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Local TV stations making money from Oil Industry ads, again

January 17, 2012

As is always the case during a major election cycle, local broadcasters will reap the benefits of those seeking to influence elections and legislation.

As we have noted in pervious election cycles, local broadcasters, particularly TV stations will make millions from money paid to buy airtime from political parties, political action committees (PACs) and from individual corporations and associations.

Recently, the American Petroleum Institute has been buying airtime in West Michigan with a commercial advocating that the Obama administration approve the Keystone Pipeline Project.

The ad, like all political ads, over simplifies what is at stake. The American Petroleum Institute uses language that tries to make it sound like the Obama administration must approve this project in order to be true to his claims to getting the US economy back on track. The ad focuses mostly on how the Keystone Project would create jobs and provide a safe energy source for the US.

The American Petroleum Institute ad, however, is full of misinformation. First, the bulk of the oil from the Alberta Tar Sands Project will mostly be for export and not for domestic use as the ad claims. Second, the project is considered one of the worst environmental disasters in recent years. According to Tar Sands Watch the project is using an excessively large amount of water resources from Canada and it is now the number one emitter of greenhouse gases in the country. Third, the project is opposed by Aboriginal groups, since the pipeline will threaten the sovereignty of native lands.

These facts and others are not included in the American Petroleum Institute ad and local TV stations are not challenging or questioning their claims.

In addition, the local TV broadcasters are not reporting on the fact that one of the main players in the Keystone Pipeline Project is Enbridge, as you can see from this map below. So not only are local broadcasters making money from this ad they are not investigating the link between a company with a major oil spill in West Michigan and one of the worst ecologically disastrous projects in recent decades.

West Michigan TV viewers are also not likely to hear local TV stories about the political influence of the American Petroleum Institute. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the American Petroleum Institute has spent millions annually lobbying Congress.

Lastly, this new ad campaign from the American Petroleum Institute is right on the heels of another ad campaign they rolled out late last year called the Vote 4 Energy campaign, where viewers were led to believe that people off the street were saying positive things about the oil industry. We know that the ad was scripted and not the spontaneous reflections of average Americans because a Greenpeace activist was able to get in on the production of the commercial and tape how lines were being fed to people. The ad campaign was also exposed by the group Polluter Watch, which did its own spoof ad we encourage you to watch here.

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