Attack of Noir Satire Hits ‘Arctic Ready’ Shell Oil

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Shell Oil’s big plan to take advantage of global warming by drilling in previously inaccessible Arctic waters is going a bit slower than planned. The global petroleum giant said last month that it would drill only two test wells, not five, this summer, because it can’t quite get a key spill containment system approved. On top of that, Shell is suffering an attack of spoof messages and “ads” from the jokers at YesMen and Greenpeace. If they weren’t an Arctic-drilling oil company, claiming to be Arctic-ready, you’d almost feel sorry for them.

The latest from Greenpeace’s “” has Shell offering the public a chance to save  one favorite species of marine mammal from excess harassment by drillers, boats, spills, noise and general habitat destruction. Go ahead. You can pick Orcas or another endangered whale species. Maybe harbor porpoises? Seals? Remember, in this “Let’s Go: Mercy Poll,” only one species can win!

The spoof has a basis in reality: the issuance of federal “incidental harassment” permits to Shell for its risky Arctic oil project, acknowledging that you can’t drill in the wild without doing damage to its wildlife. Even endangered wildlife. It’s obviously not the kind of victory that the real Shell celebrates in a news release.

Greenpeace also ran an online “Shell ad contest” and posted the winner, “You Can’t Run Your SUV on “Cute,” on a billboard in Houston, Shell’s U.S. home base.

Shell’s current project is getting the U.S. Coast Guard to weaken its safety requirements on the spill-containment barge that apparently can’t meet Shell’s original promise–the origin of the phrase “Arctic ready that it would withstand a 100-year storm. Shell wants it downgraded to “10-year-storm-ready.”

Which raises the obvious question: will the rest of Shell’s Arctic drilling reality be only one-tenth as safe and clean as its promises?

Meanwhile, Greenpeace is soberly defending itself against charges that its spoofs, which might look for one minute (to folks who’ve never heard about the controversies over Arctic oil drilling), like they actually came from Shell are unethical. The real reason Shell is miffed is that it’s spending millions on PR to make Arctic drilling look like a pristine miracle, while Greenpeace is getting 4 million web hits on nothing but a keen sense of irony and a great nose for corporate weak spots.


Judy Dugan concentrates as an advocate on health care reforms, oil industry issues and telecommunications. She also writes and edits foundation publications and conducts media outreach.

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