Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, issued a vailed but unmistakable warning to President Obama on Wednesday during remarks given at the oil and gas industry's State of American Energy event in Washington.
"Clearly, the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest," Gerard said during remarks. "A determination to decide anything less than that I believe will have huge political consequences." Such statements made observers at Greenpeace wonder if Gerard would prefer to be annointed "the President of United States of Energy" and not just another oil lobbyist.
The ultimate "national interest" determination, in fact, will be made by the Obama in consultation with the State Department, which has repeatedly said it needs more time to determine the environmental impacts of the proposed pipeline that will carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada through the US heartland - including over the Oglalla aquifer - to refineries on the Gulf coast.
The oil industry event served as a launching pad for API's new public relations campaign - Vote4Energy. Though Gerard insisted the campaign was "not a campaign, but a conversation" it would, by its very nature, act as the mouthpiece for the oil and gas industry as it seeks to "educate" politicians and the public. "Through information distributed through our state networks, through grass roots outreach to millions of voters, and through conversations" the campaign would seek to pressure politicians and candidates in 2012.
Though Gerard's contention was that the industry's focus would be to promote "an electorate that is educated on energy" environmental groups were quick to push back against the kind of "education" the industry has long been known for. Greenpeace voiced pronounced skepticism:
Jack Gerard may want to trick Americans into his Vote 4 Energy nonsense, but he demonstrates the same predictable rhetoric that oil companies always use to make themselves sound somewhat responsible, when everyone knows they aren't--see our profiles for ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, all multi-billion dollar corporations, making record profits even in a global recession, and looking for more tax breaks and handouts. If you are watching election coverage on CNN and spot API's astroturf ad, don't buy the lie. Vote for yourself, not oil executives.
Greenpeace used the opportunity of the API event to launch a campaign of their own, Vote-4-Energy.org, to both mock and counter the industry's public relations push, and released the following video to make their point:
"The American Petroleum Institute (API) is Big Oil's top lobbying firm," contends Greenpeace, "using a $200 million budget to push dirty energy incentives and tax handouts for oil companies into our national laws. They have been caught in the past staging rallies for their Energy Citizens astroturf campaign, as revealed by Greenpeace in a confidential API memo to oil executives. Why do they fake citizen support? Probably because Americans overwhelmingly support clean energy over dirty oil development.