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American Petroleum Institute starts choosing key candidates

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The nation's largest oil and gas trade group on Tuesday started a campaign aimed at promoting candidates for the midterm congressional elections who support industry-friendly energy policies.

Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said during his annual State of American Energy address that lawmakers' decisions over the next few years could influence whether the United States remains dependent on foreign oil or breaks a 40-year bond to the Middle East.“If we are to continue our nation's current positive energy production trends, we must implement energy policies based on current reality and our potential as an energy leader, not the outdated political ideology of the professional environmental fringe or political dilettantes,” Gerard said during a speech at the Newseum in Washington.

The “America's Energy, America's Choice” campaign will feature print and TV advertising and a website at chooseenergy.org. Gerard's speech and the website promote how more U.S. production of oil and gas brings more jobs and money to the economy.

A report the group released in connection with the speech argues for lower taxes on the industry, approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline between the United States and Canada, opening more federal land to drilling and increased exports of liquefied natural gas. Gerard also renewed a call to end a nearly 40-year ban on exporting crude oil.

“The worst thing for government to do is distort the marketplace,” he said about the practice of limiting American supply overseas.

He noted that before the speech, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the top Republican on the Energy Committee, called for an end to the ban.

Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia, an expert on House elections, said the midterm campaign could affect elections in targeted districts, but only if the group spends a lot of money.

“One million dollars in 10 races may not make a difference, but $1 million in one race might move the needle,” he said.

“They will have to not just target states where they think their message is important, but different parts of states,” he said, noting that energy policy might weigh more heavily on the minds of Pennsylvania voters in Marcellus shale country than in Philadelphia.

The lobbying group did not say how much it would spend on the campaign or identify any particular races.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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