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.