If you had the chance to talk to Big Oil directly to its big oily face, what would you want to say?
I recently had such a chance at a commercial shoot run by the American Petroleum Institute, the major lobbying and public relations front for the oil industry (ie ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, TransCanada and just about every major oil company). Here’s what I had to say:
Through recorded audio, we got to expose API’s upcoming “Vote4Energy” campaign, which debuts January first on CNN during major political programs. Audio recordings from inside the Vote4Energy commercial shoot can be found on the Greenpeace website, and on Yahoo News. More can also be found at the Checks and Balances Project, where Deputy Director and youth climate leader Gabe Elsner has more recordings from inside the shoot.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is building off of its “Energy Citizens” astroturf campaign, exposed in 2009 in a leaked memo from CEO Jack Gerard to the heads of major oil companies, and launching the Vote4Energy campaign to try and claim that Americans support the oil industry’s agenda. You know, the poor, poor industry that gets billions in taxpayers dollars each year even though its the most profitable industry on Earth, and has to bus oil employees to its own staged rallies.
API is currently spending millions of its $200 million annual budget to push dirty energy projects onto the American people, particularly tar sands through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, fracking for ‘natural’ gas, and offshore drilling in the Arctic, to name a few. Anyone familiar with TransCanada’s reputation for pipeline leaks, the safety concerns and lack of oversight for gas fracking in the lower 48 states, and the implications of a BP-style offshore oil blowout in the frigid Arctic ocean recognizes the danger of the oil industry’s agenda.
Add to that some gigantic oil and gas industry expenditures: $82.3 million to Congress in the last five years, and over half a billion dollars on federal lobbying in the same time. Ads from Exxon and Chevron would lead us to believe that they’re practically renewable energy companies at this point, except the money they put into clean energy development is like the change that occasionally falls out of your pocket without you noticing until you turn over the couch covers.
Big Oil’s Christmas list does not fit with the desires of most Americans, no matter how hard they work to craft campaigns claiming otherwise. Sometimes, it is up to us to call them out face to face, and tell that story to others so they can recognize how dirty the petroleum industry really is. Tim DeChristopher is the shining example of that confrontational spirit, currently serving a two-year sentence for saving tens of thousands of acres of Utah land from oil and gas drilling by disrupting a Bush Administration auction that later proved to be illegal.
Climate change is only getting worse, and Big Oil, King Coal and other dirty interests are pulling out all the stops to squeeze every last dollar out of this planet while they still can. Their efforts are overwhelmingly funded, and often coordinated. Their business as usual has horrible implications for intensifying global warming and human rights abuses, so the idea that people like us want to spend 2012 voting in their interest is not only ridiculous, but dangerous.
Vote4Energy? More like Vote4BigOil. Don’t buy the lie, pay close attention, and vote for the future you really deserve.
Connor Gibson does research for Greenpeace. Here he is at the Tar Sands Protest back in August 2011.