Posted by keith on March 2nd, 2009
Oil companies want you to use their products, and despite what they may appear to say, they really want you to use oil. I will repeat this: oil companies want you to use oil. That seems obvious, but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise – I really would forgive you.
In fact, it would be fair to say that, given the raison d’etre of any oil company is to make money from selling oil, they will consider anything that does not allow them to make a profit from selling oil as commercial suicide. Nevertheless – and this is why I would forgive you – they are doing an incredible job convincing us that they are actually benign, even beneficial, entities. The public at large are very much aware that oil companies trade in death; not only through their greenhouse gas emitting activities, but through their politically smokescreened desire to expand their global reach, whatever the environmental or social cost.
They are prepared to start wars to get oil.
They are prepared to destroy ecosystems to get oil.
They are prepared to displace humans to get oil.
They are prepared to do anything it takes to ensure that they profit from the business of extracting, refining, distributing and selling oil. But looking like a monster isn’t a good thing in these marginally more environmentally conscious days (if only from the point of view of the public), so it is vital to look and sound like the Jolly Green Giant – and the less you look like a giant at all, the more likely you are to convince us all that oil isn’t such a bad thing, and neither is economic growth, mass consumption, ceaseless driving and hyperexploitation of disappearing habitats.
We’re all in this together, aren’t we? Chevron want you to Join Them: “Will You Join Us” they plaintively ask, “we care too.”
One of the most critical environmental challenges facing the world today is reducing long-term growth in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The use of fossil fuels to meet the world’s energy needs has contributed to an increase in GHGs—mainly carbon dioxide and methane—in the earth’s atmosphere. Many think this increase is leading to climate change, with potentially adverse effects on people, economies, and the environment—from coastal flooding, to droughts, to changes in ecosystems and biodiversity. Many governments and businesses agree on the importance of addressing the risk of climate change. The challenge is to do so while still providing the energy required to meet the demands of growing populations and economies.
Time to deconstruct this statement, and see what they really think:
“One of the most critical” It is easily the most critical environmental “challenge”, and unlike almost any other change, is irreversible in the medium term due to the presence of a host of positive feedback loops. They are purposely downplaying the climate crisis because it would not pay to scare the consuming public.
“long-term growth” What about short- and medium-term growth? This is not something Chevron would want to address, because that will mean taking immediate action – they only want to appear to want to change, which is easy to do when you have long-term targets to satisfy.
“to meet the world’s energy needs” This essentially means that the need has to be met; our fundamental consumer industrial behaviour cannot change because this is commercially damaging, therefore, by inserting a baseline proposition (“the world’s energy needs”) we are presented with no possibility of fundamental change.
“Many think this increase is leading to climate change” Notice the lack of any concensus being presented: it must be made clear that there is uncertainty, rather than almost total agreement within the scientific body of evidence, for with uncertainly remains the ability to keep moving the goalposts. This is a very dangerous contention that Chevron are making; but it is no different to that of any other major corporation.
“Many governments and businesses agree” This is clever: by juxtaposing the far more sceptical governments and businesses with the scientific body of evidence, using the same phrasing, Chevron have managed to imply that governments and businesses are doing (or will do) exactly what is required to deal with climate change. The statement “Many governments and businesses agree” is actually true: it is the context that is so misleading.
“while still providing the energy required to meet the demands of growing populations and economies.” This is essentially a repeat of the opener, but in more strident terms, and with a twist: by bringing population into it, you actually reveal the “inevitability” view that corporations have to maintain. The “inevitable” growth of population and the economy is what corporations need to maintain their business, and by presenting this as a fait accompli, we are led to think there is nothing we can do about them; which is a blatant lie.
I was led to this horrible, cynical campaign by an emailer, whose comments, I think sum the campaign up rather well:
In train stations, at bus stops, online, even on our coffee cups, Chevron ads are trying to convince us that the key to ending our energy crisis is individual action. Over pictures of everyday Americans, taglines from Chevron’s “Will You Join Us” ad campaign read:
“I will leave the car at home more.”
“I will take my golf clubs out of the trunk.”
“I will replace 3 light bulbs with CFLs.”
“I will finally get a programmable thermostat.”
“I will consider buying a hybrid.”
All good ideas, certainly, but no matter how many clubs they’re carrying in their golf bags, no matter how many light bulbs they change, no matter how hard they consider that hybrid, the folks at Chevron could probably do a little more.
Like go out of business, perhaps?