Follow the Money

“My doctor said if I want to stay slender, I should reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet!” reads a typical cigarette ad from the ’50s. Another: “After ten months … medical specialists report no adverse effects from smoking Chesterfield.”

It wasn’t until 1964 that the Surgeon General’s report announced that cigarettes cause cancer. Guess what? Big Tobacco paid researchers to lie to us.

Fast forward to 2015, when a Harvard study revealed that ExxonMobil had known for years about the link between climate change and fossil-fuel emissions. Like R.J. Reynolds, the oil giant had quietly contributed to research to disprove evidence about their dangerous product.

Now, in our county, three oil companies propose to expand drilling; ExxonMobil wants to build a new pipeline; the feds are exploring fracking in Los Padres Forest; and the EPA threatens to withdraw protections for the Santa Maria aquifer. Many of the targeted areas border schools, churches, residences, and farms.

Among those who have spoken in favor of drilling is the president of Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, who claims that oil means jobs for students. However, according to the oil company’s figures, the result will be fewer than 10 new full-time jobs.

Furthermore, Aera Energy, the largest of the three companies, is a donor to the President’s Circle of Allan Hancock, while Aera’s public affairs manager Rick Rust sits on the college’s Board of Trustees.

UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project also receives funding from Aera. “Coincidentally,” the Economic Forecast states unequivocally that we are dependent on the money and jobs that oil brings to our county.

Neither entity factors in the financial burden of negative effects on our health, environment, and climate change.

If the tobacco companies told you today that smoking was good for you, would you believe them?


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