American Petroleum Institute


Based out of Washington DC, the American Petroleum Institute (API) is the primary trade association of the oil and natural gas industry. It is made up of nearly 400 members involved in all aspects of petroleum, including ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical Company, Halliburton, and Shell Oil. These companies provide funding for API, which in turn champions the industry’s interests in the government and through public outreach. Top member companies such as ExxonMobil have been estimated to contribute as much as $20 million annually to the American Petroleum Institute. The institute also sets equipment standards for the American oil industry.


Political Activity:

As the premier lobbying organization for the oil and gas industry, the American Petroleum Institute has spent over $33 million on lobbying in the last five years (2008-2012, quarter 3). API also announced in 2011 that it would begin spending money to elect politicians through a new political aciton committee. API's PAC spent over $200,000 during the 2012 election. 70% of API's political donations go to Republicans, although CEO Jack Gerard says "energy is not about Republicans, not about Democrats."

API and Newt Gingrich: While spokespeople from API later denied a connection with Rep. Newt Gingrich's (R-GA) American Solutions for Winning the Future PAC, Gingrich and an API staff member both claimed the organizations have worked together.

API gave $25,000 to Americans for Prosperity, the astroturf tea party group founded and chaired by oil billionaire David Koch. Koch Industries is not a member of API.

Astroturf Activism:

A leaked memo written by CEO Jack Gerard in August, 2009 revealed that API, in cooperation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and other trade groups, coordinated “Energy Citizens” rallies in key Congressional districts as a way to increase political pressure against climate and energy legislation.  This effort to create an apparent network of pro-oil and gas grassroots activists was directly funded and organized by API and member companies.  Local rallies were more often than not coordinated by oil lobbyists, and Chevron even bussed their employees to events.

Public Relations and Influence on Scientific Issues:

By Oct. 20, API spent over $39 million on advertising strictly relating to energy and environmental issues in 2010. A new advocacy advertising campaign revealed at the end of 2011 will cost API $20 million. In 2012, API launched Vote 4 Energy. Vote 4 Energy is a continuation of API's Energy Citizens astroturf campaign intended to portray citizen support for the oil industry's business priorities, such as the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline, offshore drilling in the Arctic and hydraulic fracturing. API's broadcast advertising expenditures in 2012 cost $4.3 million as of April.

One week before President Obama delayed the construction of the full Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, API spent $600,000 on TV ads urging voters to "tell our president we need it [Keystone XL] now."

API’s web of influence in the global warming denial network reveals numerous anti-climate legislation organizations that have been funded by ExxonMobil, including the Heartland Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, the Competitive Eneterprise Institute and the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.  API’s network ties them to astrophysicists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, both known for publishing material (not peer-reviewed nor scientifically viable) that encourages climate change skepticism.  API was directly involved in funding and promoting Soon and Baliunas’ 2003 report, “Reconstructing Climatic and Environmental Changes of the Past 1000 Years: A Reappraisal,” published in Energy & Environment. Soon has received $273,611 from the American Petroleum Institute for various climate related studies.

API oversaw a $27 million scientific counter-study, paid for by BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell companies or subsidiaries, which aimed to counter research linking benzene to cancer.  While benzene is already a recognized carcinogen, new research establishing new potency data about the chemical could force oil companies to adopt stricter regulations.

Exaggerating Job Creation Statistics

API and CEO Jack Gerard have repeatedly circulated a false job creation figure of 20,000 workers for the proposed Keystone, as opposed to estimates of 6,000 or less by the U.S. State Department and Cornell University, as well as a Greenpeace discovery that US job estimates on the were 67% higher per mile of US pipeline as opposed to numbers provided to the Canadian government. While one of API's main publicity claims is the oil industry's support for 9.2 million jobs, this inflated figure "includes not only legitimate direct and indirect jobs but more remote 'induced' jobs that the API has listed as including everything from day-care workers to valets to rocket scientists."

Education and the Boy Scouts:

The American Petroleum Institute has recognized its ability to obtain influence by immersing itself in educational programs.  The group has historically donated money to the National Science Teachers Association, who helped distribute a short film promoting the oil industry.  API also created a website known as Classroom Energy, which promotes the “vital role of oil and natural gas in modern life,” and offers lesson plans, oil and gas information, and even a merit badge program for the Boy Scouts of America.  To earn an Energy Badge, boy scouts are offered a plethora of material concerning the necessity of oil and gas, how it’s located and produced, and how it can be conserved.