Slick Conoco Phillips commercial is leading us away from renewable energy

Wow, what a fabulously misleading commercial. I saw this commercial for the first time about three or four weeks ago. I was struck by its look and feel. Then, I saw it a couple more times. I guess the initial polling on this commercial did extremely well. I’ve seen it so often now as to feel the need to break this commercial down little by little.


First of all, we see a classroom with five people in it. We are to assume that there are three students, one teacher and one janitor/maintenance man. No one identifies himself/herself, but these are fair assumptions. Interestingly, the teacher never says anything. The whole conversation is driven by one student, the tall white guy. The commercial opens with him asking, “Aren’t you getting a little emotional?” One of the two females responds with a stupid little quip, “Aren’t you getting a little industrial?” Instantly, we have the thoughtful logical character pitted against one of the women who does not have a thoughtful or logical answer. She is already painted as emotional and her quip/response reinforces that thought. Let’s move on.

White guy: there’s enough energy right here in America.
Black girl: yeah, over 100 years worth.
White girl: so you’re just going to ignore the environment
Black girl: actually, it’s cleaner
White guy: and it provides jobs and helps our economy.
White girl: okay, I’m listening.

This commercial is brilliant. Besides the captions and graphics that you see floating in space, we place this conversation in a classroom, giving it the stamp of academia. Yet, because some in our society recoil whenever teachers say anything, the makers of this commercial have the teacher say nothing. The educator is silent. Therefore, you still get the air of academia without the negativity that can be associated with some teachers. (Why some in America recoil at teachers – because there has been a relentless attack against teachers by conservatives for over 30 years.)

Now, the announcer comes in and states that at Conoco Phillips, they’re “helping power America’s economy with cleaner, affordable natural gas. More jobs. Less emissions. Good answer for everyone.” (While the announcer is giving his spiel, we see the teacher instructing at the board, but we never hear his voice. We see the students listening intently and we see different graphs, which mean absolutely nothing because they are never put in context. We are to assume that the teacher is expounding on the wonders of natural gas.)

The commercial concludes –

One of the women (can’t really tell which one): so, by reducing the impact of production… and protecting our land and water.
White guy: I might get a job once I graduate.

So, to sum up this commercial, natural gas has little or no impact on the environment and can produce tons of jobs.

If you are unaware of the debate, this is one of those commercials that tend to sway you towards natural gas. It doesn’t mention anything about fracking. Fracking is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing. This technique is basically pumping water and lubricants at extremely high pressures deep beneath the ground in order to fracture the rock and release the natural gas. What could possibly go wrong with the process that breaks rock a mile or two underground? There’s no way that any of these lubricants which include chemicals like benzene, a known carcinogen, could actually get into our underground water supply. In the town of Dish, Texas the EPA found benzene in the air 55 times higher than allowed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

It is true that burning natural gas produces 40% fewer emissions/greenhouse gases than burning coal. 40% is good. Zero emissions is even better. Our goal must be to stop looking for quick answers to our energy needs. We need to find sustainable, reliable, non-polluting answers to our energy problems. This is not a pipe dream. We just need to focus. This commercial simply paves over some of the environmental dangers of natural gas. It paves over the fact that natural gas is a finite solution. I have a problem with people being able to light their faucets, a phenomenon which has actually happened in areas where fracking has been allowed. We need to be the world leader in solar energy and wind energy and tidal energy. We cannot let the oil and gas industry beat us into submission, yet again. Clever commercials should not steer us away from where we need to be going.

0 Responses

  1. It is all going to come down by the State Department and President Obama this year. If he approves the Keystone Pipeline then the environment will not be saved. It will prove that the short accessible jobs and ruining the groundwater and air is better for the country than renewables. Because if the pipeline is allowed and the republicans get elected to the White House they will attack all the other EPA standards and say jobs are more important than clean water and air.

  2. Perfect commercial, hits the ball out of the park!
    I hope every college student sees this ad.

  3. Saw this commercial and I immediately went online to look for dissenting opinion. To any educated person this just screams WTF, that companies like this make commercials when they can’t even sell you anything but an opininion since you would not be purchasing it form then directly.

    I saw an even more evil, vile, swaying add than this one only a few days previous. It is new and when I saw it I was disgusted, but there is hardly any outspeak about it. I think you should check it out or do an article.
    “new BASF commercial”

    it should be BASF atleast, if my brain remembers right. The commercial is so good, so marketing. it talks about love, and chemistry, and then more and more about chemistry all really whitty-like with glee and nice pictures and scenes.. some real advertising  gold.

    BASF, can’t even come close to selling you ONE thing. at best they would be about 6-7 links up the manufacturing chain from for anything you purchase. They are a chemical compnay that makes tons of dangerous poisinous chemicals that we use in millions of things world wide. They were one of the 3 companies that were formed from the split up of IG Farben after WWII
    IG Faren being the guys that made zyklon b, and also designed many of the gas chambers which could disperse their zyklon effectively. BASF is a sketchy ass company that few cared about or really even know of- yet they come out of nowhere with a commercial and they haven’t odne this since the 90’s……

    Makes one wonder what they are up to?

  4. Wow, that is one very deceptive ad.  There is NO CLEAN GAS, it all burns off into CARBON which is what the real problem with Global Warming is all about in the first place.

    Sadly, not enough truly informed people and too many people who believe that God gave man dominion over the Earth so he can do whatever he wants to with it.

    So, man will eventually kill the Earth and most of humanity as well.  Time is running out.

  5. you are 100% correct. God did give man dominion over the earth but, the Bible is plenty clear, man is supposed to be responsible. Man is supposed to show humility, compassion and understanding. There are many examples in the Bible of how we are not supposed to till every field. The problem with some conservatives, in my opinion, is the only read a few passages of the Bible and never stand back and try to look at the Bible as a whole. The message that Jesus left us was one of kindness, compassion and love for our fellow man. Yet, many who read the Bible come away with an eye for an eye and that’s all. Revenge was not the message of Jesus.

    Thanks for your comments.

  6. I worked for BASF in the 1980’s. They had a stockpile of some pretty bad chemicals at their Wyandotte, MI location, some of the exact same stuff that killed 8,000 people in Bhopal, India. Oh, and at that same plant they manufactured ingredients for “vitamins” that were put into food and cosmetics.

  7. I am all for renewables- especially the wind farm off Hyannisport, but until renewables are viable ,getting our own energy is better than sending money and jobs to Islamonazi nations. And I drive a Prius .

  8. I was immediately annoyed with this commercial. “cleaner” is neither clean or renewable, I hope people educate themselves on this topic before jumping on the bandwagon of a well orchestrated commercial.

  9. renewable energy is liable – today. Renewable energy continues to be squashed by the oil and gas industry. Thing about electric trains in Los Angeles in the early part of the last century. The exact same thing is happening with renewables.

    Thanks for your comments.

  10. After the success of this commercial, Conoco Phillips has now produced a series of these types of commercials distorting the fact that none of the things that they’re doing are actually “clean energy.”

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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