Shell has a new campaign on YouTube. It’s called “The Great Travel Hack” featuring Kaley Couco, star of The Big Bang Theory as well as some influencers. The premise is simple: “Two teams compete in a road trip across the USA where the lowest CO2 emissions wins. During that roadtrip they “discover new and cleaner forms of transport”, to show how emissions can be reduced in the face of global warming. The whole thing is way too cringy That is the future of clean energy – definitely I mean we are not waiting for the future, we are pretty much living in it right now, you know what I am saying? But that’s not the point. The point is, that this campaign might just be one of the biggest instances of greenwashing we have ever come across. It’s not just misleading, it’s outright disgusting. Here’s why. Before we get into the great travel hack, let’s take a closer look at Shell. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in the last 30ish years. All of these companies are fossil-fuel producers. Their emissions are partly direct, but mostly indirect. Of these companies, Shell makes the top 10. They are single-handedly responsible for 1,7% of all greenhouse gas emissions by human activity since 1988. That might not sound like a lot at first, but keep in mind – this is only one company. Shell is also one of the biggest oil companies world-wide, in fact they came in second in terms of revenue last year. Shell was in possession of a detailed internal report on the greenhouse effect in 1988. The report also mentioned how the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for said effect. In 1991 Shell actually produced a documentary called “Climate of Concern” It explained how global warming could lead to rising sea levels, terrible famines, climate refugees and so on and so forth. Even in hindsight they had surprisingly accurate data. The company had known for years what was about to come. Despite all this foresight, Shell has been lobbying against global warming since the early 90s. Shell was part of the “Global Climate Coalition” until 1998. The organisation lobbied against the scientific consensus on climate change and tried to stop governmental action. The Legislative Exchange Council also
lobbies hard against climate action Shell was a member until 2015. The company only quit the “American Petroleum Institute” this year and is still part of the “Business Roundtable” – both fought Obama’s Plans for cleaner energy. But the company has since switched strategy. Amongst oil companies, Shell is embracing renewable and cleaner energies more than others. In fact Shell is trying to position itself as an authority on climate change, presenting strategic insights like the “sky scenario”. Yet, that is just the surface. Lobbying efforts to stop or slow down substantial action are now happening behind the scenes. While publicly embracing electric mobility, Shell is part of “FuelsEurope”. Just last year the association has lobbied against the promotion of electric vehicles in the EU. Similarly, Shell has also lobbied for “natural gas” in the EU and the US. It is being sold as a “bridge” in the energy transition. It emits 50% less carbon dioxide than coal when being burned. Great, but since it’s mostly made of methane there is another risk. When unburned methane escapes into the air, say through a leak of some sort – it is 70x as damaging as carbon dioxide. If only 3% of all produced methane escapes during production – you might as well burn coal. Renewable energies are getting cheaper and cheaper – making the gas less and less attractive from a cost perspective as well. Natural gas is not the “bridge” Shell makes it out to be. One number is perhaps most striking. In 2019 only 4-8% of Shell’s new investments are going into energy sources that are even remotely green – that’s including natural gas. Let’s just keep all this in mind and take a look at the great travel hack.
“What are you waiting for, lets go” Let’s recall the premise: travel across the US, keep your emissions as low as possible. Perfect to show loads of new, fun ways to travel cleaner. They got electric cars, fuel cell cars, electric boats, electric bikes, very, very briefly a bus, a maglev train, MORE electric cars, a petrol powered train, a gas buggy, electric skateboards, horses, even more electric cars, electric motorcycles, yet even more electric cars, an electric unicycle, an electric riding plattform, dog sleds, a sailboat and a regular skateboard. Leaving all the rather ridiculous modes of transport aside, close to half of the entire runtime of the show is spent on cars. We checked the emissions of 9 out of 10 of the showcased models. Accounting for two passengers, you get the lowest possible emissions using the Hyundai Ioniq. On 3000 miles, or roughly 4800 km, the emissions amount to 0.27 tons. Divided by 2 you get 0.135 tons. What Shell fails to showcase during their oh-so-fun-road-trip is a coach. Not even an electrical one, even a regular one would do. On 3000 miles the emissions per passenger are only 0.13 tons. Trains are usually not electric in the US, but they are in Europe. Electric trains also easily manage to even beat the smallest and newest electric cars with two passengers. And in fact, most people drive their car alone. The cleanest way to travel depends on the energy grid and context. Another thing people tend to forget is that new electric cars also have to be manufactured in the first place. Accounting for those emissions on top, they are simply not the most attractive in terms of one’s carbon footprint. The reality is, that the way energy is generated needs to change drastically. The same goes for the transport infrastructure. E-mobility alone just won’t do all that much. A multi-million dollar campaign designed to position Shell as a climate-concerned, innovative company fails to touch upon any of these issues. Using a major TV-Star, some influencers, horrible scripts, and shiny electric cars – that’s not how climate change is tackled. Just last year, Shell was responsible for the emission of close to 700 million tons of carbon dioxide. In fact their emissions even rose from 2017 to 2018. Shell is not green. They won’t be anytime soon. Even in 2019 they pretend to act, rather than to actually transform their business. But let’s end it with the companies own words from 1991. Action now – is seen as the only safe insurance. But
what should that action be? Hey, we really hope you enjoyed this video. If you did, consider subscribing to our channel. We have a lot more content to come. What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments 🙂 If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our video on how Made in Germany became a Seal of Quality. It’s a fascinating story. Until then, see you next time.