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Oil Industry Plans “Citizen Rallies”

Last week I mentioned that top environmental groups planned to use town hall meetings to corner members of Congress about comprehensive climate and energy reform. That effort has yet to obtain much publicity. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, at least these groups can take comfort in the fact that the oil industry is planning a similar set of “grassroots” actions:

The leading trade association for oil and gas companies is ramping up its public advocacy campaign this summer ahead of congressional debate this fall that includes efforts to clamp down on tax benefits for the industry.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) will hold a series of “citizen rallies” starting Sept. 1 with events in three Texas cities — Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont. API will partner with local energy and other business groups that they hope will translate into correspondence with lawmakers. While details are not yet firm, future rallies are tentatively planned to occur in Ohio, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico.

“Clearly, as an industry, we are doing more outreach than perhaps we have historically,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a conference call with reporters. “Americans want to know that the government is working on constructing solutions to the challenges we all face, jobs and economic recovery. From an energy perspective we don’t think that’s happening.”

Certainly, there’s a real clamor in the country, at the individual level, for extending fossil fuel industry tax breaks. After the BP oil disaster, surely this is a slam dunk. It must not have been hard to find willing participants for these rallies.

The President’s fiscal 2011 budget, to its credit, raises about $40 billion dollars by closing loopholes that send money to the oil and gas industry. But when the Senate had the chance to vote on canceling fossil fuel subsidies straight-up, with an amendment by Bernie Sanders during the tax extenders bill, they soundly rejected it.

Maybe the industry doesn’t need any citizen rallies.

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David Dayen

David Dayen