Big Oil: Masters of Deception and Inhumanity

05/22/2015 08:16 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2016

Last week, the American Petroleum Institute -- the primary lobbying group for the oil and gas industry -- hit a new low in their use of deceptive advertising.

The lobbyists launched a huge advertising campaign throughout the country aimed at stopping the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from doing its job, which is protecting the public from unsafe levels of pollution.


Right now, the EPA is considering setting a more protective ozone standard, which would limit the amount of ozone, a greenhouse gas, that states can allow into the air. This is not something the agency does because federal bureaucrats woke up and decided they wanted to write hundreds of pages of new regulations. Devising rules to protect public health is their job.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review up-to-date scientific and medical literature every five years to help determine what levels of ozone, also called smog, are unsafe. The problem: Big Oil sees that critical mission as a threat to their bottom line, despite their billions in profit, and has pulled out all the stops to kill the proposal.

Ozone, created when exhaust from factories, power plants, cars and trucks mix in sunlight, is a dangerous pollutant that causes asthma attack and worsens other breathing illnesses like COPD. To put it simply, ozone kills. That's why we hear all those smog alerts during summertime weather reports when ozone levels are so high that those with asthma or other breathing illnesses cannot play, work or exercise safely outdoors.

To big oil, and lobbyists for other major polluters, like the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a tougher standard could mean having to spend money on pollution reduction technology to limit the smog they spew into the air. And they'd rather that American families foot the bill for emergency medical room care, asthma medicine or missed days of work and school than to have to cough up some of their profits.

It's for that reason that they're committed to spending enormous sums of money to defeat a more stringent standard. And they're pushing every elected official that they've bought off through campaign contributions to come out against a stronger standard.

The EPA has said that the current ozone standard of 75 parts per billion is unsafe and has proposed lowering it to somewhere between 65-70 ppb. A standard of 65 ppb would save some 4,300 lives each year and prevent nearly 1 million asthma attacks, EPA analysis shows.

Big Oil can't say people's lives and their health don't matter. So they're using fear mongering about impacts of a more protective ozone standard on jobs, the economy and families by cooking up numbers.

Fiction for Big Oil is always more effective than the truth.

But don't take my word for it. Frank Ackerman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology lecturer and economist told Media Matters that the huge jobs losses and economic impacts cited by NAM, which Big Oil relies on, were based on "fraudulent" calculations.

Similarly, NYU's Michael Livermore said these lobbyists calculated costs "in an insane way," noting that they based the costs of pollution reduction for ozone on the cost of pollution reduction from the "cash for clunkers" economic stimulus program. And the two have nothing to do with each other. It's like comparing the costs of my monthly bills and debt with the debt of Donald Trump. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing.

But when you have the morals of slaveowners for whom profits outweigh concerns about human life, the truth and people's health don't matter much. Big oil cares nothing about clean air and nothing about public health. They care only about amassing more wealth. It's profits over people for these peddlers of death.

Big Oil ignores the fact that the economy has tripled since the Clean Air Act became law in 1970 and air pollution has reduced some 70 percent. They ignore the billions in healthcare savings, which EPA estimates will outweigh the costs of new standards.

Ironically and hypocritically, these major polluters say they support the current ozone standard set in 2008 -- ignoring the fact that they've spent decades opposing EPA's attempts to strengthen ozone standards.

Fortunately, public health and environmental groups are committed to strengthening the current standard. And the EPA has a wealth of scientific data on its side that support better protection from air pollution. So while Big Oil and their lackeys, like Sen. James Inhofe, (R-Okla) who get paid to toot the horn for the industry are doing they're dirty work, they're encountering a major fight from those who are truly battling for clean air.