Big Oil’s ‘Open The Gulf’ Campaign Uses Violins And Lies To Promote Offshore Drilling

Our guest blogger is Kiley Kroh, Center for American Progress Associate Director for Ocean Communications.

The Big Oil-backed Consumer Energy Alliance’s “Open The Gulf” campaign consists of eight ads and an initial two-week run in battleground states, featuring several people describing their hardships as a result of increased fuel cost and the temporary moratorium on Gulf drilling after the BP oil disaster, and advocating opening the Gulf of Mexico to increased offshore drilling. Here’s tugboat operator Cory Kief, backed by somber strings:

The ads, complete with sad music and images of abandoned barns and empty docks, also contain several glaring inaccuracies and misleading implications:


MYTH: Opening the gulf to new drilling will lower gas prices. Though Colorado farmer Marc Amesh and truck driver David Boyer may have legitimate concerns that rising fuel costs are putting their jobs and businesses at risk, increased drilling is quite simply not the answer. Instead of providing a real solution, the CEA campaign merely parrots Big Oil lies and perpetuates the falsehood that increased drilling will lower gas prices. Even the non-partisan Energy Information Agency found that whether we dramatically expand offshore drilling or stop selling offshore leases entirely, it will have virtually no effect on gas prices — ever.

MYTH: The Obama administration is not issuing offshore drilling permits or leases. According to statistics from the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management and Enforcement, 68 new shallow water well permits have been issued since the implementation of new safety and environmental standards on June 8, 2010. Permits have averaged more than seven per month since fall 2010, compared to an average of eight permits per month in 2009. For deepwater permits requiring subsea containment, they have approved 112 permits for 34 unique wells, with 19 permits pending, and 21 permits returned to the operator with requests for additional information, particularly information regarding containment. And perhaps the team at CEA missed last week’s announcement that the administration has scheduled a massive sale of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico — an auction that encompasses more than 20 million acres in the western gulf.

Before complaining about the rate of issuing new permits and leases, the industry might want to take stock of what they already have — and aren’t using. A recent study conducted by the Department of Interior found that the vast majority of offshore drilling leases remain idle.

Royal Dutch Shell, whose alarming safety record includes numerous spills and violations, was recently given the green light to drill in both the highly dangerous Arctic and a new development well in the Gulf of Mexico. The company also confirmed that “all five of the floating rigs that Shell was operating in the gulf before last year’s BP oil spill and drilling moratorium are now back to work” — a fact that doesn’t jive with CEA’s deceptive ads.

MYTH: The economic potential of offshore oil and gas is worth the risk of another blowout. Despite BP’s efforts to convince the broader public that the oil is gone and the gulf is restored, the reality is much grimmer. While the ultimate toll of the spill won’t be known for several years, there is no denying the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history had a catastrophic impact on the Gulf Coast economy and its residents. An NRDC report found that the Gulf of Mexico saw a 39 percent decline in commercial fishing catches overall between 2009 and 2010, representing a $62 million loss in dockside sales. To date, the oil giant has paid out $5 billion in economic damages to individuals and businesses in the region — with 61,558 new claims received in the past three months — and faces billions more in Clean Water Act fines and NRDA liabilities. After their top execs admitted just one year ago that they weren’t prepared to handle a major offshore spill, CEA’s Big Oil backers might want to reevaluate whether that’s a risk they’re willing to take.

Instead of asking why America’s not doing more for Big Oil, maybe Cory the tugboater, Marc the farmer, and David the truck driver should ask BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and the others why they keep grubbing for American taxpayers’ dollars to pad their obscene profit margins.