By Ben Cohen
The reaction of major oil companies to the overwhelming criticism of their polluting business was not to dramatically change their business, but to dramatically change their advertising. As George Monbiot of the Guardian put it, adverts would feature “Technicians with perfect teeth and open-necked shirts explaining how they were saving the world”.
In the U.K, the company Shell was battered by the Advertising Standards Authority and stopped producing the misleading ads in 2006. But according to Monbiot, who interviewed the CEO of Shell, the ads are back, and are as misleading as ever:
Since the interview was filmed,
Shell’s messianic tendencies appear to have resurfaced. In December the
company ran a series of ads in the Guardian suggesting again that it
had come to save the world. “Tackling climate change and providing fuel
for a growing population seems like an impossible problem, but at Shell
we try to think creatively”, one of these advertisements boasts(7). It
features a diagram of a human brain, divided into sections labelled
“fuel from algae”, “fuel from straw”, “fuel from woodchips”, “hydrogen
fuels”, “windfarm”, “gas to liquids” and “coal gasification”. This
suggests progress of a kind, in that the company is acknowledging that
it sometimes dabbles in fossil fuels, but its core business – oil – and
its massive investments in tar sands are missing from the corporate
mind. Could Shell be having a senior moment?
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.