Billionaire investor Tom Steyer said he is backing a four-part, $1 million advertising campaign aimed at convincing viewers the Keystone XL pipeline will hurt the economy and communities and should be blocked.
“Foreign countries will get more access to more oil to make more products to sell back to us, undercutting our economy,” Steyer, founder of the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management LLC, says in the advertisement. “Here’s the truth: Keystone oil will travel through America not to America.”
Steyer’s commercials begin airing two months after the American Petroleum Institute, whose energy-industry members back the pipeline, started TV and online advertising portraying Keystone as a boon to job growth in the U.S.
“Rarely do leading Republicans, Democrats, business leaders and labor unions all agree,” according to a newspaper advertisement by the Washington-based oil industry lobbying group. “But on Keystone XL, they do.”
The Keystone pipeline would carry about 830,000 barrels a day from the oil sands of Alberta and shale formations in the U.S. across six states to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico coast. The administration has previously given approval for the pipeline’s southern leg to relieve an glut in Cushing, Oklahoma.
The U.S. State Department is considering the application of TransCanada Corp. (TRP) to build the rest of the pipeline. A decision, which ultimately lies with President Barack Obama, could be made within months. Environmental groups are urging Obama to reject the pipeline, arguing that it will increase production of the oil sands, destroying forests and worsening climate change.
Obama in July said he wouldn’t approve the project if the pipeline exacerbates global warming. He mocked proponents of Keystone in an interview with the New York Times for claiming that it would lead to tens of thousands of new jobs.
Steyer, an Obama donor, said his efforts are aimed at giving the president the political space to reject the pipeline. As the Keystone review faces possible further delay, the prospects for approval dim, according to Steyer.
And the California billionaire isn’t just focused on Keystone.
This year he started an independent political effort to elect candidates ready to tackle global warming. That campaign supported Democrat Ed Markey in his primary campaign for the Massachusetts Senate seat. Steyer’s group also is running $500,000 in advertisements against Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia’s governor race.
The message of today’s advertisement is that the pipeline won’t help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil or spur the American economy, because the oilsands will be sent to refineries along the Gulf Coast and then shipped out from there to China. It includes congressional testimony by a TransCanada executive who declined to pledge that the oil shipped through Keystone would stay in the U.S.
It’s not the first time Steyer has made this argument, and TransCanada has previously taken issue with him. The company posted a blog response to Steyer in June, saying, “It simply doesn’t make sense for companies to purchase cheaper Canadian crude, ship that product overseas while continuing to import higher priced oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.”
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