Vote4Energy: Voter Education or Propaganda?

BY ON January 27, 2016

Woman pointing at a smokestack at sunset


Americans can brace themselves for nine months of uninterrupted political news, sound bites, stats, and disinformation.

Every candidate up and down the ballot — beyond the presidential ticket — has an environmental agenda. The continuum still includes staunch supporters of a continued reliance on fossil fuels to those who believe that science has clearly proven that renewable sources of energy are the only way for planet earth to survive. A quick look at a national map from the League of Conservation Voters gives an overview of where individual states stand on legislative concerns concerning air, water, pollution, and more.

The American Petroleum Institute is poised to promote a specific agenda via their Vote4Energy website. I took an extended look at it, to determine the voice and tone of the message.

I was immediately struck by the efforts to connect “oil and natural gas development” with buzzwords for national values and goals like “security, global influence, and economic prowess.”

One of their ongoing running ads promotes the theme that energy is “not a bipartisan issue.” It also equates the existence of “more domestic oil and natural gas” with “opportunity and growth.” With a nod to the strategies of Madison Avenue, people of varied ethnic and economic backgrounds are featured, touting how oil and gas will lower bills and create jobs.

Numerous opinion polls were featured so I checked to see who had done the polling (Pew, Gallup, Harris). I learned that they were conducted by EnergyTomorrow whose background revealed in plain sight that they were not an independent company. Surprisingly (or not), they also were a “project” of the American Petroleum Institute. The relationships were circuitous.

I’ve been following the chilling methane crisis in Southern California, so I checked out EnergyTomorrow’s page on methane emissions. The opening sentence maintained, “While natural gas production has risen, methane emissions have fallen thanks to the oil and natural gas industry’s investment in new technology.”

I presume the site felt no need to post a reaction to what was happening in the Porter Ranch situation. I have listened to the numerous interviews given by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). Repeatedly, he has spoken directly to the lack of oversight and innovation both in storing and transporting natural gas. His statements to his constituents clearly outline that the failed wellhead was over sixty years old. In 1979, the well was inspected and the subsurface safety valve was removed, but it was not replaced with a new valve. There was a test in 2014 to determine if there was a leak in progress, but Sherman notes that the technology used was not sophisticated ultrasonic methodology that could have confirmed if there were “anomalies” in the pipe (having the potential to develop into leaks at a later time). He also took SoCal Gas to task for not having put in “subsurface safety valves” in the remaining 114 wells in the vicinity.

In light of the importance of this year’s elections, voters of all stripes would be well advised to dig deeper into how environmental issues will affect them and their families. It shouldn’t take a methane leak in the neighborhood to create awareness. Just read the New York Times headline trumpeting 2015 was Hottest Year in Recorded History.


TOPICS: Environment, Natural Gas, Politics