Chevron fuels debate over conservation, alternative energy

I’ll be the first to admit, much to the detriment of my profession, that I don’t usually look at the advertising in print magazines. But a splash spread by Chevron in The Week caught my eye.

I’ll be the first to admit, much to the detriment of my profession, that I don’t usually look at the advertising in print magazines. But a splash spread by Chevron in The Week caught my eye.

The ad was for a Web site Chevron has started at www.willyoujoinus.com. I decided to blog about it briefly, despite a brief internal moral dilemma about whether or not an oil company could really be an unbiased source about alternative energy. In short, it can’t. Unless it’s willing to consider those alternatives itself.

Basically, the site aggregates various stats about the state of global climate change, resource needs and various energy options. They’ve created an interactive game called Energyville, in conjunction with The Economist Group, that lets you choose different energy sources for a fictional city. It provides you with feedback on the economic or environmental impact of those various choices. It also introduces the idea that your city will suffer several acts of energy terrorism (fodder for an internally separate blog entry).

The bottom line, from Chevron’s point of view, is that your city will need petroleum to survive. It lets you choose from many different energy options (including biomass, wind, solar, hydrogen and others), but advises against some of them for various reasons. Mostly to do with cost.

Apparently the site is part of Chevron's big ad campaign being launched today called “The Power of Human Energy,” which is intended to get more of the public thinking about energy issues and conservation/consumption habits.

Generally speaking, I applaud the company for fueling the debate. (Pun intended.) But I shudder to think of how much it is spending and can’t help wondering whether it might not be more useful to put that money toward research and development investments in alternative energy sources.

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