The American Petroleum Institute didn't disclose a precise figure but said it would spend less than $100 million on advertisements per year, The Washington Post reported Friday.
"We decided that if we didn't do something to help people understand the basics of our industry, we'd be on the losing end as far as the eye could see," Red Cavaney, the institutes's president, told the Post.
As gas prices soar -- reaching an average of $3.65 per gallon at the pump this week -- the huge profits reported by oil concerns provokes a negative reaction with the public. In the first quarter of 2008, Exxon Mobile posted profits of $10.89 billion. Shell and BP also reported steep profit increases.
The public relations push has provoked a negative reaction of its own among consumer groups.
"It's basically deceptive advertising that dulls the natural and proper reaction of the public," Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America told the Post.