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State A enacts the Carbon Conservation Act (the Act) to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The Act prohibits advertising for both gasoline and gasoline-powered vehicles within 500 feet of any public transit hub, including any bus stop or airport, and on or in any train, bus, airplane, or other vehicle used for mass transit. These restrictions are broad enough to prohibit these advertisements anywhere within a major metropolitan area.
Before passing the Act, State A commissioned several studies. The studies show that people are more likely to take public transit, and thus reduce their carbon footprint, if they are not exposed to advertisements for gasoline-powered cars. But the studies also find that the Act’s prohibition on advertising gasoline does not lead consumers to reduce their carbon footprint, while showing that educating consumers about the adverse environmental effects of gas-powered vehicles would achieve the same effect as to bar advertising these vehicles.
ABC Co., a corporation that produces petroleum, proposes to launch a new ad campaign for its standard petroleum. The message is primarily targeted at a competitor’s recently launched alternative fuel product that allegedly runs cleaner than traditional gasoline. Specifically, the advertisement displays a can of gasoline, alongside a gas-powered car, and states: “Fuel your car the way Mother Nature intended.” ABC Co. wants not only to place billboards throughout the state, but also to advertise on public transit vehicles, like trains, and in major transportation hubs.
State A denies ABC Co.’s request, citing the prohibitions in the Act.
ABC Co. sues to challenge the Act, arguing that the Act violates the First Amendment freedom of expression. Assume that ABC Co.’s advertisement is an advertisement of gasoline and gasoline-powered cars, and therefore falls within the prohibitions of the Act. Further assume that using gasoline and gasoline-powered vehicles in State A is lawful.