Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Fossil fuel companies and interest groups that represent them have spent $247 million so far this year on ad campaigns, according to data complied by the marketing research group Kantar Media. The Alliance for Climate Protection, the group started by Al Gore, compiled data on both national and state-level ad buys these companies have made this year.
While other studies have looked at advertisements specifically aimed at legislation or candidates, it's also worth pointing to how much these companies have spent on general advertising and PR, just to keep their brands or products in the public consciousness. These have included more than $16 million spent on advertising this year by the coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity to promote, as the name would imply, the idea of "clean coal."
Then there's BP, which has spent $125 million this year on ads, including its ubiquitous "We will make this right" series in response to the massive oil spill they unleashed on the Gulf of Mexico. BP's efforts to win back the public and counter the brand damage in the wake of the spill accounted for more than half of all the spending by energy companies and related interest groups included in this study.
The figures certainly provide a good sense of how much money these companies have on hand just for efforts to shape public opinion. "Big oil pollutes the Gulf, pollutes the air and now is polluting our airwaves," said Giselle Barry, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Climate Protection. "The public has the right to know it’s these same people funding many of the worst political attack ads."