Oil giant Shell has been slapped down for a momentous bit of greenwashing.
In a British advertising blitz, Shell referred to its development of the Alberta oil sands and its construction of the largest U.S. oil refinery as "sustainable," statements that the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority, responding to a complaint by WWF, said were untruthful and unsubstantiated because they implied these projects were environmentally benign.
The key question was: What is sustainable?
Shell, in its arguments to the ad authority, defined the concept as providing cheap energy to meet social and economic needs of future generations, while the ad clearly implied that sustainability had everything to do with protecting the environment.
Protecting the environment is not something associated with the Alberta oil sands project in Canada, where Shell has been an active promoter of the controversial oil source.
The project, a massive strip mine in the boreal forest, uses copious amounts of freshwater, produces toxic tailings and spews out more carbon dioxide than many entire nations (145 of them) in a year's time.
It's been called the "most destructive project on Earth."
Development of the Alberta oil sands may sound like a remote and obscure issue to many people. But, like offshore oil drilling, oil shale and tar sands, it has everything to do with the future of the climate, the planet's wildlife and our ability to survive without drastic changes to our lifestyle.
Investing in these controversial new oil production schemes will provide energy. That's true.
These schemes, though, will also keep the economy running on oil, albeit more expensive oil most likely, as demand grows for black gold around the world (and supply dwindles). Economies running on oil will continue to foul the atmosphere, and global warming will continue unabated at great cost.
The alternative? Invest now in alternatives.
One choice is sustainable.
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