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UPDATE 1-Big Oil launches campaign to fend off U.S. Democrat drilling ban threat

Valerie Volcovici

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WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. oil and gas industry on Tuesday unveiled a public relations campaign to tout its importance to the economy and role in cutting carbon emissions - part of an effort to defuse rising political pressure on drillers over climate change.

The multi-million dollar advertising blitz comes as U.S. Democrats hoping to unseat President Donald Trump in Novembers election vow to rapidly shift the country away from planet-warming fossil fuels if elected. Several candidates https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-climate-factbox/factbox-climate- p o l i c i e s - o f - t o p - u - s - d e m o c r a t s - i n - 2 0 2 0 - p r e s i d e n t i a l - r a c e - i d U S K C N 1 V P 1 5 A have promised to end new drilling on public lands, and some have proposed a national ban on hydraulic fracturing.

We know many candidates now are talking about this industry and we want to make sure the American people hear our story, said Mike Sommers, the head of the American Petroleum Institute industry group, which launched the campaign.

He said the campaign, which will have a "seven figure" price tag, would emphasize both the industry's role in reducing national emissions through its promotion of cleaner-burning natural gas, as well the importance of drilling to the economy.

He said an API study showed that banning hydraulic fracturing, a form of drilling that has triggered a record boom in oil and gas production, would kill 7.3 million jobs by 2022 and cost the economy $7.1 trillion by 2030.

Democratic presidential contenders say a transition to a zero-emission economy can create millions of new jobs in clean energy industries like solar and wind.

The United States has become the worlds top oil and gas producer thanks to the hydraulic fracturing-led drilling boom, which opened up new tough-to-reach reserves.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions http://news.trust.org/item/20200107102718-xnfy5, meanwhile, have been declining for about a decade, thanks mainly to the replacement of scores of old and inefficient coal-fired power plants with natural gas facilities.

But the future of U.S. emissions has been cast into doubt as the Trump administration seeks to boost domestic fossil fuels development by rolling back Obama-era climate protections and other environmental regulations.

Environmentalists also say natural gas is not as clean as the industry bills it, because large volumes of planet-warming methane escape into the atmosphere during drilling and piping.

While the oil industry has been a vocal supporter of the Trump administration's regulatory rollbacks, the API's ad campaign will cast the industry as an ally of Democrats and environmentalists seeking to cut emissions.

On issues that matter, like climate change, we are more alike than we think, according to one of the ads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87ObTFn68ic&feature=youtu.be. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis Editing by Marguerita Choy)