: “Smile, deep breath... ‘I vote.’”

Gibson: “I vote. But I am a clean energy citizen. I do not believe in the lies and influence peddling of the American Petroleum Institute, which would lead you to believe that I am a citizen that is okay with giving my taxpayer dollars to the billionaires and millionaires that run oil companies, the most profitable industry on the planet. The American Petroleum Institute is peddling its influence to make you think people like me are fully in support of [a] perpetual petroleum future. ‘Energy Citizens’ is an astroturf front group created by the American Petroleum Institute to make it sound like there is citizen support for petroleum in our energy future, and we need clean energy – like wind and solar.”

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Canada, Shell, BP Lobby Europe on Tar Sands

  • Posted on: 4 August 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

The Guardian reports Canadian cooperation with oil supermajors BP and Shell in what Friends of the Earth Europe calls an "unprecedented" lobbying effort to peddle the world's dirtiest oil across the Atlantic. The Guardian's Terry Macalister writes:

"The Canadians have managed to delay the EU's original deadline of January 2011 for confirming baseline default values despite new peer-reviewed studies to support the European position."

Known for crippling our global climate, the tar sands also have a notably destructive impact on the indigenous community inhabiting the area that is now Northen Alberta, poisoning food and water sources while ignoring their calls for help from the government, which at the provincial and national level has repeatedly favored Big Oil. This excellent photo essay documents how destructive tar sands development has impacted the life of Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Greenpeace Canada's Climate and Energy Campaigner and member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation community:

Here in the United States, corporate titans like ExxonMobil ignore these fatal consequences as they push pro-tar sands advertisements onto consumers. As the debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline rages on, the US Chamber of Commerce is running a dirty lobbying campaign to support the project while the American Petroleum Institute has actually used recent oil pipeline spills as their nonsensical justification for the pipeline's construction. Check out PolluterWatch's profiles for each of these climate villians for documentation of their role in perpetuating global warming denial and inaction.

In spite of the continued and predictable madness demonstrated by Big Oil and its widespread apologists over the Keystone XL issue, activists are organizing a full two weeks of nonviolent civil disobedience outside of the White House to ensure the Keystone XL project is not actualized. More information can be found on the Tar Sands Action website.

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Dr. Willie Soon: a Career Fueled by Koch, Big Oil and Coal

  • Posted on: 21 July 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Willie Soon has taken $1 million from dirty industry to push junk climate science. (Photo Credit)

Written by Cindy Baxter and Kert Davies, crossposted from Greenpeace USA.

When climate denier and astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon wrote a controversial paper in 2003 that attempted to challenge the historical temperature records, we all raised eyebrows at revelations that the American Petroleum Institute funded it. 

When he co-wrote a (non-peer reviewed) paper in 2007  arguing that Arctic warming wasn't happening and polar bears were not threatened by the effects of it, we found that ExxonMobil and the billionaire Koch brothers had paid for it.
   
So we went digging and came up with more – a whole lot more, released today in the new case study: Dr. Willie Soon, a Career Fueled by Big Oil and Coal. Not only did Big Oil punt hundreds of thousands of dollars to Soon, but Big Coal as well – specifically, the Southern Company, one of the largest coal burning electric utilities in the U.S. and in the world.
 
Could this be why Soon (an astrophysicist) has been recently writing op-eds on how mercury is harmless and the mercury emissions from coal are minimal, with a byline saying that he has a strong expertise in mercury and public health.

Southern Company says no in this morning's Reuters story.

Soon has been relying on the fossil fuel industry for most of his career.  Documents obtained from his employer, the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory (SAO), show that he has received no new funding from conventional, university sources since 2002.  

Since then, it’s been all about the Southern Company, a Koch brothers' foundation, ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute – totalling over $1 million since 2001.  Together with his colleague at the SAO, Sallie Baliunas, they brought in $1,153,000 since 2001 and only $842,000 from conventional sources. 

Were these companies working together?   The API started funding Soon's work as far back as 1994 (he only graduated in 1991).  The API was later joined by the Mobil Foundation, then by the electricity industry’s research arm, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).  The U.S. electricity sector is dominated by coal. 

In 1998, the API, ExxonMobil and the Southern Company sat round a table with other oil companies and think tanks they plotted and funded a Global Climate Science  Communications Plan  to undermine the climate science and support for the Kyoto Protocol that had just been agreed.   "Victory will be achieved when... average citizens 'understand' (recognize) uncertainties in climate science"... read the plan. "Uncertainty" was also their objective for the media.  The detail funding sources from corporate purses going to think tanks and front groups who will coach scientists with messages counter to the rising consensus on the global warming crisis.  Even though this 'scandal' was front page news at the New York Times, our assumption is they did it anyway.

So when they saw that Willie Soon was writing papers to try to show that it was the sun, not the increase in carbon dioxide, that was causing warming in the Arctic, did they then get together to ensure he got the funding for his work?   Did they consider Soon (and Baliunas) a good investment for their corporations?

In around 2003, Soon saw that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was beginning work on its next summary of climate science, the Fourth Assessment (AR4).  Another document obtained by Greenpeace was a letter to colleagues  hatching a plan to undermine the outcomes of the report, focusing on Working Group 1 (the science).  "… I hope we can start discussing among ourselves to see what we can do to weaken the fourth assessment report..."  he wrote.   

The letter was addressed to a range of climate deniers, but also to two people we can't find in our database of denier "scientists".   The only names we can find that match two of the addressees – "Walt" and "Randy" – were the two Exxon staffers who had been at the centre of funding the denial campaign. Indeed, Randy Randol was the Exxon man sitting at the table plotting with the others in 1998. 

Willie Soon has been embraced by the denial industry.  This week will see him speak, again, at the Heartland Institute's annual "Denialpalooza".  The "sponsors" of that meeting and organizations the speakers work for have received millions in funding from ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, the Scaife Foundation and other corporate, 'free-market' and anti-government, anti-regulation funders.  (more on that soon)

Meanwhile, Exxon has cut funding to a large number of climate deniers.  Late yesterday, Exxon released its latest "Worldwide Giving Report", over a month overdue.  It reveals that more career climate deniers have been dismissed by their major funder, ExxonMobil Foundation.  What was a peak Exxon funding level of $3.5Million per year to these mouthpieces of climate denial, is now below $1M per year.  Exxon IS still funding deniers like Heritage Foundation and American Legislative Exchange Council,  but major deniers like the Annapolis Center, Atlas Foundation and others have now apparently been cut, as of 2010.  

Funding to Dr. Soon at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has also been cut according to responses from Exxon in news reports:

Mother Jones: "Did ExxonMobil Break Its Promise To Stop Funding Climate Change Deniers?"  by Kate Sheppard
Reuters: “US climate skeptic Soon funded by oil, coal firms”  by Tim Gardner 
ClimateWire (subscription): Power companies fund anti-climate research on 'solar variability' by Evan Lehmann

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Heritage Foundation Cuts and Pastes to Upend Scientific Report

  • Posted on: 19 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

ExxonMobil has given $630,000 to the Heritage Foundation since 1998, and the Kochtopus has given over $3 million.

[UPDATED BELOW]

This blog was originally posted on October 4, 2010

Last Friday, the Heritage Foundation posted a scandalously selective blurb from a recent Royal Society report on global warming.  Editing out ten pages of the report, Heritage cut and pasted to promote the notion that a large amount of uncertainty still exists about the occurance of climate change. 

For the record: credible scientists actively studying climate patterns have no doubt that global warming is happening and that fossil fuel emissions are public enemy number one.  Had Heritage chosen to leave some of those ten pages they so gracefully skipped, perhaps they would have reached the same conclusion.  Even the summary of the report makes this clear, stating:

"[The report] shows that there is strong evidence that over the last half century, the earth’s warming has been caused largely by human activity."

The Heritage Foundation is no stranger to junk science--they've been paid over $600,000 from Exxon since 1998 (the year global warming "stopped", for those that believe in cherry-picked science, *cough cough* Senator Inhofe), and over $3 million from the Koch brothers since 1997. 

Heritage is also deeply entrenched in the climate denial machine, associated with purchased scientists who have made a living denying climate change, the links between cigarettes and cancer, and other less-than-admirable and less-than-scientific efforts to uphold their industrial clients.  These people may have Ph.D.'s (although usually not even climate-related), but don't actively study climate data in the field or publish material after a peer-review from credible scientists.  Their selective reporting wouldn't hold up through such an integrity check.

Doubt is their product, and business has been good, but you can only keep people from smelling scientific sewage for so long.

For more on Heritage's selective science, check out NRDC's Switchboard

Check these links for more on ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

UPDATE: It turns out the author of the deceptive Heritage blog, Nicholas Loris, is a former "associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation."  Another small bit of evidence contributing to the overwhelming pervasiveness of the Kochtopus...

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Public education, brought to you by Big Oil

  • Posted on: 23 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Your Health Just Isn't Worth It...To Us

In response to the American Petroleum Institute's "Energy Tomorrow" advertisements, which push the familiar threats of lost jobs and a dead economy if the government ups accountability measures on Big Oil, NRDC has released their own advertisement in response.

"How are we supposed to pollute the air and water if we're being watched all the time?" complains one mock oil baron.

API has clearly dumped a lot of money into creating and distributing these ads--they've spent millions in the past--and Energy Tomorrow is but one of API's efforts to influence public opinion.  The Institute is also heavily invested in public education, creating energy curricula for teachers that lean heavily on the importance of their own industry, and even sponsoring the Boy Scouts Energy Merit badge

Why spend so much money on such indoctrination?  According to a leaked API memo:

"Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future."

Hey Jack Gerard: you're a lobbyist, not a teacher, and certainly not a scientist.  If you really want to be either, Halloween is next month, and you can probably afford a fancy costume.

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American Petroleum Institute: Who Cares if the Clean Air Act Reduces Death and Illness

  • Posted on: 21 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

The American Petroleum Institute is so bent on protecting the pollution industry that it is willing to cast public health aside in favor of saving a buck.

Politico's Morning Energy today reported that API and the Manufacturers Alliance are complaining about EPA moves to strengthen the Clean Air Act's standards, which must be based solely on heath considerations, according to the Supreme Court.  For API to speak out against an improved Clean Air Act shows a callous disregard for those who have been sickened or killed from pollution-induced health problems, such as asthma or heart failure.

Politico's Josh Voorhees wrote,

"The Manufacturers Alliance’s Donald Norman and API’s Howard Feldman will warn that the agency’s regulations would be too expensive for industry and put almost the entire country into nonattainment for federal air quality limits, including rural areas where no one lives. EPA’s rules are due in mid- to late October."

In a blog response, the National Resources Defense Council notes that the industry's typical "economic disaster" prophesy is likely blown out of proportion, as such economic scare-claims [pdf] over environmental regulation have historically been.

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Rachel Maddow: “Oil companies bus in workers for pathetic PR stunt in Ohio.”

  • Posted on: 20 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

090910 Koch Brothers.m4v

Rachel Maddow recently revisited two of her favorite targets: Charles and David Koch.  Maddow discusses David Koch's attempt to run for office (and the gold coins he minted featuring his own face), the funding of Proposition 23 by Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, and the efforts to organize "Rally for Jobs" events by groups receiving Koch money. 

The 2010 Rally for Jobs is this years version of the American Petroleum Institute "Energy Citizens" rallies held last summer, which a leaked letter written by CEO Jack Gerard revealed to be covered in oil money.  Like last summer, oil companies actually bussed employees to attend the rallies, as Maddow reports.

Rachel Maddow has done several previous spotlights on the Koch brothers, including this look at how the Kochs fund the climate denial machine, and a close investigation of Koch Industries' ties to the tea party.

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API threatens economic consequences if offshore drillers are held accountable

  • Posted on: 15 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Proposed Energy Legislation Could Hurt the American Economy

In typical form, Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute released a video claiming that holding oil companies accountable during offshore drilling operations and after oil spills will have the usual dire economic consequences: job loss, higher taxes, and "driving small-and mid-sized firms out of business and shutting down access to domestic energy resources."

This follows common scare-talk any time an industry giant faces new regulations in the public interest--ballooning the price tag of improving worker safety conditions or environmental precautions and predicting economic apocalypse.  As if the oil industry isn't making enough money, or spending enough money, buying Congress to prevent ever-dreaded accountability legislation.

Keep in mind, Jack, that history shows how frequently cost estimates of environmental regulations are blown way out of proportion beforehand, while it is actually cleanup costs that are grossly underestimated.  Kindly send a memo to BP, Halliburton, and your other members as well on that one.

While Gerard will never admit it, an Energy [R]evolution is possible, and calling out those who value green paper over a green planet is a vital part of getting the public behind real solutions: energy conservation and efficiency, a decentralized renewable energy economy, and a phase-out of the dirty fossil fuels that have led to global warming. 

Stalling and obstructing are not coveted American values, but innovation is.  It's time to go beyond oil, where the fortune of dirty influence peddlars like Jack will just be a stain on history.

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