Clean Energy Hero Busts Up American Petroleum Institute’s Latest Astroturfing Campaign

American Petroleum Institute's fraudulent ad

The American Petroleum Institute likes to share what average Americans think about Big Oil, except when they express real opinions. Unsurprisingly, despite API’s claims to feature Americans in favor of oil, their “authentic” commercials are entirely scripted, with casters feeding participants’ every word.

An e-mail from API advertised an open casting call for “all ages and races to express their views” in a commercial spot. The basic qualifications read: “You are willing to go on camera and state your beliefs” and “You are comfortable portraying YOURSELF! They want REAL PEOPLE not Actors!”

But when Gabe Elsner of the watchdog Checks and Balances Project attended the commercial’s open casting, he wasn’t even allowed to finish his sentence about clean energy jobs:

Elsner is escorted to the sound stage and asked to repeat the following lines:
“I vote,” he is prompted.
“I vote,” he repeats.
“I vote!” more emphatically this time.
“I vote!” Elsner repeats.
“For American Jobs,” he is told.
“For American Clean Energy Jobs,” he responds.
“Just, ‘For American Jobs,’” the staffer says.
“For American Clean Energy Jobs,” Elsner repeats. “I’d like to add that…”
“Just deliver the line.
That we have. Just, because, just cut for a second,” the staffer says. “Are you…I want to make sure that you are okay with what we are doing as far as the script goes.”
Elsner says, “Well I didn’t see the script. I was told that I was going to be able to deliver my views on camera.”

Elsner never finished his thoughts on camera; he was simply escorted away from the set. API tells an altered version, where it claimed in a followup blog post that “some activists” decided “not to spend their Saturday hanging around a bunch of other people who do support oil and natural gas.” But it is more likely API spoon-fed those supporters with favorable “views” just as they treated Elsner.

There is an inevitability that a Big Oil commercial must resort to insincerity and imaginary people’s opinions. The industry is sitting on enormous profits, even as 74 percent of Americans want to end the industry’s subsidies.

This isn’t the first time API has misled on its commercials. In 2009, API doctored the race of two iStock models in a promotional pamphlet. And while the newest API ad won’t be released until January, here is an older commercial with equally under-enthused, overly scripted Americans talking about oil:

Comments are closed.