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In your Facebook feed: Pushing back the oil industry against Biden climate plans


The ads appear on Facebook millions of times a week. They specifically target at-risk Democrats in Congress and warn that the $ 3.5 trillion draft budget – one of the Biden administration’s greatest efforts to pass meaningful climate change policies – will ruin the US economy.

“Some politicians, including Rep. Houlahan, have made it a goal to demand tax increases for US energy producers,” said a complaint against Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, which has been running since Sept. 15, Jobs. Call Representative Houlahan now! “

The paid jobs are part of a broad attack by the oil and gas industry on the draft budget, the fate of which is now pending. One of the climate regulations likely to be left out of the plan is an attempt to slash billions in tax breaks – regulations that experts say will incentivize the burning of fossil fuels, which are responsible for catastrophic climate change.

On Thursday, details of an agreement between Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Senator Joe Manchin III. According to a memo outlining the agreement first received by Politico, Mr Manchin said that if the legislation includes expanding smaller tax credits for wind and solar energy, it should not reverse tax breaks for fossil fuel producers.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s largest trading group, played a pivotal role in pushing for more oil and gas tax breaks. It uses a front group called Energy Citizens who also used API a decade ago to successfully thwart a “cap and trade” plan that would have capped the emissions of greenhouse gases that would warm the planet during company specials buying and selling allowed to stay below this ceiling.

In the first six months of this year, API spent more than $ 2 million directly influencing Congress on issues like taxes, according to federal data. API, which includes Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP, also ran a seven-digit television campaign against various measures of the reconciliation package.

And on Facebook, API has spent nearly half a million dollars serving hundreds of ads attacking the law since the Senate passed a budget vote on Aug. 11, according to ad data provided by InfluenceMap, a London-based think tank, The company tracked, analyzed the influence on policy-making. These ads, including at least 286 targeted at individual Congressmen, were viewed at least 21 million times.

API’s average daily spend on budget-hitting Facebook ads has surpassed the group’s previous peak spends set after then-presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his climate plans in July 2020, the data shows. (Detailed Facebook data on political advertising spending has only been available since May 2018.)

API ads, meanwhile, are praising Senator Manchin for resisting the plan. Senator Manchin has received more campaign contributions from the oil, coal, and gas industries than any other senator. “Help us thank Senator Joe Manchin,” read a recent ad, “for being a champion of American energy.”

Megan Bloomgren, an API spokeswoman, said the industry group is working with policy makers on both sides of the aisle on climate change and continues to support carbon pricing. “Policies embedded in the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package that restrict US energy access and impose penalty taxes are the wrong way to achieve our common goal of reducing emissions and would only result in more imports and higher costs for Americans lead, ”she said.

Exxon Mobil, the largest oil and gas producer in the United States, spent approximately $ 1.6 million on political ads and ads over the same period, the data shows. This is the company’s highest daily spending on Facebook advertising since the presidential election.

While many of the ads talk about the oil industry in general, others urge voters to call their representatives: “Tell Congress American companies can’t afford to raise taxes,” a recent Exxon ad read.

Casey Norton, an Exxon spokesman, said the company’s efforts are “completely transparent and have been reported to the relevant authorities”. He said the company’s efforts were “tied to a tax burden that could penalize US businesses, and we have made that position public”. Exxon continues to support climate action, including regulating methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, as well as a price on carbon, and supports the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, he said.

Jake Carbone, senior analyst at InfluenceMap, said the ads had tremendous reach and potential.

“You get millions of views,” he said. “Even if a tiny percentage of the people who see these ads actually contacts the agent, that will still be a lot of calls.”

Environmental associations counter with their own advertising expenditure. League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power, for example, said they’ve spent $ 3.2 million on digital ads since August, including ads against Republicans in Congress, like Maria Salazar of Florida, who voted against the law.

“Florida families need Maria Salazar to see what lies ahead,” read an ad that ran on September 8th. “The danger is real. Extreme weather is more intense and more frequent than ever – and one more reason to act now. “

“It is time to turn off API’s self-serving anti-climate campaigns and focus on getting the Build Back Better Act across the finish line before our window of action closes,” said Lori Lodes, Executive Director of Climate Power.

Researchers studying oil and gas influence campaigns said the industry’s campaigns mark the latest chapter in a long history of the blockade of climate policy.

API was one of the first industry organizations to have extensive early knowledge of climate change, said Benjamin Franta, a Stanford researcher and co-founder of the Climate Social Science Network, a global network of scientists involved in climate policy. “It was one of the first companies in the industry to downplay the threat of climate change and promote the expansion of fossil fuels,” he said.

The industry lobby group has said in recent months that it supports strong climate action, including setting a price on carbon pollution. Both API and Exxon are the target of a House Committee on Oversight and Reform investigation into their past efforts to block climate policy. API said it “welcomes the opportunity to testify”.

Much of the industry’s efforts have focused on protecting specific tax breaks that benefit producers. However, experts say the subsidies are unnecessary for a profitable and mature industry like oil.

In addition, fossil fuel burning has driven climate change, a link highlighted in a landmark scientific report from the United Nations earlier this year. In a separate report, the International Energy Agency said nations around the world must stop approving new oil and gas fields immediately if they are to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

“Subsidies can make all the difference in moving a field forward or not,” says Pete Erickson, director of the climate policy program at the Stockholm Environment Institute.

President Biden had made tax reform a key part of his climate agenda, along with a $ 150 billion program aimed at replacing most of the country’s coal and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear power over the next decade . In his American Jobs Plan, President Biden called for the removal of “billions of dollars in subsidies, loopholes and special foreign tax credits for the fossil fuel industry.” Clean energy can create more sustainable jobs, argues President Biden.

Both environmental groups and climate researchers have called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, which in the world’s richest countries total $ 350 billion, more than double the renewable energy subsidies.

Industry groups like API and the US Chamber of Commerce have defended the tax rules. They “allow our industry to recover its costs and invest them in the next project,” wrote a group of groups in the oil industry in a letter to Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, in June.

Repeals are likely gone, including tax deductions for “intangible drilling costs” that allow producers to deduct most of the cost of drilling new wells, as well as a tax credit for an unconventional process known as improved oil production. That credit encourages producers to drill for oil using methods that may not be economical with oil market prices, a Congressional review said last year.

It also lacks the repeal of a provision known as the “Percentage Exhaustion Allowance” which allows independent oil and gas producers and licensees to deduct 15 percent of gross revenues year on year; which enables smaller operators to keep uneconomical, marginal wells running. The Biden government has calculated that removing this and other fossil fuel tax breaks would raise around $ 35 billion over the next decade.


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