Big Oil uses fake “Americans” to attack fake “energy taxes.”

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"Big Oil uses fake “Americans” to attack fake “energy taxes.”"

The American Petroleum Institute is using fake “Americans” to defend billions in tax subsidies, as WonkRoom’s Brad Johnson explains in this repost.  API is running full-page ads in Politico and Roll Call that attack Congress for “new energy taxes” — using stock photos:

Congress will likely consider new taxes on America’s oil and natural gas industry. These new energy taxes will produce wide-reaching effects, and ripple through our economy when America “” and Americans “” can least afford it.

These unprecedented taxes will serve to reduce investment in new energy supplies at a time when most Americans support developing our domestic oil and natural gas resources. That means less energy, thousands of American jobs being lost and further erosion of our energy security.

Our economy is in crisis, and we need to get the nation on the road to economic recovery. This is no time to burden Americans with new energy costs.

The target of this ad is the Obama administration’s effort to remove $36 billion in loopholes and subsidies for the oil industry. As it turns out, the “Americans” presented in the ad are stock photos from Getty Images:

“Warehouse worker holding large wrench on shoulder”
API stockphoto

“Woman working in a distribution warehouse”
API stockperson

“Man standing with hands in pocket”
API stockperson

“Blue collar worker leaning against forklift.”API stockperson

Americans are paying the price for these subsidies with our tax dollars, our health, and our national security. Removing these subsidies would “ripple through the economy” by unleashing a clean-energy future.

This is just the latest in a stream of polluter front groups using stock photos in Astroturf campaigns against clean energy policy. API was recently caught trying to add diversity to its dirty ads by photoshopping minorities into stock photography. West Virginia’s “FACES of Coal” turned out to be from iStockPhoto.com. And Virginia’s “Coalition for American Jobs” is a stock-photo front group for the American Chemistry Council.

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16 Responses to Big Oil uses fake “Americans” to attack fake “energy taxes.”

  1. mike roddy says:

    It must be horrible to lie all the time to anyone, never mind the American people. No wonder they use Photoshop- they wouldn’t have a clue how to talk to an average American, and consider us beneath them anyway.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    I appreciate the point of this post, but given the nature of human psychology, it is often less concrete and compelling to hear that “hey, this big ambiguous group API is doing what everyone else does, which is to use stock footage and try to avoid the reduction of tax subsidies to their member organizations”, than it is to hear, concretely, with proof and example, such things as “hey, ExxonMobil is deceiving you and doing harm to your future when it says (specifics), like it is doing right here (specifics).”

    Let’s get concrete, using real examples from real companies that people can stop buying products from.

    Goodness knows that there are PLENTY of examples. If you want to see how ExxonMobil is saying one thing one day, with one hand, and a different thing with the other hand; and how they are violating nearly every rule of logic and responsibility and forthrightness; and how they are misleading you and giving you one small portion of the story, with “literal narrow technical accuracy”, while leaving out the vast majority of the facts that would lead you to an entirely different conclusion; and so forth; then let’s do it, if we can do it seriously and with a large audience in mind.

    Keep in mind: The use of ExxonMobil products alone, in one year alone, generates over one trillion pounds of CO2. It generates an amount of CO2 that weighs more than the weight of the entire human species living on Earth today — yes, more than all 6.8 billion of us weigh, combined. And, the number is much larger if you also include the amount of CO2 and other GHGs they generate in internal operations.

    Until we get serious, we are doing the equivalent of using a squirt gun to try to influence a company that has bazookas and tanks. We are whispering politely in an attempt to influence a public that has headphones on and must be listening to very loud music. If the issue weren’t so important, it would almost be silly.

    I’d like to know: Are we going to get serious? If so, count me “in”. If not, count me “out”.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

    [JR: I think you'll agree I spent a lot of time on the very serious issues and hit ExxonMobil pretty darn hard. But this sort of stuff is also worth pointing out, I think.]

  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    Joe, I agree that you folks are doing a very good, and often great, and often super, job. But, I think that it must get even much, much greater — on this particular dimension of the problem — if there is to be a substantial impact that will actually “move the needle” on this (important) aspect of the matter.

    So, I’m not trying to be critical. I’m trying to somehow help, to inform people in a focused way on a focused part of the problem, and to help energize people to actually do something.

    Please let me know if you have any ideas or if you’d like some help on this particular part of the larger problem. I’ll let you know if I have any particular ideas.

    Also, please, the other matter is even more important, of course: conveying a clear and digestible understanding of the natural importance of making decisions under conditions of some uncertainty and potential risk. So, as time allows, please let me know what you think of that thing I sent to you.

    Thanks, and great job!

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  4. Leif says:

    Now that the Supreme Court has classified corporations as having the rights of people, it is incumbent in my view to charge corporations with humanitarian responsibilities as well. Under present law corporations are charged with maximizing shareholder profits first. Consequently, actively denying AGW becomes a fiduciary “least cost option” to pursue. In my eyes, the Supreme Court has created a “Robot” with a license to kill. (Perhaps unwittingly an escape avenue as well.) The only option that I see now for humanity is to charge those same corporations with the humanitarian responsibilities and goals of long term sustainability/survivability first and foremost and shareholder profits secondary. Without a long term survivability clause, corporations will end up with all the money in a dead world. A dubious victory. It is unconscionable that capitalism, corporations and humanity cannot pursue long term survivability with shared enthusiasm.

    The very fact that capitalism and corporations are at cross purposes with humanity and sustainability needs to be acknowledged and corrected forthwith. It is obvious, to any that care to look, that short term profits are not compatible with long term survivability. Time is of the essence.

    Thank you Joe and most commentators, (hang in there Jeff), for all you do. This site has been largely responsible for whatever sanity I have managed to retain over the past many months.

    Two Palms up:

    Leif

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    To Corporate Board Members, Legal Scholars, Market Purists, Business Ethicists, Shareholders, Regular Citizens, and The Kitchen Sink

    Many people hold these two views, beliefs, or assumptions in their heads simultaneously:

    1. Members of corporate boards of directors, and senior corporate executives, have only one responsibility: to increase shareholder financial value while not violating the legal law.

    2. An entirely unregulated and “free” market will naturally lead to outcomes that are responsible and healthy and “good” for society (and for a country and ultimately for humankind) if left entirely to its own devices and if corporations act solely in their own self-interests.

    People who hold, and argue in favor of, the first point often think of it in these terms: Board members have a sole fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value, considered in a targeted and narrow sense, and that’s the “be all and end all” of the matter. Many of the people who hold this view also don’t acknowledge, or consider, the substantial latitude that the law itself provides for board members to consider a wide range of factors in doing this, including genuine human responsibility and sense.

    People who hold a narrow or extreme version of the second point usually argue that the law, i.e., legislation and public legislators, should stay out of the matter entirely and trust the marketplace to do good. They argue this as a matter of “principle” as if the case has been proven logically, rationally, compellingly, and historically. (And for one thing, they don’t seem to realize that even Adam Smith himself did not hold this view. Many haven’t even read Adam Smith.)

    Now here is the question:

    Do you see the problems that result if you hold both of these views (as stated in Points 1 and 2) together, simultaneously, as if they are both true and correct?

    Put simply (and among other things):

    The view expressed in Point 1 states that the legal law is the only other consideration that a board member must and should consider in his/her decisions aimed at maximizing shareholder value other than the considerations (financial, technical, economic, etc.) associated with the means and ends of the business itself. And, the view expressed in Point 1 also holds that the law requires board members to solely seek to maximize shareholder value, as a “fiduciary responsibility”, as long as they don’t violate other aspects of the law itself.

    But, at the same time, the view expressed in Point 2 holds, in essence, that the law itself should “disappear” and indeed “keep out of the matter” and leave it to corporations, seeking their own self-interests, to handle all things well.

    Do you see the problem?

    Between you and me, as a secret among friends, most people don’t see or understand the inherent problem in holding both of these views simultaneously, as stated in their narrowness and extremes. Most people have not thought about the matter (perhaps they assume that others can be trusted to have figured it out?), don’t want to think about the matter, don’t want to see the problem, or don’t want to change their own behaviors when they do see (but don’t admit to others) the problem.

    I’ll add another related, and important, point in a later comment, in order to make the points more concrete in relation to the arguments of many people related to climate change legislation.

    OK, that’s it for now.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  6. Bill W says:

    Joe, while I fully agree that we should pull the subsidies out from under the fossil fuel companies, and that they’re using scare tactics and worse to try to maintain the status quo, I can’t seem to attain your sense of outrage at the API’s use of stock photography. The ad doesn’t actually name any of these people or claim to represent their viewpoint. They’re just there to illustrate American workers. While the individuals pictured may or may not be professional models, it’s likely that they are Americans, and that they work for a living.

  7. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bop-A-Mole

    As mentioned earlier (in my Comment 5), here is an addition to my earlier comment.

    Can you imagine the problems (and consequences) associated with a view that contains the following five views, beliefs, or assumptions concurrently, as if they are all true, correct, justified, and wise?

    1. Members of corporate boards of directors, and senior corporate executives, have only one responsibility: to increase shareholder financial value while not violating the legal law.

    2. An entirely unregulated and “free” market will naturally lead to outcomes that are responsible and healthy and “good” for society (and for a country and ultimately for humankind) if left entirely to its own devices and if corporations act solely in their own self-interests.

    3. Corporations have the full and unrestricted right to convey their views on political or related matters, including regarding candidates for election and ballot measures, during elections or at any other time. They’ve been deemed to have this right because it has been ruled that corporations should be treated as enjoying the same freedom of speech rights that are granted to individual human beings by the First Amendment.

    4. Corporate shareholders are not legally or financially accountable (beyond the amount that they’ve invested in the shares, if the share price drops) for the actions of the corporations whose shares they own. Shareholders are shielded from accountability by corporate law.

    5. Corporate directors (i.e., members of corporate boards) are not legally or financially accountable for decisions of the corporations they govern as long as directors’ decisions do not themselves violate the law and as long as it is held that those decisions were made with the best interests of shareholders in mind.

    And I’m not done: After all, why stop a good story when it’s only halfway along?

    So, in an upcoming post, I’ll add an (incorrect) view about economics that is also held by many of the same folks who seem to hold all five of these views concurrently.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  8. Mark Shapiro says:

    Jeff and Joe,

    Every time you mention a bad corporate actor, like ExxonMobil, name (and shame) the CEO, like Rex Tillerson.

    Why? Corporations have no nerves, no sense of shame, no conscience, no morals, no concern about mortality or legacy. They do have vast p/r and marketing budgets; millions of loyal customers, employees, and suppliers; and all the goodwill that comes with. CEOs are the opposite. They are much more vulnerable to bad press, and as multimillionaires they get much less sympathy. (That’s why they show “regular folks” in those ads, and not the CEO.)

    More important, the CEO deserves the blame! Corporations don’t make decisions, CEOs do.

    So please, please aim your words where they are deserved, and where they might have the greatest effect. CEOs are the Achilles’ heel of misbehaving corporations.

  9. Mark Shapiro says:

    By the way, everything I said about Exxon and its CEO, Rex Tillerson, goes double for News Corporation and its founder and CEO, Rupert Murdoch.

    You remember some of the bad things that Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity, etc have said? Yeah, I do, too. But Rupert Murdoch is the guy who pulled them off the street, and gave them millions of viewers and millions of dollars to spout their filth.

    Never let the CEO off the hook. It’s easy to call out Glenn Beck. Easy, and pointless. Do you want a shot at being even a little bit effective? Call out the CEO. Aim the blame where it belongs–which is also where it might do some good.

  10. Jeff Huggins says:

    To Mark (Comments 8 and 9),

    Thanks for the comment, and I agree fully.

    That said, while we are on the subject, there is another thought that relates to a few sorts of organizations: The actual people in some types of organizations, and some particular organizations, probably do align at least some of their own reputation and “legacy” with those of the organizations. Here’s what I mean: In the case of a university like Harvard or Stanford or Berkeley or (many others), leaders and faculty in those places do “care” about the reputations and legacies of the organizations themselves. This is also the case with some non-profits and some other “name brand” places in the business community, such as McKinsey.

    Here, I’m not suggesting (of course) that the legal entities “Harvard” or “McKinsey & Company” have thoughts and feelings, of course. Instead, I’m suggesting that many employees of those places derive some of their own self-reputation and sense of identity, in some cases, from the reputations of those names, to a degree, rightly or wrongly. My point is this: In those situations, naming and discussing the institution itself, without the need to mention some (usually unfamiliar) President or CEO, is often sufficient to have a meaningful and motivating discussion of whether the organization is living up to its responsibilities. For example, although (of course) I’m not suggesting that those places belong in the same categories with ExxonMobil and NewsCorp, nevertheless, relative to what I think places like Harvard and McKinsey should be doing, under the circumstances, I don’t think that they are (nearly) living up to what they could and should be doing.

    But in general, I agree with your point: The CEO’s name is important, usually.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  11. David B. Benson says:

    If limited liability corporations are people, then they are sociopaths and ought to be institutionalized.

  12. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bop-A-Mole Plus: A Recipe For Disaster

    As mentioned earlier, here is an addition to my earlier comments.

    Can you imagine, now, the problems and consequences associated with a view that contains the immediately following five views, beliefs, or assumptions concurrently, as if they are all true and wise, also combined with the (incorrect) economic assumption listed as Point 6?

    1. Members of corporate boards of directors, and senior corporate executives, have only one responsibility: to increase shareholder financial value while not violating the legal law.

    2. An entirely unregulated and “free” market will naturally lead to outcomes that are responsible and healthy and “good” for society (and for a country and ultimately for humankind) if left entirely to its own devices and if corporations act solely in their own self-interests.

    3. Corporations have the full and unrestricted right to convey their views on political or related matters, including regarding candidates for election and ballot measures, during elections or at any other time. They’ve been deemed to have this right because it has been ruled that corporations should be treated as enjoying the same freedom of speech rights that are granted to individual human beings by the First Amendment.

    4. Corporate shareholders are not legally or financially accountable (beyond the amount that they’ve invested in the shares, if the share price drops) for the actions of the corporations whose shares they own. Shareholders are shielded from accountability by corporate law.

    5. Corporate directors (i.e., members of corporate boards) are not legally or financially accountable for decisions of the corporations they govern as long as directors’ decisions do not themselves violate the law and as long as it is held that those decisions were made with the best interests of shareholders in mind.

    6. An unregulated free market can be expected to consider and reflect all relevant factors, and lead to outcomes that are responsible and fair with respect to all relevant factors, even if one or some of those relevant factors are not reflected in costs or prices. (In other words, an unregulated free market can be expected to substantially reduce the emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere even if there is no “price for carbon” and if it remains generally free to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.) (Of course, this point is not correct, and that’s part of my point. But, not only is this point not correct, but can you imagine the overall implications of this view when combined with the five legal views/assumptions listed above?)

    Do you see the problem? Some political-legal-economic viewpoints hold, or seem to claim to hold, the six views listed above concurrently, as if such a combination of views (taken together) is not only correct but can also be expected to naturally result in outcomes that are sound, healthy, responsible, and basically “good” for society.

    Instead, I would argue, holding these six views concurrently, and relying on that combination to yield results that are “good” for society, is not only unwarranted, but is also a recipe for disaster.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  13. prokaryote says:

    Oil companys can’t win this and such silly action just make it worse. Oil companys need to acknowledge that they have to change the technology. They must invest in renewable energy. They need to upgrade, simple as that.

    If they don’t, they become banned, get sued, go broke or will be nationalized.

  14. Mark Shapiro says:

    Jeff,

    You made 2 important points that reenforce the need to name, shame, and blame the CEO.

    1) The CEO’s name is usually unfamiliar to the public. This allows him to hide very comfortably behind the might and the goodwill of the corporation, and to get rich by doing bad. It takes more work on our part to make his name familiar, but we shouldn’t let him hide.

    2) Many people in organizations want to do good and care about the organization’s legacy. All the more reason not to attack the whole company, and thus turn those good people against you. Attack the source of the problem — the CEO — and the good people in the company can be your allies.

    Tillerson’s ExxonMobil and Murdoch’s News Corp are two of the worst. Harvard, McKinsey, and the NYT, for all their flaws, are not in the same league.

  15. Mike says:

    Everyone uses stock photos or actors. So what? The point is to undermine the message in these ads. If they used real people, their points would not be any more valid.

  16. John Puma says:

    To Jeff Huggins:

    Your points are accurate and well taken.

    The problem is not any deficiency in their truth but in convincing people to accept them, in what is, essentially, a human person’s indictment of capitalism, the world’s dominant religion. This is in the face of the recent Supreme Court decision essentially bestowing the rights of personhood on the corporation whose power over us thus grows directly, and more untouchably, with our consumption of it products.

    My formulation is that an “economy” is ultimately and solely concerned with the sum of the interactions of people’s use of energy sources and the effects of this use.

    This view properly focuses the discussion on the physical world, instead of the “derivative” concepts, like wealth and profit, but it, too, is hardly to be considered accepted by either the virulent anti-science crowd or those passively suffering from our poor education system.

    But, again, in the final analysis, those who’ve defined and accumulated the “derivative” concepts, precisely to wield power, can hardly be expected to yield it to logic, science, compassion or consideration to a future beyond next quarter’s earnings report.