American Petroleum Institute

‘The Empowerment Alliance’ and Other New Dark Money Groups Sound a Lot Like the Natural Gas Industry

Read time: 9 mins
The Empowerment Alliance logo

Amid the crescendo of calls for climate action and rising rage directed at the fossil fuel industry, petroleum producers and their allies are engaging in an aggressive promotional push focused on natural gas. The same month that the American Petroleum Institute (API) started running ads emphasizing gas’s role in reducing carbon emissions, a new dark money group has launched under the patriotic guise of promoting “America’s energy independence” by promoting, you guessed it, natural gas. 

Fact-checking the American Petroleum Institute's New Ads Selling Natural Gas as a Climate Solution

Read time: 8 mins
API ad 'We're on it'

In 1998, the U.S.'s largest oil and gas industry lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute (API), was involved with a communications plan whose goal was promoting “uncertainties in climate science” among the American public. Over 20 years later, their communications plan looks a little different but still needs fact-checking. 

In September, API began running TV, billboard, and social media ads promoting natural gas as a climate solution. “Thanks to natural gas, the U.S. is leading the way in reducing emissions,” the ads claim, and “leading the world in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.” But is all of that true?

US Lobby Groups Most Effective at Blocking Climate Action – Report

Read time: 3 mins

US lobby groups representing the fossil fuel and automotive industries are world leaders when it comes to stalling government action on climate change, new research shows.

Of the top 10 trade associations considered to be the most effective at opposing climate-friendly policies globally, seven are based in Washington DC, according to a report published this week by lobbying watchdog InfluenceMap.

Fossil Fuel Ad Campaigns Emphasize 'Positives' After Climate Science Denial PR Lands Industry in Hot Seat

Read time: 7 mins
Oil rig at sunset over Huntington Beach, California

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.  

Public relations experts keep a careful eye on the multitude of ways that PR can go wrong: tracking the year’s biggest “PR blunders,” assessing flopped ads for lessons learned, and noting when to remain silent and when to circulate a particular point of view.

PR blunders have been blamed for causing stock prices to dip, powerful executives to lose jobs, and occasionally even forced public apologies from PR representatives themselves.

But it takes a special kind of PR nightmare — a particularly unusual kind in the U.S., with its broad protections for free speech — to prompt investigations by state attorneys general into whether a company’s public messaging was so misleading and harmful that it should be considered illegal.

That is the situation facing one of the world’s most powerful industries, on one of the most consequential issues of our time, climate change. The subject of these investigations isn’t the direct harm from the fossil fuel industry’s actions, it’s the ways that companies communicated about their actions, and how that misled investors or the public.

And right on cue, the fossil fuel industry's PR professionals have been stepping in to help reshape the narratives propping up their bottom lines.

Thousands of Fossil Fuel 'Observers' Attended Climate Negotiations: UNFCCC Data 2005-2018 for COP1-COP24

Read time: 12 mins
IETA exhibit at COP24

Originally posted on Climate Investigations Center.

The collection of Global Climate Coalition (GCC) documents we compiled and released this April reveal that the organization had a singular focus, slowing down or derailing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations process and “tracking” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), undermining the scientists’ message of urgency.  In the GCC meeting minutes and press releases we see numerous interventions at the UN meetings along with strategies, budgets and debriefs.

So we decided it would be interesting to compile every fossil fuel company and trade group delegate who ever attended UNFCCC meetings. This research debuted in an Agence-France Press AFP piece and on Yahoo News this week during a UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany.

Comment: Interior Department's Offshore Oil Regulatory Rollback Relies on Big Oil Document

Read time: 4 mins
David Bernhardt

This is a guest post from ClimateDenierRoundup.

Last week, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary David Bernhardt testified in front of the House Natural Resources Committee about his leadership of the agency, flanked by “swamp monsters” in the audience highlighting his corruption.

When Rep. Huffman asked Bernhardt for specific examples of times when he told former clients “no,” when they asked for a policy change, he struggled to name a single instance. Remember, this is the man with so many conflicts of interest he has to carry them on a card, so he has plenty of former clients to choose from. After being pressed further by Huffman to name something specific, Bernhardt makes a reference to a “well control” rule.

That’s really where it gets interesting. Bernhardt’s industry clients actually praised the DOI’s well control rollback. And not only that, but the rule actually relies on the industry’s own guidance, effectively supplanting an Obama-era regulation with an American Petroleum Institute document.

Federal Government Foot-Dragging Helps Oil Industry Delay Oil-by-Rail Rules

Read time: 6 mins

In an attempt to reduce the risk of fiery oil train accidents, the state of Washington is working to pass a bill that would limit the vapor pressure of oil on trains to below 9 pounds per square inch (psi). Vapor pressure is a measure of the volatility of flammable liquids and correlates to their likelihood of igniting. Higher vapor pressure means an oil is more volatile and more likely to ignite and burn when a train derails.

If the federal government won’t act to protect public safety and adopt a safer nationwide standard, we will adopt our own,” state Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) said of the bill he sponsored. “There is just too much to lose — for people and our environment.”

Billig's comments point to the federal government's repeated failure to address the volatility of the oil moving by rail in America.

Oil Industry Ponders Getting ‘Dragged into Low-Carbon Future’ While Claiming it ‘Stepped up’ on Climate

Read time: 8 mins
fossil fuel refinery

The fossil fuel industry's faith that the modern world economy will be powered by its products for the indefinite future is usually unwavering. But cracks in that faith recently appeared in Houston at the top annual oil industry conference, known as CERAweek.

The trade publication Platts S&P Global noted that “talk of oil at CERAWeek felt a bit more lackluster this time around,” according to several attendees. Various pressures — from climate-anxious investors to competition from renewables — apparently are tempering the oil and gas industry's usual optimism.

Energy and Corporate Trade Associations Spend $1.4 Billion on PR Campaigns

Read time: 3 mins
American Petroleum Institute: Men sitting on a bench

Originally posted on Climate Investigations Center.

How much money have the fossil fuel industry’s powerful trade association allies spent to convince the American public that its products are beneficial and necessary — and to stymie progress on climate change that could harm its financial interests?

To find out, Climate Investigations Center researchers analyzed the public relations expenditures of these trade associations going back to 2008, using data from publicly-available federal Form 990 tax records. The expenditures provide unique insight into fossil fuel trade association priorities and the willingness of public relations firms to represent socially harmful industries.

An Illustrated History of What Big Oil Knew About Climate Change—Before the Moon Landing

Read time: 2 mins
Comic showing what Stanford research on climate change told the American Petroleum Institute in 1968

By now, it’s no secret that oil companies have been long aware of the risks of climate change from burning fossil fuels. Exxon had “no doubt” that carbon dioxide was a global threat by the late 1970s, and Shell wrote in 1988 that the resulting climate change might lead to “the greatest [changes] in recorded history.”

But decades before, the oil industry was already privy to — and giving its own internal warnings about — the climate threats of carbon pollution from burning its products. In fact, as one science-and-art collaboration illustrated this week, that was happening before humans even landed on the Moon in 1969.

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