Americans for Prosperity creates jobs in China

by Matt Garrington

Last week, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) wrapped up their tour to push Big Oil’s agenda under the guise of more jobs and lower energy prices in an effort to weaken protections for our air, water, public lands and oceans.

Ironically, it turns out that the AFP tour did help promote jobs … in China. Part of the free giveaways to the few who actually showed up to the “Running on Empty” tour stops, included $20 gas cards to Diamond Shamrock and small foam gas station pumps.

It turns out the toys were a made in China (see photo). Talk about a rookie campaign mistake.

The gaffe says everything about what AFP is all about … lining the pockets of their funders like the oil refinery magnates the Koch Brothers and Big Oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell and BP… while ignoring what is actually important to western states and American families.

If AFP is going to be shilling for multinational oil companies and conservative political operatives, the least they could do is make sure the props are made in America.

The props and gifts didn’t do much for turnout. Most of the events had less than 50 people and were accompanied by an equal or greater number of opposition voices (the notable exception being the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs).

And the $20 Diamond Shamrock gas cards seems like a paltry consolation prize to the $67.4 billion in profits oil and gas companies have made in the first half of 2011 thanks to the high prices Americans have been paying them at the pump.

Even Diamond Shamrock’s parent company, Valero, continued its climb away from junk bond rating status with $744 million in Quarter 2 profits, a 28 percent increase over last year.

The facts behind AFP’s tour were also a little thin. They blamed President Obama for a doubling in gas prices. The problem is that it’s just not true. The Denver Post’s political blogger, Lynn Bartels, pointed out that gas prices topped $4 per gallon under George Bush in May 2008. The Denver Post piece also covered ProgressNow’s counter effort which pointed to the tradeoff Republicans such as Reps. Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton have asked Americans to make between funding Social Security and Medicare and Big Oil tax breaks.

When it comes down to it, the “Running On Empty” tour is about more giveaways to oil and gas companies – only this time it is in the form of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the treasured landscape of the West.

Credit should be given where credit is deserved, however. Jeff Crank of AFP did tell Coloradans that he “couldn’t be more against subsidies to Big Oil companies.” (Video courtesy of Colorado Eyes on Congress.) It’s just too bad that they are spending their money from the Koch Brothers supporting the dismantling of air, water, and land protections instead of ending $15 billion a year in special tax breaks to Big Oil which they purport to support.

Barrasso and Hastings turn energy discussion into a pro-industry spin zone

The energy debate continued to get more contentious when wildly illogical arguments were tossed out during roundtable discussion hosted by Politico.

The voices, from all sides of the energy debate, included Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Rep. Dianne DeGette (D-Colo.), former head of the EPA Carol Browner and Doug Holtz-Eakin formerly of John McCain’s presidential campaign.

While DeGette and Browner pushed back on pro-industry, energy policies, Barrasso and Hastings mostly defended the dirty energy sources that fund their campaigns. Not surprisingly, the discussion took a heated turn when both were asked to vote against energy subsidies.

A time to kill subsidies?

Carol Browner wasn’t going to let Hastings and Barrasso get away with flip-flopping on their feelings over government handouts. Barrasso, who earlier in the debate made the claim that green job created in America come at the expense of two non-green jobs, got oddly squeamish when Browner asked him why he wouldn’t eliminate the subsidies to the oil industry. Barrasso who has been pushing pro-industry legislation over the past six months said Congress needed to revisit the whole tax code before focusing on just a portion of it.

The hypocrisy was immediately pointed out: “So your okay with focusing on just ethanol subsidies, but when it comes to oil subsidies you simply say you want to deal with the entire tax code? If that’s your argument, I happy to have it with the American people,” said Browner.

Hastings got dizzy on his own spin when he tried to address the issue. “Subsidies should be eliminated over time. The question is when is that time? When the market plays its role,” said Hastings to a surprised audience. If Hastings is willing to let the market decide then the record profits posted by Big Oil in the first quarter should be a clear indicator to get rid of oil and gas subsidies.

Spinning the high gas prices

While the subsidies debate was a ‘he said, she said,’ the panel appeared to run amok with solutions to high gas prices. It was even suggested that the United States should drill its way out of the problem. “It is short sided to ignore the abundance of oil in the Western lands,” he the industry-backed Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Since assuming the role (and collecting nearly $100 thousand in oil and gas campaign contributions during the 2010 cycle) has tried several times to open up land for drilling. It would also be short sided for the oil and gas industry to continue to let the 21 million leased acres go undeveloped.

Hastings’ solution was undercut by Holz-Eakin, who acknowledged that gas prices are set on a global market and that getting more fuel into the market won’t have any affect on prices in the short term. Holz-Eakin used this logic to lampoon President Obama’s deployment of the strategic oil reserve, but drifted away from the idea when compromised on Hastings spin.

Fuzzy economic memory

During a brief question and answer session from the audience Brooks Yeager of the Clean Air Cool Planet pressed Holtz-Eakin why he was not focused on reducing demand when America produces five percent of the oil and uses 25 percent of the global supply. Holtz-Eakin simply replied that he wants to get more energy out there but added no analysis to Yeager’s economic inquiry.

“He seemed to forget about economics all of a sudden, funny how that works,” said Yeager when asked by The Checks and Balances Project if he was satisfied with Holtz-Eakin’s answer.

 

A job over clean air

Among the most unsatisfying answers was Barrasso’s job attack against climate change policies. “I’d rather have a job than clean air,” he said when discussing the economics of cleaning up the atmosphere. Still no clarity on how that supports the clean energy debate. One thing is clear: During the 2012 election the GOP’s stance is to push jobs at the cost of everything else.