Business Lobby Ad Buy Tries to Put Clean Face on Pipeline’s Dirty Tar Sands Crude; It Fails

Perhaps you’ve seen a TV ad supporting the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline expansion project through northern Minnesota. The Consumer Energy Alliance announced the ad buy Sept. 17.

Here’s what you need to know about the Consumer Energy Alliance. It’s not about consumers the way you and I see ourselves as consumers, individuals making small purchases in a grocery store. The Alliance represents large corporate interests. The players and organizations involved in the Alliance would not have to live with the consequences of a northern Minnesota oil spill. The Alliance does not appear to be concerned about the project’s broader environmental impacts. It is looking at spread sheets, not communities.

A 2016 Consumer Energy Alliance media release lists board members. They were:

  • Wayne Zemke, Alliance Chair, a marketing executive with Caterpillar, Inc.
  • Brett Vassey, Alliance Vice Chair, president and CEO of the Virginia Manufacturers Association
  • Brain Welch, Treasurer, managing director at Wortham Insurance & Risk Management in Houston
  • John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for Airlines for America
  • Mark Pulliam, solution partner with Sabre Airline Solutions
  • John Eichberger, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores
  • Jennifer Diggins, Director of Public Affairs at Nucor (with the tagline: “North America’s largest recycler”)

One of the new ads is set in a dairy farm, the other in a gas station/service center/convenience store in a small suburban community. Hidden from the viewer are the corporations pushing the pipeline.

One ad tries to raise fears of a gas shortage and $4 a gallon gas. The other ad speculates on what would happen to a farmer if he was unable to get gas or propane for a day. These are highly unlikely scenarios based on current energy supplies. More importantly, if Minnesota denies the Line 3 permits, it would not trigger the energy shortages and gas price hikes the ad speculates. Line 3 is too small to have that kind of impact on the nation’s energy supply.

Here is what the ads don’t tell you:

  • The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently released testimony that there is not a need for Line 3.
  • The project’s “social costs of carbon” is $287 billion over 30 years, according to the Environmental Impact Statement. These costs don’t affect Enbridge’s bottom line; they get shifted to governments and consumers. (The social cost of carbon estimates the project’s climate change damages. They include changes in net agricultural productivity; human health; property damages from increased flood risk, and more.)
  • The United States is a net exporter of gasoline. This new Canadian tar sands crude would increase petroleum exports, not increase our energy security.
  • The pipeline will cross the Mississippi River twice, including once at the headwaters.
  • Enbridge’s 2010 crude oil spill into the Kalamazoo River cost more than $1 billion to clean up.
  • Line 3 threatens Minnesota’s wild rice areas and violates Anishinaabe treaty rights.

The ads biggest distortion is its claim to help “Modernize Minnesota.” Truth is, there is nothing modern about fossil fuels.They are an old technology that is fading away. Minnesota’s petroleum sales are down 19 percent since the 2004 peak.

If we truly want to modernize Minnesota, we would invest more — and create more jobs — in clean and renewable energy, including solar and wind energy and battery storage technology.

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