How to stop Big Oil

It might seem odd that you never see advertising for crude oil, or petrol (gasoline). Oil companies may advertise their “brand”, but not their product.

No super-bowl half-time extravaganza, no online pop-ups or side-bars on Facebook, no “influencers” on Instagram, no pyramid selling-schemes.

Yet somehow, activists think that by targeting “Big Oil” and hitting the producers, they will stop consumption. The approach of consumer-activism has worked in many areas, notably Tobacco, Pharma and now in certain areas of processed foods and single-use plastics.

Generally, this approach works if the targeted product is not a necessity. How can you tell if a product is not necessary? Well chances are it has to be “marketed”, “advertised” and indeed “sold”. It may be the case that you just need to get your next great product in front of consumers, and they will lap it up. But mostly consumers are force-fed.

There is a vast subset of the working population who “innovate” products (ie make cosmetic changes and then try and sell more of them) and then use every psychological and psychosocial trick in the book – and in the cases of opioid based painkillers, cigarettes and alcohol, physiological tricks also – to get you to part with your money. It is not uncommon for people to have permanent storage solutions for the stuff they don’t need. There is now an industry of consultants ready to help people overwhelmed with stuff. When did that become normal?

Ironically, many people who work in the great machinery that is the consumer society are very middle-class, and very concerned about the eco-agenda. Undoubtedly recycling, doing carbon-off-setting wherever possible, and shopping organic and not using plastic straws at children’s birthday parties, maybe even cycling or driving a hybrid or EV to work. All the while pointing the finger at Big Oil as the cause of the problem and protesting that “something” must be done about climate change. Watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside.

To the credit of the Extinction Rebellion, many (although clearly not all) try to live the lifestyle of less, not just evangelise about it.

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