Posted by keith on September 29th, 2009
Did you enjoy that? Hilarious wasn’t it? So dour and pragmatic, you could almost think that the creators were being serious about the idea that CO2 wasn’t a pollutant, and that the presence of an excess amount in the atmosphere didn’t have dire consequences for the future of humanity and the rest of life.
Remember, a pollutant is simply something that is in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong quantity. The idea that carbon dioxide, therefore, isn’t a pollutant is not only physically wrong but also syntactically wrong. So it’s obviously a very clever, very funny spoof.
Leo Hickman in The Guardian, thinks otherwise.
“Is this a joke?” splutters one of the comments underneath the YouTube video of a new 30-second TV advert that has started being aired in a handful of US states over the past few days telling viewers that “CO2 is green“. Sadly not, it seems.
In a slick attempt to undermine the US Environmental Protection Agency’s recent ruling that CO2 should now be classified as a pollutant because rising levels of the gas in the atmosphere will “endanger public health or welfare”, a former oil industry executive has stumped up some of his cash to pay for these adverts to be shown in Montana and New Mexico. The ultimate aim of the advert, though, is to derail the forthcoming vote in the Senate on the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which now appears as if it might even impact on vital UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December.
So who’s behind “CO2 is green” and this advert? One of its founders is H Leighton Steward who, until his retirement in 2000, was the vice chairman of Burlington Resources, a Houston-based oil and gas company bought by ConocoPhillips in 2006. Steward received the American Petroleum Institute’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in 2001 and remains an honorary director of the oil industry lobby group. In other words, we can conclude that this man boasts a particular pedigree within the oil industry.
The Washington Post (which admits it has taken a half-page advert from the “CO2 is green” group) is reporting that Steward, along with some associates, is now trying to establish the group as a charity:
Steward has joined forces with Corbin J Robertson Jr, chief executive of and leading shareholder in Natural Resource Partners, a Houston-based owner of coal resources that lets other companies mine in return for royalties. Its revenues were $291m [£184m] in 2008. They have formed two groups – CO2 Is Green designated for advocacy and Plants Need CO2 for education – with about $1m. Plants Need CO2 has applied for 501(c)(3) tax status, so that contributions would qualify as charitable donations, said Natural Resource Partners general counsel Wyatt L Hogan, who also serves on the group’s board.
The advert (which varies slightly depending on the state) is really something to behold. Here’s a transcript:
Congress is considering a law that would classify carbon dioxide as pollution. This will cost us jobs. There is no scientific evidence that CO2 is a pollutant. In fact, higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the earth’s ecosystems and would support more plant and animal life. Please take action. Contact your senator and congressman today and remind them CO2 is not pollution and more CO2 results in a greener earth. Go to CO2isgreen.com, because we all need CO2.
The advert is ripe for spoofing. It’s certainly tempting to laugh it off. (For extra merriment, visit the “CO2 is green” website and read the “Why do people believe these myths?” section: “They have been misinformed by people that benefit financially from propagating the myth.” Oh, the irony.)
But the advert is also a juddering reminder there are still powerful, influential forces straining every last sinew and dollar they possess to deny that rising CO2 levels are a problem. That such efforts should so easily be traced back to oil industry operatives is not wholly surprising, but sobering nonetheless.
Far more depressing, though, is the fact that they have produced this “Plants need CO2” website to better inform the public about the “positive effects of additional atmospheric CO2 and help prevent the inadvertent negative impact to human, plant and animal life if we reduce CO2”.
If it is real then what can we do about it?
Simply keep up the pretence that it is a spoof, and make the originators a laughing stock: everywhere it appears, in video form, or as a poster, or as an item on a web site, make sure you make a comment along the lines of “This is hilarious” or “Where can we see more spoofs like this” or “Genius, I haven’t laughed to much in ages.”
You can even join a Facebook Group about it: just make sure you make a few posts on their wall ;-)