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Goliath Oil Industry's Ad Budget May Be Huge, But We Don't Have to Believe the Bunk

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This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

To get an idea of how much the fossil fuel industry is spending to convince you that more drilling, fracking and mining is the answer for our economy, consider this:

The industry has spent more on television advertising this year alone than the average American could expect to make over about 3,700 years of working, based on per today's capita earnings.

As The New York Times points out, spending on television ads promoting coal and oil and gas, or criticizing clean energy, has exceeded $153 million in this year alone. That's nearly four times the $41 million or so spent by clean energy advocates and others, according to the Times.

And remember, that's just television. That doesn't even count those ubiquitous "Vote4Energy" ads on the Web and elsewhere that the American Petroleum Institute -- the trade group for the oil and gas industry -- is bankrolling.

According to The Washington Post, API gets $133 million in annual dues each year from members -- the oil companies that are among the most profitable businesses in the world. Along with paying the $6.4 million salary of API's president, much of that money is earmarked for massive PR campaigns to try and convince Americans to stay dependent on oil and gas forever.

Truly, the story of the fossil fuels industry and the fledgling renewable energy industry (and the nonprofit groups that see renewable energy as a way to help our environment and our health) is a David vs. Goliath tale.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight back.

Just recently, NRDC released a series of radio ads in select states -- Virginia, North Carolina and Florida -- aimed at countering the oil industry's claims that drilling and fracking are the keys to economic revival in those states and others. You can listen to the radio spots here, under the LISTEN tab.

As the spots point out, instead of opening their beaches to drilling and their backyards to fracking, those states could instead build on the growing clean, renewable energy jobs base they've already got.

In my home state of North Carolina, for instance, nearly 103,000 residents were employed in clean energy, clean technology and other green jobs in 2010, according to a just-released report from DBL Investors, based on data from the Brookings Institution. Clean energy companies are announcing new jobs in North Carolina regularly now, such as this solar panel company in Henderson, N.C. or this biofuels plant in Sampson County, N.C.

Isn't it better to support a growing base of clean, renewable energy businesses in North Carolina than support drilling off the beaches of the Outer Banks and southern barrier islands?

Remember: More drilling doesn't mean lower gas prices -- it means more profits for oil companies. And since oil is sold on a global marketplace, American oil is just as likely to end up in China as in the Carolinas.

Of course as media stories such as one in The Hill and this one in E&E News point out, NRDC's little radio spots are next to nothing compared to the API's multimillion dollar ad campaign.

But that doesn't mean we should stop fighting back against Big Oil's bunk.

The stakes are too high and our children's health and the planet we leave them are too important to ever do that.

Follow Bob Keefe on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nrdc_press

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