Oil industry cartoon targets anti-Keystone cowboys

WASHINGTON — Cowboys and Indians who rode on horseback through the nation’s capital this week to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline are fighting back against a new oil industry ad satirizing the effort.

The advertisement — a cartoon that began appearing on news sites Wednesday, including the Washington Post — depicts tourists saying “the cowboys want to give up cars and electricity,” and describing the protest as “an exhibit of 1800s America.” It is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.

Representatives of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance that staged the protest in the shadow of the Washington monument called the ad “stupid” and offensive.

“We’re trying to take America into the 21st century with clean, renewable energy — and we don’t need dirty tar sands to do it,” said Nebraska landowner Tom Genung. “This is not for novelty’s sake; we’re here to defend our homes and families. API should come down and meet us face to face instead of mocking us from their cushy offices.”

There’s no sign of that happening anytime soon.

“The protesters are going to continue doing what they are doing,” API spokeswoman Sabrina Fang told reporters. “We’re going to continue to educate the public on the merits of the pipeline.”

The skirmish between the protesters and the petroleum lobby comes just days after the State Department delayed a final decision on the pipeline to allow a legal challenge in Nebraska to play out.

The pipeline would link Alberta with the major oil hub in Cushing, Okla., giving Canada’s oil sands crude a new path to Gulf Coast refineries.

Public support

New polls released Thursday suggest the project is still relatively popular, despite deep opposition from environmentalists who say the pipeline would unleash development of Canadian oil sands that may produce more carbon emissions than alternative crudes.

A telephone survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that 61 percent of likely U.S. voters at least somewhat favor building Keystone XL — a 4 point increase since January, and a new high-water-mark. The Rasmussen Reports survey also found:

  • 62 percent said Keystone XL would be good for the U.S. economy.
  • 32 percent said the pipeline would be bad for the environment.
  • 57 percent said the pipeline is at least somewhat important to how they will vote in the congressional election in November.

A Harris Poll survey conducted for API suggested an even stronger link between Keystone XL and the ballot box.

According to the telephone survey of 1,000 voters, conducted April 16-20, 68 percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports approving Keystone XL “and increasing the amount of oil we receive from Canada.” That was also true for 60 percent of Democrats surveyed.

According to the API-commissioned survey:

  • 78 percent agree with a statement that Keystone XL is in the national interest.
  • 95 percent think energy is a very or somewhat important issue the federal government should be focusing on.

The surveyed voters don’t have high confidence the pipeline will be permitted this year. Only 38 percent said they believe approval will happen in 2013.

Cindy Schild, downstream operations senior manager for the API, said that while many polls have demonstrated strong voter support for the pipeline, the latest survey shows there are potential political consequences from failing to act on Keystone XL.

Pipeline foes derided the API-commissioned survey as a “push poll,” with questions followed by strongly worded statements.