Oil industry launches big election PR push

@CNNMoney January 5, 2012: 10:33 AM ET
American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard launching the 'Vote 4 Energy' campaign Wednesday in runup to presidential election.

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard launching the 'Vote 4 Energy' campaign Wednesday in runup to presidential election.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The oil industry launched a nationwide campaign titled "Vote 4 Energy" Wednesday, a day after the Iowa caucus set the stage for the 2012 presidential election.

The ad campaign, set to run on television, radio and in print media, leans heavily on the industry's long-standing goal of opening up more of the nation to oil and gas drilling and touts the jobs that it says would be created.

"The United States has the largest energy resources in the world," American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said at a press conference announcing the campaign. "Why would we import a product we can produce at home."

If more areas were open for drilling, the industry could create 1 million new jobs in the next seven years, said Gerard, and add $800 billion to government coffers by 2030. By 2026 Gerard said the country could get all its oil from North America.

The campaign will also call for President Obama to approve the controversial Keystone pipeline expansion set to carry crude from Canada's oil sands region to the Gulf Coast.

Keystone oil sands pipeline: Obama's hot potato

The spots will feature ordinary Americans making the oil industry's point. Gerard said it is not intended to be an advertisement or promote one party or candidate over the another, but rather a "conversation" to "help Americans understand what's at stake."

While the campaign will run nationwide, it will focus heavily on states where Gerard said energy is an important issue -- including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Those states also happen to be important battle ground states in the upcoming election.

Gerard declined to say how much the lobby group is spending on the campaign.

Greenpeace was quick to criticize the ads, posting a tongue-in-cheek video that highlights the main opposition to more domestic drilling -- that it's a dirty activity that produces a dirty fuel.

"When's the last time someone got hired to clean up a solar spill," asked an actor playing an ordinary American in the Greenpeace spoof. "Oh no, I've got sunlight all over me."

"The Vote 4 Energy campaign is the latest effort by the oil industry to fake citizen support for its agenda," Greenpeace said in a statement. "The American Petroleum Institute has repeatedly spent millions to block clean energy solutions and fake grassroots support for Big Oil."

During the press conference Gerard, seemingly anticipating such criticism, said the United States does not face an either-or choice when it comes to fossil fuel or renewable energy but should work instead to develop both. He said the oil industry has invested more than anyone in clean energy technologies.

But the oil industry has opposed other legislative efforts designed to support renewable energy such as the cap-and-trade legislation in 2009.

The oil industry has long sought greater access to the country's oil and gas resources.

Specifically, it would like to see both coasts open for drilling as well as the Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It would also like most federal land in the West that's not a national park open for drilling and has criticized proposals in New York States and elsewhere to establish large buffer zones around drinking water sources.

Proponents of current drilling restrictions -- and those wanting even tighter rules --say the industry already has access to the vast majority of the nation's oil and gas reserves.

The restrictions are necessary, they say, to protect sensitive environmental areas or other economic sectors like tourism and fishing.  To top of page

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