Oil giant’s ad campaign touts a “green” image while Amazon humanitarian crisis festers
From the Amazon Defense Coalition
Chevron has hired a “scientist” affiliated with a think tank dedicated to denying the threat of global warming while it spends tens of millions of dollars on a national advertising campaign to promote a “green” image.
The Chevron consultant, Douglas Southgate, is actually an “environmental economist” affiliated with a think tank called the Heartland Institute. Based in Chicago, Heartland promotes the idea that there is a “debate” about global warming despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is responsible for it. The Institute also creates research that downplays the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Contributions to the Heartland Institute have flowed from the likes of Exxon, Phillip Morris, and the ultraconservative Scaife Foundation. The Institute stopped disclosing its funders in 2006 after it came under attack for producing tailor-made research in support of its industry supporters.
The disclosure of Southgate’s affiliation is bound to raise even more questions about Chevron’s commitment to green policies, which observers say has fallen significantly behind its industry rivals. Unlike industry peers Shell and BP, Chevron has no significant human rights policy for countries where it operates and currently faces numerous environmental problems around the globe — including a potential $16.3 billion liability for toxic dumping in Ecuador’s Amazon.
Southgate recently was quoted in news reports defending Chevron’s practices in Ecuador, which included the dumping of more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and the abandonment of more than 900 waste pits gouged out of the jungle floor. The indigenous groups in Chevron’s former concession area have seen their populations decimated and ancestral lands plagued by the toxic contamination.
Amazonian communities have long charged that Chevron has fabricated “junk science” to cover up the fact thousands of soil samples produced in the Ecuador trial demonstrate life-threatening levels of contamination. An independent, court-appointed expert who reviewed 54,000 chemical sampling results recently found that 100% of Chevron’s former well sites are contaminated with illegal levels of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons.
Chevron has tried to paper over its problems by spending millions to tout the company’s new “human energy” slogan.
“Chevron’s so-called ‘green’ advertising campaign is a fraud when compared to the company’s environmental record in the Amazon,” said Pablo Fajardo, an Ecuadorian lawyer and Goldman Prize winner who leads the Ecuador case.
“Chevron is paying academics to distort research to hide a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe in Ecuador,” said Fajardo. “Their advertising budget would be better spent on solving real problems.”
Southgate is just one of the discredited experts employed by Chevron. Other questionable Chevron “scientists” on the Ecuador case include Ralph Marquez, a former chief lobbyist for the chemical industry in Texas, and Sara McMillen, a Chevron scientist who speaks to the media about toxicological issues without having a degree in the subject.
About the Amazon Defense Coalition
The Amazon Defense Coalition represents dozens of rainforest communities and five indigenous groups that inhabit Ecuador’s Northern Amazon region. The mission of the Coalition is to protect the environment and secure social justice through grass roots organizing, political advocacy, and litigation.