Chevron has unveiled a revolutionary new way of finding oil. It doesn’t involve satellite telemetry or seismic imaging or someother high-tech means of exploration. It involves advertising.
Chevron has a new ad campaign to get its customers to use not more oil, but less. In Chevron’s words, “Energy Saved Is Energy Found.” The new ads feature people promising to carpool, to use fluorescent bulbs, even to “take my golf clubs out of the trunk.”
We’ve heard these energy-saving tips countless times (except perhaps the one about the golf clubs). What’s new is the spectacle of a major corporation urging people to cut back on its core product, as part of “one of the most important efforts of our time — using less.”
This is a far cry from Chevron’s history and from its technological expertise. Half a century ago, Chevron’s predecessor helped discover the world’s largest oil field. Two years ago, Chevron drilled a record-setting well more than five miles deep in the Gulf of Mexico. These were oil finds in the real sense.
But what Chevron now calls “found energy” is as far removed from discovering oil as a dieting book is from producing food. Chevron seems to have become more apologetic about oil than drug pushers are about drugs. Has it been taken in by the notion of our alleged “addiction to oil”?
It’s true that many politicians nowadays use that idiotic metaphor incessantly. But if those politicians were serious about breaking this “addiction,” they wouldn’t have been climbing the walls last summer looking for ways to bring gas prices down.
Chevron should know better, yet its Web site offers an easy-to-e-mail cartoon showing an “Oil Addiction Treatment Center” with bikes parked outside. Chevron’s accompanying advice: “The average American uses 25 barrels of oil every year. So how about cutting back on that habit?”
It’s one thing for government to urge us to conserve in a crisis. During World War II, for example, government posters reminded us that “waste helps the enemy,” and that “when you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler.” But wartime is, thankfully, the exception, not the norm.
Or at least it used to be. But the global-warming alarmist campaign that triggered Chevron’s ads is on the verge of becoming a war of its own, to be waged 24/7. This war will almost certainly go into high gear under President Obama, with his promise of an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
If carbon dioxide is the enemy, then we are all enemy agents, complicit from the first cry we let out at birth. And if Chevron’s “Energy Saved Is Energy Found” slogan smacks of doublespeak, it may be because the global warming campaign itself is so similar to the perpetual war in George Orwell’s “1984.”
The dispatches in this war come not from far-off battlefields, but from vague climate fronts. We’re besieged with news stories about such items as Mt. Kilimanjaro’s vanishing snows (though a British court found their disappearance unrelated to warming) and Al Gore’s PowerPoints on the alarming correlation between increased CO2 and higher temperatures (even as it turns out that the temperature spikes came before those of CO2, belying the latter’s causal role).
And just where is the warming? Despite increasing CO2 levels, global temperatures have been level, if not declining, for the last decade. When the warming doesn’t occur as predicted, there are other Orwellian tricks — alter the rhetoric to “climate change,” or devise an excuse for why the warming won’t arrive for another decade.
(A study in last May’s issue of Nature, for example, blamed oscillating ocean currents for the delay.)
As in Orwell’s novel, the war against carbon dioxide is unwinnable. Yes, we might reduce CO2 emissions by following Chevron’s suggestions. But those reductions will be far outweighed by the fact that we’ll have kids, and those kids will grow up and start their own families with their own houses and cars and appliances.
One of Chevron’s new ads shows a somber gentleman promising to “use less energy.” If Chevron is really serious about reducing our carbon footprint, perhaps it should replace it with a shot of a young couple promising not to have babies. If energy saved is energy found, then customers unborn mean even more energy found.
The car is one of mankind’s most liberating technologies. The boom in car ownership in developing countries demonstrates that it serves not a whim of Western culture, but a basic human need. If the industry that powers the car starts treating it as a sin product, the concept of progress will soon be running on fumes.
Kazman is general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.