Four Pinocchios for ‘Jingoistic’ Steyer Ad

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer / AP

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer / AP


NextGen Climate Action, the activist group run by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, fudged the facts in a new ad attacking the Keystone XL pipeline, according to Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.

Kessler said he “takes no position on whether the Keystone pipeline would be good or bad, but this ad does not even meet the minimal standards for such political attack ads.”

“It relies on speculation, not facts, to make insinuations and assertions not justified by the reality,” he wrote.

The ad in question claims that oil shipped via the proposed Keystone pipeline from Canadian oil sands will be primarily exported the China. It cites Chinese investment in the Canadian oil sector and shows a Canadian flag morphing into a Chinese one.

Kessler notes that Chinese investment is actually minimal compared to that from other countries.

For all the jingoistic images, China at the moment is actually a small player in this game. The Globe and Mail chart shows that Royal Dutch Shell currently has three times as much production in the oils sands as Nexen. Perhaps the ad should have turned Canadian flag into the Dutch flag?

The ad also includes a statement from Alexander Pourbaix, a TransCanada executive in charge of the company’s pipeline projects, saying that he cannot guarantee that American oil imports will match the amount of crude exported from Gulf Coast terminals to which Keystone will carry Canadian oil.

The NextGen ad completely misrepresents the statement, Kessler notes. “The ad simply highlights [a portion of his answer] and then invents a question he was not asked.”

Kessler concludes:

Chinese state investment in the Canadian oil sands is an interesting development, but not worthy of the jingoistic treatment given here. While depending on market conditions some refined products may be exported, there is no evidence that every single barrel of oil would simply pass through the pipeline on the way to overseas shores. The twisting of [TransCanada executive Alexander] Pourbaix’s remarks is especially disturbing, even by the standards of attack ads.