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Shell: Screw the environment, let’s get rich

Posted by christian on 18 March 2009.

Greenpeace UK

Canadian tar sands

Canadian tar sands – According to Shell, more profitable than wind or solar power. But at what cost to the environment?

We’ve got so used to big oil companies trying to use tiny investments in renewable energy as fig leafs for their core business of pumping oil, that in a way, an oil company just turning round and issuing a big ‘screw you’ to such pretensions might almost seen slightly refreshing, if only for the novelty value.

Well, in theory. But it’s hard to read yesterday’s press statement from Shell without your heart sinking. With regards to wind and solar power, Shell said that they do “not expect material amounts of investment in those areas going forward. [Wind and solar] continue to struggle to compete with the other investment opportunities we have in our portfolio.”

Even all the slippery corporate-speak in the world can’t obscure that message. In more straightforward language, it might read: “forget the environment; we’re in it for the cash.”

With their quarterly profits looking to stall as demand falls in the US, Shell are hoping to stay in in the game by exploiting oil sources like the Canadian Tar Sands, which make up about a third of their oil reserves. Tar sands produce the dirtiest, most polluting fossil fuel in the world – and extracting oil from them comes with a horrific environmental cost.

With the American ‘clean-tech’ sector buoyed up by financial support packages from the new administration, many other investors are flocking to pour money into wind and solar technologies, while around the world, the amount of renewable power being generated is growing rapidly. Building more wind and solar power will be necessary to deal with climate change, and could lead to the creation of tens of thousands of highly-skilled jobs. But apparently Shell, looking painfully out of touch, doesn’t care about any of that. 

With one press conference, Shell has cemented their status as a regressive, unambitious corporate dinosaur. Every bit of green PR they’ve ever produced, every solemn statement they’ve made about how important the environment is to them – in short, every bit of greenwash they’ve employed to try and make themselves look less like money-grubbing pillagers of the natural environment is revealed as a sham. It’s pretty pathetic stuff.

Shell: Screw the environment, let’s get rich


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