The anti-Keystone group NextGen Climate Action, founded by San Francisco billionaire and environmental activist Thomas Steyer, tried to have an ad run during President Barack Obama’s appearance on NBC’s the “Tonight Show.”
The ad depicts TransCanada CEO Russ Girling sliding down the Keystone XL pipeline and claiming it will raise oil prices and benefit China’s energy independence, not America’s.
However, the controversial ad did not air, and NextGen is demanding that NBC produce an affidavit swearing that they were not pressured by the fossil fuel industry to quash it.
NBC’s local affiliate told NextGen that “the spot was inconsistent with our guidelines of being an attack of a personal nature.”
“Given that we complied with the station’s process, the fact that the ad is accurate in exposing TransCanada’s representation regarding the Keystone Pipeline and WRC/NBC’s history of taking advertising petro-dollars, something simply does not smell right here,” said Tom Adams, executive director of NextGen, adding that “the public deserves to know whether WRC/NBC is censoring this ad because of actions by TransCanada or the fossil fuel industry’s $153 million in television ad spending.”
The Keystone XL pipeline has been awaiting approval for nearly five years, as environmentalists battle it out with the oil industry over the costs and benefits of the project. NextGen wanted to use the ad to reinforce earlier comments made by Obama that the pipeline will have a small economic impact and that Canada could do more to curb carbon dioxide emissions from tar sands extraction.
“We want to reinforce what President Obama has been saying — the Keystone pipeline will not bring the jobs or economic benefits that TransCanada touts in its lobbying propaganda,” Steyer said. “And it certainly fails the president’s test of not contributing significantly to harmful emissions.”
Steyer’s ad says that the pipeline will drive up the price of oil and will benefit Chinese energy independence, not American energy independence.
“And to think that all it took was a little old fashioned lying,” the Girling look alike says in the ad, “like when we told the American people it would be good for the economy. Well [cue evil laughter], Keystone is only gonna drive the price of oil up!”
“Oh, but wait! This is my favorite part,” the actor playing Girling adds. “We said the Keystone pipeline gonna increase American oil independence. You wanna see who it’s really going to increase oil independence for? [cue more evil laughter] ”
Girling is then flung onto a beach where he looks out into the ocean to see giant oil tankers labeled “China,” and the actor says “God bless America.”
Keystone supporters have attacked the ad for misrepresenting the facts about the pipeline.
“Perhaps most telling is that Steyer’s fictitious ad was supposedly only going to run in the Washington, D.C. area,” said Matt Dempsey with Oil Sands Fact Check.
“Given that Congress is in recess for the month of August, it appears this ad was only targeting a handful of inside the Beltway reporters. This appears to be little more than a poorly designed publicity stunt that failed to deliver.”
Katie Brown of Oil Sands Fact Check pointed to a State Department study from earlier this year that found the pipeline would support 42,100 jobs across the country over a two-year period. The southern leg of Keystone, which is already being built, created 4,000 jobs. Brown also added that the State Department found that Keystone would not raise gas prices.
The State Department Environmental Impact Statement found that, “Midwest product prices are derived from Gulf Coast prices, both of which are in turn driven by international (rather than U.S. inland) crude oil prices. Enabling (additional volumes of) WCSB crudes to flow to the Gulf Coast would not change this dynamic.”
Critics also took issue with the ad’s charge that Keystone will benefit China at the expense of U.S. energy independence.
“First of all, just shipping oil off to China like that is essentially illegal. For the United States to export crude a license from the Department of Commerce is required – and is quite uncommon,” Brown said.
The State Department review also found that, “Once the WCSB crude oil arrives at the Gulf Coast, the refiners there have a significant competitive advantage in processing it compared to foreign refiners because the foreign refiners would have to incur additional transportation charges to have the crude oil delivered from the Gulf Coast to their location.”
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