Oil, lies, and video ads

Fuel prices

You don’t need gasoline to power a car.
There is a cheaper, cleaner alternative.

The petroleum industry is running scared. They know that their product is to the 21st Century what buggy whips were to the 20th. So as the California Assembly prepares to vote this week on SB 350, SB 185, and ten other climate bills, Big Oil is deploying some pretty oily tactics.

First, the oil companies create and hide behind front groups with blandly good-citizen–sounding names. Astroturfing, as it’s called—as in “fake grassroots.” Would you believe what the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) says about a climate bill? Okay, how about the California Drivers Alliance? Sounds much better. Most of us are drivers, and if it’s an alliance it must be a public-spirited group of people just like you and me.

Second, oil companies use the astroturf group to spread lies about the content and effects of climate bills that combat carbon pollution. Not surprising, since they are in the business of selling carbon—pollution included. They have no other business plan, having almost abandoned their few earlier forays into renewable energy. So they spread misinformation, to confuse voters and try to sway legislators.

In today’s Sacramento Bee, David Siders quotes a California Drivers Alliance television ad. An actor says:

The Gas Restriction Act of 2015 will restrict the use of gas and diesel in California by 50 percent.

This law will limit how often we can drive our own cars.

The state will also be collecting and monitoring our personal driving habits and tracking how much gas we use.

In fact, there is no “Gas Restriction Act of 2015.” The law that does require a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by 2030 (SB 350) does not limit how often we can drive. And it contains no monitoring or tracking provisions. These are pure scare tactics, without factual basis.

But this TV ad is not the only example of WSPA’s efforts to mislead. Adrienne Alvord of the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that Big Oil’s lobbying organization is also sending out mailers and broadcasting radio ads to try to defeat SB 350. She calls it a “massive and highly dishonest oil company campaign denouncing one of the best and most exciting bills that has been considered by the California legislature in a decade.”

Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, author of SB 350, has countered this and other Big Oil lies on the California Climate Leadership website. The graphic above is one example, demonstrating that it makes economic as well as environmental sense to move away from the carbon-polluting internal combustion engine. We can reduce oil use, and we will all be better off.

But the lies will keep coming, no doubt, at least until no one wants to buy buggy whips any more. As Alvord concludes: “So, in the end, the simple truth that explains all of WSPA’s lies about SB 350 is that the legislation, while good for people, is bad for oil companies.”

Come to Sacramento tomorrow, September 2, as the Assembly begins to vote on the package of climate bills. Join our campaign to do what’s good for people.

UPDATE, 9/9: It now appears that SB 350 and SB 32 will come up for a vote on Thursday, September 10. Come to Sacramento in the morning for a rally to cheer them on. And in the meantime, call your Assembly Member.