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Mistruth in Advertising

J. Mijin Cha

Fossil fuel interests have spent over $153 million in television ads attacking President Obama’s clean energy agenda.

News came out last week that fossil fuel interests have spent over $153 million in television ads attacking the President’s clean energy agenda, including criticizing new air pollution rules and the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline. This figure is likely to grow, as there is still two months before the election. And, this is in addition to the $13 million the fossil fuel industry gave to the Republican National Committee and associated PACs, $950,000 to the Democratic National Committee, and $70 million spent in lobbying.

While the amount of money spent seems to indicate the industry is under attack and is going on the defensive, nothing could be further from the truth. Domestic oil production is at its highest level in decades, the Obama Administration has made its commitment to natural gas development well-known, as well as its commitment to and investment in “clean coal”, even though fracking is extremely hazardous and there seems to be little progress towards making clean coal a reality. Not to mention that both parties seem to be allergic to even acknowledging climate change, let alone putting forth the policies we need to stave off the most damaging impacts.

As an added industry support, Congress--particularly the House--is doing all that it can to stop clean energy advancement, most recently by passing the ridiculous, “No More Solyndras Act” continuing the House GOP’s obsession with Solyndra, even though the DoE loan program is one of the most successful. Plus, given that Congress refuses to renew support for the renewable industry, it’s not surprising that some of these businesses are not succeeding because there is no stable market outlook and industry support.

So, if the fossil fuel industry is not under attack, at least not by any elected body, what gives? Part of it could be how incredibly unpopular the industry is: the oil and gas industry is the most hated industry with over 60 percent of Americans having a negative view of it. More people hate the oil and gas industry than they hate the government. And, even though elected officials don’t seem to be particularly concerned with climate change, 75 percent of Americans support regulating carbon pollution and 61 percent think the fossil fuel industry should pay for hidden costs, like the health costs that result from industry pollution.

Instead of owning up to its unpopularity, the fossil fuel industry is using its ad campaign to deflect attention and blame onto someone else. In an example of breathtaking intellectual dishonesty, one of the ads running says:
“Since Obama became president, gas prices have nearly doubled,” said one advertisement by the American Energy Alliance, a group financed in part by oil executives. “Tell Obama we can’t afford his failing energy policies.”

Besides the fact that the President has virtually no control over gas prices, high gas prices equal big profits for oil companies. Do oil executives think the public is so dumb to believe that they are concerned about how gas prices impact the average household? And, if they were so concerned, why don’t they do something about it like use their massive amount of capital to invest in renewable energy sources to make us less dependent on foreign oil supplies and the resulting price spikes?

The reality, of course, is that they could care less how gas prices impact the average household, but they will continue to state mistruths and use their money advantage to buy our political system to protect their profits. No wonder it’s the most hated industry.