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API: Greenwashing Again or Pure Propaganda?

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The American Petroleum Institute (API) is unleashing a new advertising campaign to soothe the American public. I am sure it has nothing to do with Oil execs grilled on fuel prices by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. EnergyTomorrow is registered to API (look up at Lookup). One of the ads API is currently running is an excellent example of propaganda - the truth, but not quite the truth. There are several striking things that jump out in the advertisement (see ad at energytomorrow.org). First is the upbeat tone that distracts one from the message being given. One barely notices the substance, part of which is accurate. For example, it is true that the predictions are that energy demand will increase by 45% by 2030. The ad begins by stating "Oil and natural gas power the past." However, the ad is telling us that oil and gas in the United States can meet future demand. Instead of talking about non-hydrocarbon energy sources, they stick with hydrocarbons as the energy solution. The ad then states that the U.S. resources (112 billion barrels "technically" recoverable reserves according to the site) to fuel 60 million cars and 160 million households for 60 years. Look at these figures. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Commission, as of 2003 there was a total of 231,389,998 registered vehicles - not including 5,328,300 motorcycles. According to the Census Bureau, there were 116,011,000 households in the U.S. in 2006. The population is estimated to be 363,584,000 by 2030 In 2006, the number of people per household was approximately 2.6 people (Census Bureau). Assuming a consistent household size, that would mean there would be 145,433,600 households in 2030. The population is going to grow; the number of households is going to grow; but the number of vehicles in the U.S. is going to decline to by over 75% (from the number of vehicles today). There are approximately 1.99 vehicles (excluding motorcycles) per household today, given the expected growth in population, there will be even fewer registered vehicles than that. Those registered vehicles include semi-trucks and other non-passenger vehicles. So, it looks like there are not going to be a lot of folks on the road. So what about those 112 billion barrels of "technically" exploitable oil in the United States? Well, there is ANWR, the national parks, the coasts of Florida and California. If we signed all that over to the oil companies then "maybe" they could get that amount of oil. Costs and environment and legacy for the future be damned. The advertisement also conflicts with the information on their own site Facts About Oil & Natural Gas. There they reiterate the 60 million "Cars can be powered" and then state "along with 25 million homes can be heated with crude oil resources from the U.S. for 60 years" (emphasis mine). That is 25 million homes - not 160 million households. In other words, only 15% of the homes could be heated. So what about those "alternative" energy sources? According to the "Facts" page,
6 Percent of energy use currently supplied by renewable sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which expects the figure to increase by two percent by 2030
On another cheery note for the those who support ethanol (but don't particularly care to eat):
12.3 Percent of gasoline used in the United States that would be saved if every acre of corn was used for ethanol.
So one is wondering what "advanced" technology, and "smart" energy policy are going to do to make up an energy shortfall of roughly 80% for cars and 85% for homes. My, that is an upbeat message - even if it is pure propaganda. Note: While difficult to see on the computer, the ad flashes the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Department of Energy on the screen several times. In fact, I thought that the ad was sponsored by them. Other Items of related Interest Statement of Senator Carl Levin on Oil and Gasoline Prices (5/12/2008). Levin and Feinstein Introduce Oil Trading Transparency Act (5/08/2008) API on Wikipedia API on SourceWatch EnergyTomorrow.org - API propaganda site.
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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.


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