Groups promoting fossil fuels have spent more than four times more money on television ads than clean energy proponents, independent Democratic groups, and the Obama campaign combined this election season, according to a new analysis from the New York Times.
The analysis found that pro-fossil fuel groups have already spent $153 million on TV advertisements either pushing coal, oil and natural gas or attacking renewable energy during the presidential campaign. By comparison, groups supporting renewable energy have spent $41 million on ads.
The trend became clear early in the year, when Bloomberg reported that 81 percent of attack ads in April were focused on energy. Many of these ads, run by groups like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, were labeled “ridiculous” by fact checkers.
The latest tally shows just how dramatically messaging around energy issues has changed since the last presidential election cycle. The Times explains how this shift has impacted the messaging strategy of prominent groups working on climate and energy issues:
The lopsided nature of the energy messages this year contrasts sharply with 2008. Back then, global warming was a top public concern, and green ads greatly outnumbered those for fossil fuels, $152 million to $109 million, according to the analysis by The Times, which looked at 184 energy-related ads. In 2008, Chevron, one of the nation’s leading oil companies, trumpeted its investments in geothermal power, and Mr. McCain spent millions of dollars on ads featuring solar panels and wind farms as part of a solution to global warming.
The Times analysis shows that ads with energy themes have played an outsized role in the 2012 campaign season, with energy earning more frequent mentions than every other issue except jobs and the economy.
Energy first emerged as a major advertising topic during the last presidential election. Back then, one of the biggest spenders was the Alliance for Climate Protection, an environmental group backed by former Vice President Al Gore that spent an estimated $32 million on ads urging legislation to combat global warming.
This year, the alliance, now called the Climate Reality Project, is not buying television ads at all, focusing instead on social media, training and organizing. “Whatever we would spend, it would just be washed away in this sea of fossil fuel money,” said Maggie L. Fox, the group’s chief executive.
The Times offers a striking visual of far campaign ad spending on clean energy issues has dropped:
After the Citizens United Supreme Court case unleashed a tsunami of new money in politics, campaign spending from outside interest groups has increased 1,100 percent since the 2008 election. Last month, we took a closer look at the spending patterns of a variety of groups, many of which are focused on energy issues:
Americans for Prosperity
- As of late June, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity devoted 80 percent of its ad spending to energy ads. Two of these ads pushed the patently false claim, roundly rejected by fact-checkers, regarding clean energy jobs.
- New FEC filings show that AFP launched a $25 million campaign – its biggest buy thus far — in 11 states in mid-August attacking President Obama.
- Politico recently reported that Koch-backed organizations plan to spend $400 million ahead of the 2012 election, with a large amount of that money likely going toward energy issues.
Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads Super PAC
- Crossroads has already well exceeded its 2010 spending of $700,000 on energy issues ads this year. Crossroads GPS spent more than $6 million on energy attack ads as of late June 2012.
- American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, whose donors include oil and gas executives, has a bankroll of more than $200 million for 2012.
- It has been reported that Crossroads has reserved $40 million in ad air time in the final two months of the campaign.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has pledged to spend more than $50 million in 2012 on a range of issues.
- It has run a number of Senate and House-targeted ads on energy this summer, including a $1 million ad opposing former VA Gov. Tim Kaine, hitting on “higher energy costs for families,” a half-million-dollar ad hitting Rep. Shelley Berkley running for Nevada Senate, and over $200,000 in favor of GOP Senate candidate Heather Wilson (R-N.M.)
American Coalition For Clean Coal Electricity
- ACCCE has promised to spend $40 million to push coal interests to the forefront of the national conversation. They have been airing ads regularly in Ohio that tout coal jobs and attack the President for “heavy-handed regulations” on the coal industry.
American Petroleum Institute
- Earlier this year, API launched a multimillion-dollar campaign called “Vote 4 Energy,” that will likely exceed 2010 levels of $40 million
- API is stepping up its campaigning in key swing states with a new round of ads touting oil and gas in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
American Future Fund
- The American Future Fund has spent $4.5 million on a variety of issue ads, including attacks on energy. For example, a recent ad attacked New Mexico Rep. Martin Heinrich for supporting the stimulus, which funded clean energy projects. PolitiFact ranked the claims false.
Some of the spots, like those supported by API’s “Vote 4 Energy” campaign, are simply pro-oil ads. But others are much more political in nature, pushing lies and half-truths about clean energy. And this isn’t just isolated to energy. According to an analysis from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 85 percent of spending on ads from conservative political action committees were labeled “deceptive” by fact checkers.