With less than three months until Election Day, the American Petroleum Institute is stepping up its advertising in key battleground states with a goal of making sure voters are thinking about energy policy when they head to the polls.
The new round of print and online ads by Big Oil’s top trade group will target voters in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia – battlegrounds that could help determine who lives in the White House for the next four years.
Institute President Jack Gerard said the group wants to encourage a “realistic, robust debate” about energy issues – and get politicians to commit to substantive action.
Gerard said the advertising isn’t wedded to any particular political party, but he sharply criticized the Obama administration’s handling of oil and gas drilling on public lands, which he said was too restrictive. In a call with reporters, Gerard also criticized President Barack Obama for supporting wind-based energy at the expense of traditional fossil fuels.
“We need to see more than lip service,” Gerard said. “We need a pro-growth president who promotes more than just 1 percent of our energy mix.”
Gerard’s comments took a jab at Obama for touting wind energy during a visit to a farm in Haverhill, Iowa, on Tuesday. The state gets about 20 percent of its electricity from wind, making it one of the nation’s leaders in wind energy.
Obama said that domestic manufacturing of wind turbines and towers has created new opportunities for workers.
“At a moment when we want to pursue every avenue for job creation, it’s homegrown energy like wind that’s creating good new jobs,” the president said.
White House spokesman Clark Stevens noted that domestic oil and gas production has increased since Obama took office.
“Despite misleading rhetoric by some in Washington, the president has implemented an all-of-the-above approach to energy that has expanded a range of domestic energy sources, and the numbers speak for themselves,” Stevens said. “At the same time, the administration has made funding available for the first nuclear power plant in three decades, made historic investments in clean coal technology, and doubled renewable energy from wind and solar.”
The American Petroleum Institute’s new ads are tied to its multimillion-dollar “vote 4 energy” campaign.
The ads assert that “the oil and natural gas industry can be a job engine,” but suggest it is being held back by red tape.
For instance, one of the ads features an editorial cartoon that depicts the U.S. economy as a runner at a starting line bound by red tape. Another shows the U.S. with red tape along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, where offshore lease sales are ruled out for the next five years.
Some industry representatives have quietly grumbled that API is alienating Democrats – including a potential second-term Obama administration – with political moves that typically align with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
But Gerard rejected the notion that the new effort is overly political.
This is “not so much about the politics as it is engaging … the American public and the voters in the discourse,” he said. API aims to “put energy at the forefront of people’s minds.”
Already, many believe energy is an important issue heading into the election, according to a poll the industry group released on Tuesday. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive with 1,016 registered voters, found 92 percent of respondents believed “energy security and producing more oil and natural gas here at home” is important to them as they look ahead to the election.
About seven out of 10 voters surveyed also said they support changing U.S. policy to allow more oil and natural gas development along the nation’s coastline, a signal that Americans’ views on offshore drilling have rebounded since the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Polls before that disaster consistently found a similar level of support for offshore drilling. But in the wake of the spill, public backing for offshore drilling declined briefly; a Rasmussen Reports survey in July 2010 found that 56 percent of U.S. voters supported oil drilling on the outer continental shelf.