BP, API lead fossil fuel investments in digital ads
Plus, national climate groups pressure Glenn Youngkin to stay in the RGGI
Welcome to Climate Monitor, your weekly digest of the digital tactics and strategies that polluters and climate-action groups are deploying online to shift public opinion and move legislation. We’ve examined political ad spending on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Google by several dozen groups and corporations from the past week, as well as their activities on social media. Tell your colleagues to subscribe here!
What we found:
The EDF Action Fund and NRDC Action Fund have launched a collaborative digital ad campaign to try to keep Virginia in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and potentially bring Pennsylvania into the program.
The League of Conservation Voters is running new ads criticizing Big Oil’s greed, while Sierra Club has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dire warnings in the latest IPCC report.
BP has doubled its spending on an ad celebrating climate legislation in Washington state, and the American Petroleum Institute is running yet more digital ads connecting “energy independence” to national security.
High gas prices remain a salient issue on social media, and climate-skeptic online pundits are trying to weaponize the surrounding frustration to undermine climate and clean energy efforts by progressives and Democrats.
National Digital Ad Spending on Climate
First, here are the top 25 spenders nationwide on climate and energy-related ads on Meta platforms from last week:
Spending on Meta political ads by climate groups that we track has held steady at about $250k per week for the past month or so, and last week was no different. The top spenders among these include the EDF Action Fund, which last week concluded a relatively large ad campaign supporting the Growing Climate Solutions Act. The group has also spent around $2k so far on a campaign targeting Virginia calling on Gov. Glenn Youngkin to stay in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. At the same time, the NRDC Action Fund launched its first Meta ad campaign since last month, using Facebook and Instagram ads that either call on Youngkin to stay in the RGGI or call on Pennsylvania lawmakers to bring their state into the initiative. Their campaign seems to mostly target young and middle-aged women in each state.
We also found some interesting ads from Sierra Club, which has been steadily increasing its Meta political ad spending each week since mid-February. Last week, they ran ads criticizing the USPS for opting to buy gas-powered over electric vehicles for its new fleet, and they spent around $3.5k on ads promoting this year’s ominous IPCC report. Also last week, the League of Conservation Voters launched a whole fleet of ads that are trying to rebut the notion that drilling more oil would lower gas prices, while also arguing that corporate greed is to blame. Finally, we want to give a shout-out to Action for the Climate Emergency, which is spending a few hundred dollars on a Meta ad campaign calling on the platform itself to do more to combat climate disinformation. These ads mostly target teenage girls in Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
We found that fossil groups once again significantly increased their spending on Meta political ads last week compared to the previous week, but that doesn’t appear to be because any of the groups we track launched new campaigns on Facebook or Instagram. Rather, the increase in spending was largely driven by BP and the American Petroleum Institute, which together invested over $130k in ongoing campaigns. BP is continuing to tout Washington state’s Climate Commitment Act, while API’s Energy Citizens is running more ads connecting fossil fuels with “energy independence” and national security.
Overall, here’s a look at how weekly spending on Meta political ads by climate groups and polluters compare week-over-week so far this year:
Google + YouTube
Spending by climate groups on Google political ads seems to remain scarce, but we did find that Michigan LCV has spent $3,300 on a series of YouTube + banner ads calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to pass SB 565, which would invest $3.3 billion in a variety of water infrastructure improvements. Interestingly, the YouTube ads target the state’s most populous counties, while the banner ads target every other county in Michigan. Check out the ad:
Otherwise, Clearpath Action Fund is still running its campaign supporting Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Dan Newhouse, on which the group spent another $4,900 last week.
Last week, Patagonia spent $600 on Spanish ads promoting a Spanish-language event in San Diego that discussed the benefits of applying a green infrastructure approach to stormwater management: “La infraestructura verde es un enfoque para la gestión de aguas pluviales que protege, restaura e imita el ciclo natural del agua.”
Overall, here are the top spenders on Snapchat ads related to climate change, clean energy, and conservation so far this year:
Climate, clean energy, and conservation ads in this year’s key states
Out of the biggest races in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, we picked up a few new and ongoing Facebook ad campaigns from top candidates:
GA-SEN: Raphael Warnock launched additional ads promoting his gas tax relief bill. In one vertical video, the senator stands at a gas pump: “I’m proposing that we suspend the federal gas tax until January of next year. Ordinary families are feeling the pinch; they’re trying to buy gas, they’re trying to buy groceries. We oughta cut their taxes, and we oughta hold the oil and gas companies accountable, who are seeing record profits while people are paying record prices. This is something we can do for families right now, we need Congress to pass my federal gas tax relief bill. We oughta do it, we oughta do it right now.”
NC-SEN: Ted Budd is running a simple text ad targeting older residents in North Carolina: “Joe Biden’s solution to our record gas prices, which stem from well before the Ukraine invasion, is to purchase oil from the Communist Party of Venezuela when instead he should be focusing on suspending the federal gas tax, increasing our domestic oil production, releasing more petroleum from our reserves, and opening the keystone pipeline [sic]. Don’t allow anyone to say that Presidents don’t affect gas prices. It’s a slap in the face to our economy and every single American citizen who has escaped the horrors of Maduro’s communist regime.”
NV-SEN: In a series of nationwide fundraising ads, the Catherine Cortez Masto campaign wrote: “Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is a tireless champion for working families, fighting to make health care more affordable, protect voting rights and reproductive freedoms and to combat climate change.”
OH-SEN: Mike Gibbons spent less than $200 on an ad targeting older Ohioans promoting himself signing The Empowerment Alliance’s “America’s Declaration of Energy Independence”, saying, “Proud to sign America's Declaration of Energy Independence to protect our country’s energy industry and help make America energy independent again! #OHSen”
PA-GOV: Last week, Dave White launched a nationwide Facebook + Instagram ad targeted at older Americans featuring an oil well with a flying American flag tied to it: “Sky-high gas prices have made it clear. We know what needs to happen, but Biden won’t do it. Sign your name to demand that Joe Biden make America energy independent.”
PA-SEN: Dave McCormick used a Facebook + Instagram ad to promote his recent spot on Fox Business: “Joined Mornings with Maria today to discuss my plan to combat rising gas prices, rising aggression from Russia & our adversaries, Joe Biden’s border crisis, and finally hold China accountable.”
PA-Sen: Carla Sands launched a new ad featuring herself angrily shredding what appears to be the Build Back Better Act: “A massive tax on small businesses. The largest expansion of welfare programs in 60 years. Green New Deal, a tax on Pennsylvania’s energy jobs. We need to reject this socialist madness and take our country back.”
Reaching Frontline Communities
Last week, a pair of local advocacy groups in New Mexico - NM Native Vote and New Mexico Voices for Children - launched a collaborative Facebook and Instagram ad campaign pushing for new natural gas rules and cleaner air. The former has spent less than $200 promoting a Santa Fe New Mexican op-ed by a Native clean energy advocate, while the latter has spent a similar amount on a pair of ads raising awareness about how new rules could improve air quality, specifically for children. All of these ads are mostly targeted at young adult women in the state.
Tracking Climate Disinfo Online
Triplecheck identified approximately 480 tweets with more than 10 retweets and 390 Facebook posts with more than 10 engagements that contained misinformation or toxic narratives related to the environment from March 16, 2022, through March 21, 2022.
More than seven million people were exposed to this content on Twitter during the time period reviewed, a decrease from last week's exposure levels. The content had over 130,000 engagements on Facebook, a decrease from last week's exposure levels.
Approximately 50 percent of the people exposed to misinformation or toxic narratives related to the environment on Twitter were exposed to one of the following themes:
Gas prices are high and job losses are mounting because of the Green New Deal;
Out of touch liberals are calling for a climate state of emergency;
Biden wants to end drilling on Federal lands (from a 2020 primary debate).
These narratives were also the focus of approximately 70 percent of the Facebook engagements identified in our tracking. You can find Triplecheck’s full report here.
Measuring the National Organic Conversation
Overall, the top three Facebook posts mentioning climate change and related terms last week came from Millennial Review (114.6k interactions), President Joe Biden (104.1k interactions), and The Other 98% (78.3k interactions).
Aside from one post from Franklin Graham that echoed Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy in criticizing Biden for “searching for oil anywhere on the planet except at home,” which got 59.6k interactions, most of the top posts mentioning climate change, energy, or related terms came from Democratic and progressive pages. Almost all of these argued that oil companies’ greed has more to do with rising gas prices than any supply issues; we found some highly engaged posts from Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Robert Reich, Occupy Democrats, and Ro Khanna that all argued as much. Each of these posts got over 30k interactions.
By contrast, a post from Patriots United celebrating restarted oil wells in Montana got just 22.4k interactions; a post from Donald Trump Jr. praising his father for predicting “everything with the oil crisis and Russia” got just 22.8k interactions, and; a post from Carla Sands calling for an “Operation Warp Speed for American energy” got just 22.2k interactions.
Over on Instagram, the top three posts mentioning climate change, energy, and related terms came from National Geographic (420.2k interactions thanks to a cute panda video), 9gag (292k interactions), and worldstar (243.8k interactions). Once again, memes about high gas prices got far more engagement on Instagram than any climate-related post, and the most-engaged political post on the subject came from the_typical_liberal, which is continuing to malign Biden for the president’s refusal to increase domestic oil production more than he already has. His video post got 97k interactions and 856.5k views. Additionally, a post from British soccer fan page sporf mocking a climate protestor for disrupting a game got 81.6k interactions. And, a run-of-the-mill own-the-libs post about gas prices from Dinesh D’Souza got 67.7k interactions.
All that said, we did identify a couple of relatively highly-engaged Instagram posts from progressive pages last week. First, Jane Fonda announcing her Jane Fonda Climate PAC got 76.8k interactions and 467k video views. And finally, the White House graph comparing oil and gas prices, posted by Joe Biden, got 63.1k interactions.
That’s it for Climate Monitor this week. As always, head to climatemonitor.substack.com to see these updates in real-time as we publish them throughout the week!
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