The other week I mentioned the rash of fossil fuel company billboards on the streets at the moment. Here’s another. Outside Luton station, we are currently blessed with this billboard:
It’s a visually striking ad, for sure. Nice juxtaposition of round and triangular shapes, strong red colours. I like the way they’ve made the bubble touching the water, giving it a bit more weight. And you can’t really go wrong with the Forth Bridge for a sense of scale. I was standing on that exact spot just a few weeks ago, watching the trains pass along the bridge with a transfixed three-year-old.
It’s too bad the message itself is nonsense.
As one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, Shell is responsible for vast quantities of CO2 that make this big bubble look like a pinhead.
The red globe in the picture represents the amount of CO2 Shell’s proposed Peterhead Carbon Capture and Storage project would capture every day. The project is expected to store a million tonnes a year for ten years, so presumably that bubble represents about 2,700 tonnes of CO2.
Now, 10 million tonnes of CO2 captured, even over a decade, sounds pretty impressive. To put it in context though, a 2013 study calculated that Shell is responsible for 478 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent every single year. In the course of the company’s history, its activities and products have released an estimated 30,751 Mt CO2e to the atmosphere. That’s enough to put them at number six in the list of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change.
By my back of the envelope calculation, you could legitimately re-caption Shell’s billboard thus:
To boast about capturing this much CO2 a day is like chopping down a forest and then boasting that you’ve planted an acorn.
To be fair to them, Shell are more enlightened than many other oil companies. I support their Peterhead CCS experiment. But the ultimate goal of this billboard outside my station is to sell more oil. And that is fundamentally incompatible with real action on climate change.