Oct 2, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Oil lobby launches swing-state ad push in final stretch to Election Day

an illustration of a oil pipe with a checkmark

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The American Petroleum Institute is launching a digital ad barrage in the closing weeks of the election that promotes natural gas and industry access to drilling in areas Joe Biden would place off-limits.

Why it matters: API is the industry's most powerful lobbying group. The seven-figure buy shows how the industry sees the threat from Democratic climate proposals — including a ban on new oil-and-gas leases on federal lands.

How it works: The group is launching several 30-second spots in battleground states including Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Minnesota.

  • While the four spots don't discuss the election directly, the industry's political giving goes predominantly to the GOP, per Federal Election Commission data analyzed by the nonprofit Open Secrets.

What they're saying: One of the spots calls the leasing ban (which Biden has proposed, though he's not named) an "extreme" proposal that would cost lots of jobs, and another warns it would sap funding states use for schools.

  • Another ad blames California's recent rolling blackouts on policies that are "putting gas out of business," and another portrays gas is an ally in the fight against climate change.
  • "Why should we choose between cleaner air and jobs when we can have both,” an actor in that ad states.
  • "We can fight climate change while developing our resources at home," API President Mike Sommers tells Axios.

Reality check: While California grid managers are adjusting to increased reliance on renewables, the recent blackouts were based on several causes. The nonprofit Atlantic Council has a nice primer here.

  • Natural gas has helped to cut electricity sector CO2 emissions by displacing coal. But heavy reliance on gas-fired power — at least without expensive carbon-capture that hasn't yet been commercially deployed — is not compatible with deep decarbonization.

The other side: “It’s no surprise that the oil industry is arguing against the transition to a clean energy future and claiming that we should keep handing over America’s majestic public lands and waters to them," said Matthew Davis, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters.

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