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KNOY: The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell and a group called the Evangelical Environmental Network have something in common. They have recently started airing their own eco-friendly commercials. Both groups are trying to persuade the masses to go green. Bruce Barcott takes a look at these unlikely ad campaigns.
BARCOTT: I don't know much about oil, but I do know that I want to go camping with Damien Miller. Damien stars in a new TV ad designed to put an eco-friendly face on Shell, the world's third largest oil company. In the ad, we see Damien greet the sunrise on a remote desert highland and warm his coffee over a campfire. He's got a scruffy beard and flyaway hair. Damien defines earthy-crunchy.
MALE VOICE-OVER: He believes that almost half our energy could one day come from renewable sources like solar panels and sustainable forests. He's been called a dreamer, an oddball.
MILLER: I've been called a hippie.
MALE VOICE-OVER: And more recently, a project manager for Shell.
BARCOTT: You heard it. Over at Shell they're hiring hippies. Damien's 30 second spot is one of a flurry of new ads that have turned the space between TV shows into an environmental battleground. Shell's actually playing catch-up to BP, the world's second biggest oil company, which began pitching itself as your solar-friendly oil giant back in the late 90s.
As a conscientious gas junkie, these ads leave me torn. A new book by environmental analyst Jack Doyle, called "Riding the Dragon: Royal Dutch Shell and the Fossil Fire" chronicles the company's dismal history of environmental abuse.
But Shell is taking baby steps to improve its record. It's investing one billion dollars over the next five years in renewable energy projects, for instance. That's less than half the profit Shell made in the last three months alone. Still, it's a start.
For its part, BP has been lobbying to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and I don't think they mean for solar panels. Except just recently BP abandoned its ANWR effort as not worth the PR price. So, is it now worthy of my $20 fill-up?
Thankfully, there is a third ad campaign that clarifies the issue: The Evangelical Environmental Network, a coalition of holy-rollin' tree huggers, recently unveiled a TV spot that puts our fossil fuel consumption in a religious context.
MALE VOICE-OVER: Too many of the cars, trucks, and SUV's that are made, that we choose to drive, are polluting our air, increasing global warming, changing the weather, and endangering our health, especially the health of our children. So if we love our neighbor, and we cherish God's creation, maybe we should ask, "What would Jesus drive?"
BARCOTT: What would Jesus drive? What I want to know is where would he gas up?
KNOY: Commentator Bruce Barcott writes about the environment for Outside Magazine.
[MUSIC: KB Jonstad, "Walken In" (ECM, 2000)]