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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Behind the Spin, the Oil Giants are More Dangerous Than Ever

by George Monbiot

For a company that claims to have moved "beyond petroleum", BP has managed to spill an awful lot of it on to the tundra in Alaska. Last week, after the news was leaked to journalists, it admitted to investors that it is facing criminal charges for allowing 270,000 gallons of crude oil to seep across one of the world's most sensitive habitats. The incident was so serious that some of its staff could be sent to prison.

Had this been Exxon, the epitome of sneering corporate brutality, the news would have surprised no one. But BP's rebranding, like Shell's, has been so effective that you could be forgiven for believing that it had become an environmental pressure group. These companies have used the vast profits from their petroleum business to create the impression that they are abandoning it.

Shell's adverts feature photos of its technologists in open-necked shirts and showing perfect teeth (which proves they can't be real greens). They tell stories of their brave experiments with wind power, hydrogen, biofuels and natural gas. The chairman of Shell UK was one of the 14 signatories to a letter sent by businesses to Tony Blair a week ago, calling for the government to exercise "bold leadership on domestic climate change policy" in order to speed "the transition to a low-carbon economy".

BP's adverts tell the same story, illustrated with its logo - a kind of green and yellow sunflower which looks rather like the Green party's. So what on earth was it doing in Alaska, messing around with crude oil? Don't its filling stations now dispense pure carrot juice?

Admittedly BP's latest campaign, "exploring new ways to live without" oil, was prefaced with adverts boasting about its new means of finding the stuff. "By developing innovative technology like BP's Advanced Seismic Imaging, we've been able to make discoveries that were unthinkable only a decade ago." But even this campaign seeks to answer an environmental concern.

For the past two or three years, environmentalists (myself included) have been publicising the idea that global oil production might soon peak and then go into decline. This possibility helps to demonstrate, we argue, that our dependence on oil is unsustainable, and we must find means of giving it up. The oil companies have seized our arguments and are using them for the opposite purpose: if oil supplies are in danger, they must be permitted to prospect in new places. --------------
read the rest here...Behind the Spin, the Oil Giants are More Dangerous Than Ever


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