WASHINGTON -- A Washington advocacy group with close ties to Big Oil started running ads Thursday on South Carolina radio stations, targeting Sen. Lindsey Graham for supporting taxes on carbon emissions.
The American Energy Alliance, funded in part by oil and natural gas companies, utilities and other energy-industry firms, launched the initiative in response to Graham's recent collaboration with Sen. John Kerry on cap-and-trade legislation.
The group's ad is aimed at listeners of mainly conservative radio talk shows and will run through Oct. 30, Patrick Creighton, its communications director, said Thursday.
"This is going to be more than a radio campaign," Creighton said. "We're going to roll out additional TV and Internet ads in the next few weeks."
Graham, a military lawyer and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and the party's 2004 presidential nominee, wrote an Oct. 11 column in the New York Times.
"Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence," the two senators wrote.
Their column sketched a potential compromise in which Democrats would allow offshore oil drilling and new nuclear power plants, while Republicans would recognize global warming as an urgent problem and accept caps on carbon emissions from big factories and power plants.
The anti-Graham radio spot starts by noting that the economic recession "has pushed local businesses to the brink" and raised South Carolina's unemployment rate to 11.6 percent.
"So why would Senator Lindsey Graham support new energy taxes -- called cap-and-trade -- that will further harm our economy and kill millions of American jobs?" the ad's female narrator asks.
A cap-and-trade system would allow companies that don't want to install equipment to decrease carbon dioxide emissions to buy emission credits from other firms that have lowered their factories' release of the pollutants into the air.
Such a system would not impose new taxes, but cap-and-trade opponents say it would cause energy price increases tantamount to higher taxes.
While the radio spot acknowledges that Graham hasn't come out for any specific cap-and-trade bill, it says the package he backs "will likely be similar" to a measure the U.S. House passed in June.
Graham accused the American Energy Alliance of misrepresenting his views on how Republicans and Democrats should work together to start combating global warming.
"People can say what they want to say," Graham told McClatchy. "It's a free country, but they can't make stuff up."
Graham said his column with Kerry and related climate change proposals have received a positive response within and beyond South Carolina.
"I've gotten more praise than hate from South Carolina," he said. "I can't tell you how many business people have called me from my state. People involved in the energy industry are very excited about what we're trying to do."
Graham said he opposes the House bill crafted by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who heads a special global-warming panel set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
At a town hall meeting with constituents in Greenville last week, Graham said, "What I'm trying to do is make sure that the Markey-Waxman bill is dead because it will have about an $800 individual cost per person. When you apply that to small businesses, that's a huge problem. If the EPA regulates carbon and there (are) no tools available for businesses, particularly manufacturing, to comply, that's the worst of all worlds."
Graham and Kerry said in their column that if Congress doesn't pass compromise cap-and-trade legislation, the Obama administration will impose a more onerous system through regulations enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
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