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Build Back Fossil Free

Activists rally on January 19, 2021 in New York City to demand that U.S. President Joe Biden take immediate executive action to "Build Back Fossil Free." (Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Big Oil Lobby Spending Millions to Gut Key Build Back Better Climate Provisions: Report

"Make no mistake: If the Build Back Better bill wasn't a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in climate action, the fossil fuel industry wouldn't be pouring out millions of dollars trying to stop it."

Brett Wilkins

As House Democrats prepare to grill representatives of Big Oil about their efforts to spread climate misinformation, a new InfluenceMap report details how fossil fuel trade groups are spending millions of dollars to mislead Americans against President Joe Biden's widely popular $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan and its robust climate provisions.

"Big Oil talks a big game about supporting climate solutions—that is, until it might affect their banner profits and wealthy executive paydays."

"Industry associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and Business Roundtable, as well as fossil fuel interest groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Gas Association (AGA), are strategically deploying their policy influence to weaken or remove the critical climate elements of the bill," the briefing paper, which was published last week, states.

"The groups are using tactics such as public messaging and joint letters to policymakers to push back on the plan," the report continues. "In addition, the API and the AGA appear to be using targeted advertising campaigns in multiple states to sway key congressional votes on the bill."

According to federal disclosures, API and its front group Energy Citizens spent more than $2 million in the first six months of 2021 directly lobbying members of Congress. API—whose members include ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP—has also spent seven figures on television advertisements targeting Build Back Better provisions.

The new InfluenceMap report states:

Since the introduction of the reconciliation resolution on August 11, the API has spent $423,000 on ads which have obtained 21 million impressions. In addition, API's daily Facebook ad spend (based on a seven-week rolling average) reached a peak of $10,800 per day on August 8.

The API's ads push general narratives supporting the oil and gas industry, as well as advocacy on the reconciliation bill: as of September 29, the API (under its Facebook page Energy Citizens) has published 286 ads urging constituents to call their representatives and demand they not pass legislation that will impose "tax hikes on energy producers." These ads alone have gained 6 million impressions since the introduction of the reconciliation resolution.

API is also running YouTube ads calling on viewers to pressure policymakers not to "tax" American energy producers... API's advertising content appears to oppose the policies, like carbon pricing, that it claims to support.

"They're getting millions of views," InfluenceMap senior analyst Jack Carbon told The New York Times. "Even if just a tiny percentage of the people who view those ads actually end up contacting the representative, that's still going to be a lot of calls."

The new report precedes a House Oversight Committee hearing planned for later this month to which representatives from API and Big Oil mainstays including BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell have been called by House Democrats to testify about their work to spread climate misinformation and thwart efforts to combat the planetary emergency.

The lawmakers' call to testify before Congress followed the publication of video footage showing a senior ExxonMobil lobbyist boasting that the company deliberately worked to undermine climate science to protect fossil fuel profits, and that he worked with Big Oil-funded Republican and right-wing Democrat lawmakers to stymie climate legislation.

"With API expected to testify before Congress later this month, it's on lawmakers to demand that the group explain how it can possibly defend fighting the Build Back Better Act and its much-needed investments in climate action and support for American families," said Kyle Herrig, president of the government corruption watchdog Accountable.US.

"Big Oil talks a big game about supporting climate solutions—that is, until it might affect their banner profits and wealthy executive paydays," Herrig added. "It's high time these companies stop standing in the way of much-needed investments in families and start paying their fair share."

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