American Petroleum Institute Ads Claim Without Evidence That Public Opposes Higher Taxes On Big Oil

A new series of oil and gas industry “issue ads” running in seven states claim “Americans oppose” Democratic efforts to eliminate subsidies for the petroleum companies. But a ThinkProgress Green analysis finds the industry claims do not add up.

The radio ads, run in seven key states by the American Petroleum Institute this week, say:

It’s another bad idea from Washington. In speech after speech, President Obama is calling for higher taxes on the energy producers who power America, to raise money to pay for more government spending. But Americans oppose President Obama’s new taxes. We know what those taxes will do. Independent analysts say Obama’s tax plan could actually raise gas prices, making families pay more and hurting our economy.

In a press release on the trade association’s website, API explains the group’s rationale for the claim that the public opposes the “new taxes” — really elimination of tax incentives for the industry — claiming:

Opposition to higher energy taxes is rising among the public. A recent “What is America Thinking on Energy Issues” poll showed that 76 percent of voters think that higher energy taxes could equal higher gas prices.”

The release quotes the group’s president and CEO Jack Gerard arguing:

Raising taxes will not lower energy prices for American families and businesses—in fact, the Congressional Research Service says this plan could cause gasoline prices to go higher. Our new campaign in key states will explain that more domestic production is critical to putting downward pressure on gasoline prices—supply matters.

The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive for API, does not include the question of whether Americans support or oppose ending the industry’s tax credits. As Climate Progress previously reported, polling shows strong national support for the idea.

Rather, the API poll asked the 1009 participants whether they agreed with the statement “Increasing energy taxes could increase consumer costs on a wide variety of products and services, including higher gasoline prices.” The polling memo did indeed show 76 percent agreed with that statement. Given that the industry sets its own prices, of course they could raise gas prices to preserve profits if the tax breaks were eliminated.

But fascinatingly, the polling company then read a statement to back up the argument, referencing the Congressional Research study to which the API’s Gerard referred in his quote:

The Congressional Research Service, an agency within the Library of Congress that provides bipartisan analysis to Congress, conducted an in-depth study that concluded that the Administration’s efforts to increase taxes on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry may have the effect of decreasing exploration, development and production here in America, while increasing consumer prices and increasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

After being read that, the voters were again asked whether they agreed with the statement “Increasing energy taxes could increase consumer costs on a wide variety of products and services, including higher gasoline prices.” This time, only 70 percent said yes. The argument actually disuaded voters.

Perhaps the more voters hear from API, the less they support the industry’s positions.

A spokeswoman for API did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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