OilRigged campaign launches on Earth Day to defend biofuels

By Susanne Retka Schill | April 22, 2014

The Fuels America coalition launched a new campaign dubbed “Oil Rigged” on Earth Day to counter what biofuels industry leaders called Big Oil’s deliberate campaign to distort the facts. The campaign includes the website, OilRigged.com, digital advertising, an Earth Day takeover of Politico.com and at least a two-week ad buy on national cable networks.

In a media call launching the campaign, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the campaign is designed “to blow the whistle on all the ways the oil industry is trying to rig this debate in its favor.”  He pointed to the rigging of Washington, citing figures from the Center for Responsive Politics that show the oil industry collectively spent $855 million over the past five years for lobbying and campaign contributions, more than $1 million per congressman. “They’ve rigged the market by refusing to invest in the infrastructure to sell fuels like E15 or E85,” Buis said,  “and then demanding to waive the [renewable fuel standard] because there isn’t enough infrastructure.” He also charged they rigged the tax code, with oil industry tax breaks entering year 101, as well as the discussion around biofuels. “They’ve spread an enormous amount of misinformation about renewable fuels.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen pointed to the oil industry’s campaign to mislead consumers, “saying ethanol is bad for engines, despite the fact it’s been used for decades. [The oil industry] points to one study, the Coordinating Research Council’s E15 study, ignoring the 42 other studies that were done demonstrating E15 is safe.”  Referencing the campaign saying E15 is bad for boats, Dinneen pointed out that E15 isn’t approved for marine engines, but the campaign implies all ethanol is bad. He cited comments from the technical chairman of the National Boat Racing Association who stated publicly E10 is great for boat engines and better for the environment.   

Dinneen also discounted the argument that fracking is going to solve energy problems in the U.S. “It certainly isn’t the way to lower the price of gasoline, fracking isn’t going to pencil out if the price of a barrel of oil were to fall,” he said.  Ethanol is the lowest priced transportation fuel on the market, he added, citing an oil industry analyst who has written that ethanol added to gasoline benefits consumers by reducing the prices of gasoline between 50 cents to $1.50 per gallon.

In his remarks, Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said that the proposal to roll back the renewable fuels standard does not make sense for the administration to even consider, considering that the RFS, an amendment to the Clean Air Act, is the only policy in place that requires CO2 reduction. “Over the last five years we’ve been able to reverse the decades-long trend and actually reduce the amount of CO2 the United States emits. A reduction of 36 million metric tons in 2013 compared to 2009 in the transportation sector. In everything the United States is doing from a policy standpoint to reduce carbon pollution, the renewable fuels standard is making the biggest impact by far.”

Erickson cited a report in the April edition of the Journal of Industrial Biotechnology that calculated the U.S. EPA’s proposal to roll back the RFS for 2014 would result in 28.2 million metric tons higher carbon emissions, effectively reversing the improvements made in the past five years. “That’s a striking thing considering the White House says climate change is one of its top three priorities,” he added.

The “Oil Rigged” campaign warns not to let the oil industry muddy the renewable fuels debate and “rig the system” against competition. The television advertisement notes that the oil industry reaped profits of “$177,000 per minute” last year at consumers’ and taxpayers’ expense.

“Oil companies have made the RFS the focus of hundreds of millions of dollars in distorted attacks, simply because the RFS is the most important policy moving America away from reliance on foreign oil and toward a healthier economy and environment,” the Fuels America news release launching the campaign said. “Embraced by both Democrats and Republicans and signed into law by President Bush, the RFS calls for the use of American-grown renewable fuels in our transportation fuel supply to benefit our economy and environment. Innovative renewable fuels support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.

“Fuels America stands with the thousands of farm families, workers, small business owners, environmental advocates, military families and veterans who submitted comments to the EPA in support of renewable fuels and a strong RFS. With the resources on OilRigged.com, consumers and decision-makers can avoid getting ‘oil rigged.’”