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"Beyond Petroleum", Beyond the truth

By Alan Caruba
web posted January 6, 2003

I was watching a recent "Meet the Press" and was struck by two commercials, one by British Petroleum (BP) and one by ExxonMobil. Both strove to convey a message of environmental responsibility, but the BP commercial failed the truth test on several counts.

The BP company motto these days is "Beyond petroleum" and the tag line of its commercial was "It's a start", suggesting that BP is working toward a future where it will focus on energy sources other than petroleum. It spends an estimated $100 million a year to convey this message and there is very little truth in it.

By contrast, ExxonMobil's commercial was more candid with one of its engineers saying that its goal was to continue to provide petroleum, but with a "lower environmental impact." This is engineer-talk for extracting the lifeblood of all modern societies in ways that does not adversely affect the land or seas from which oil is pumped. ExxonMobil is famous for not rolling over for the rabid environmentalists who demand the end of all uses of petroleum; irrationally ignoring our dependence on oil and the products made from it.

No one on earth today can even imagine life without the many by-products of oil. One starts with transportation. There is the family car, the trucks that deliver everything we require to live, the planes that take us in mere hours to our business meetings and vacations. Then there are the endless uses of plastic that have transformed our lives for the better. There are drugs, cosmetics, and clothing, to name but a few.

So why is BP trying so hard to convince us that they are focusing a company that will be involved in the provision of energy "Beyond petroleum"? This has to be among the most audacious "spins" ever applied to the truth. Instead of telling us what they are doing to provide oil to the world, BP's commercials disingenuously talk of "Solar, natural gas, hydrogen, wind. And oh yes, oil. It's a start."

The average annual $33 million solar investment by BP equals just 0.4 percent of its $8.5 billion 2001 petroleum expenditure. It represents 0.02 percent of its current net worth. It is about a third of what it spends annually to convince you that it is "Beyond petroleum."

BP is investing in a massive disinformation program, much as a magician gets you looking at his left hand while his right hand is reaching for the pigeon that suddenly appears amidst the silks he is flourishing.

Right now, upwards of 16 billion barrels of untapped reserves of oil are waiting in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). That's about thirty year's worth of oil we will not need to import from Saudi Arabia or Iraq. Refined into gasoline, it could fuel every one of California's cars and trucks on the road for the next fifty years. The natural gas potential is estimated to be four trillion cubic feet, enough to fuel all of California's electrical generating plants, homes, schools, hospitals and businesses for several decades.

And that's just ANWR. It doesn't include the vast, untapped oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. We are not running out of oil. We are being kept from accessing it for our national needs. This is the central goal of the many environmental organizations that continue to work against the interests of America. So, why is BP talking about solar energy and other expensive and essentially useless alternatives such as wind?

Watch the BP magician. What he does not want you to see is the fact the PB is the biggest operator on the current North Slope of Alaska, with huge lease holdings, and its eyes on ANWR. This huge reserve is about the size of Indiana and its oil would be drawn from an area totaling less than 2,000 acres, a tiny fraction. Today ANWR is inhabited by nothing more than a few native Inuit tribes, lots of caribou, and other wildlife.

This is the same BP that was fined $500,000 in 2000 by a US District Court for failing to report the illegal disposal of hazardous waste on Alaska's North Slope. It was further ordered to pay $15 million over five years to "establish a nationwide environmental management system designed to prevent future violations." It is the same BP that, in 2001, was assessed a $10 million penalty and agreed to spend $500 million to modernize its pollution-control equipment as the result of having violated federal clean-air laws at eight US refineries.

Watch the BP magician who has been working hard to get the Kyoto Protocol on global climate change ratified, despite the fact that the US Senate is on record opposing it and the Bush administration's comparable decision to refuse US participation. This is a Protocol based in the Big Lie that the world faces "global warming." It is a Protocol that can fatter BP's coffers because of the company's substantial stake in natural gas, touted as a substitute for coal and oil. All of a sudden, BP's devotion to the "environment" is revealed as a devotion to profit at the expense of our nation's and the world's dependence on oil. The potential for fraud involved in the trading of "credits" under the Protocol is beyond comprehension.

By contrast, ExxonMobil, cast by environmentalists as a greedy oil giant for its commitment to providing energy to America and the world, has reduced its so-called greenhouse emissions by more than 35 percent over the past quarter century. It has achieved similar improvements in energy efficiency in its refineries and chemical plants during the same time period. Why? It's the right thing to do and yields benefits for the company's bottom line. ExxonMobil has also joined other energy giants in a ten-year, $225-million-a-year research project by Stanford University to evaluate alternative energy technologies to determine which hold the greatest promise for future needs.

While BP spends millions to convince you and others watching their commercials that they are committed to protecting the environment, the company is "greenwashing" the truth. They are in league with radical environment groups that work to undermine their competitors.

I suggest you hit the "mute" button the next time BP runs one of its commercials.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. A collection of his columns will be published in February by Merril Press. (c) Alan Caruba, 2003

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