Oil and gas lobbyists are finally feeling the heat on climate change, but sadly, they remain committed to misleading the American people.
The American Petroleum Institute, the premier industry organization that establishes standards and engages politicians, is out with a nationwide advertising campaign. Oil and gas companies, the group would have you believe, have been fighting climate change and possess the solution.
“Our paths are not all the same, we have different perspectives on the best way forward,” a new television ad says. “But on issues that matter, like climate change, we’re more alike than we think. We want cleaner solutions, and that means working with each other.”
“So, the innovators in America’s natural gas and oil companies have teamed up with the country’s brightest minds and reduced carbon emission levels to the lowest in a generation,” the narrator continues, as happy, well-dressed millennials file past. “Let’s make tomorrow better, together.”
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Rarely has a copywriter packed so much poppycock into 30-seconds. Let’s break it down.
“Our paths are not all the same; we have different perspectives on the best way forward.” True, because the bottom line is we must ban greenhouse gas emissions, something API adamantly opposes.
“But on issues that matter, like climate change, we’re more alike than we think. We want cleaner solutions, and that means working with each other.” Hogwash.
For over fifty years, API and its members have disputed climate change and fossil fuels’ role in warming the planet. The most duplicitous move came in 1998 when the API drafted the “Global Climate Science Communications Plan.” The goal was to derail the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
API launched a similar campaign that exaggerated “uncertainties” in climate science. API lobbyists then used their influence to kill proposed regulations and turn climate science into a partisan issue where Republicans feel obliged to ignore science.
The API communications team secretly recruited five scientists to stir debate, while hiding the industry’s financial backing for their research, according to internal API documents made public in 2015.
“These will be individuals who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate,” the API memo said. “Rather, this team will consist of new faces who will add their voices to those recognized scientists who are already vocal.”
One of those scientists was Wei-Hock Soon, who from 2003-2012 incorrectly declared that solar flares play a significant role in global warming. The scientific community has since discredited his work.
API also produced teaching materials questioning climate change for the National Science Teachers Association. The API said it hoped “to erect a barrier against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future.” That continued through 2015.
In 2011, API fought the EPA’s decision to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act as well as proposed limits on methane, one of the worst greenhouse gases. In May 2017, senior API lobbyist Howard Feldman urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to relax methane limits, and last year the group celebrated victory.
When it comes to climate change and addressing greenhouse gas emissions, no API, we are not “more alike than we think.” The day API acknowledges its past behavior and embraces a ban on all methane and carbon emissions, then we might be alike.
Lastly, the ad’s final line implies that a happy accident was intentional: “The innovators in America’s natural gas and oil companies have teamed up with the country’s brightest minds and reduced carbon emission levels to the lowest in a generation.”
The developers of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing were innovators who forever changed the world. But they were not fighting climate change.
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Oil and gas companies experimented with fracking because natural gas was $13 for a million BTUs. Fracking has since brought the price down to $2, which is why electricity companies shut down dirty coal plants and replaced them with natural gas, reducing carbon emissions.
The reduced emissions were coincidental since most of the industry rejected climate change while developing the technology.
Today, wind and solar energy costs are dropping so low they compete with natural gas, and Democrats want to phase out fossil fuels. Young people detest the oil and gas industry. These are the reasons for API’s “natural gas and oil” campaign, with the emphasis on natural.
API strategists know climate change denial no longer works, so they are rebranding their polluting industry as clean energy. For the first time in 150 years, the industry is worried about its future.
Not to worry too much, the world will always need oil and gas, we just need to combust less of them. But what we don’t need is API’s cynical disinformation campaign; we’ve had plenty of that already.
Tomlinson writes commentary about business, economics and policy.
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