Shell Oil is sponsoring an educational video project called Rational Middle. I invite you to check it out; it’s very good. As the title suggests, the point is that both the far left wing (advocating for an immediate abandonment of fossil fuels) and the far right wing (suggesting that the issues associated with fossil fuels are fabricated by communists) are taking extreme, unworkable positions. The truth and the optimum strategy lie somewhere in the middle.
So far, so good. In fact, this is essentially the premise of everything I write; there is no doubt that the correct approach to energy contemplates the “tough realities” – the evolving technologies, the economic challenges, and the divisive political issues, all of which combine to make this a very difficult calculus.
But the fact that an oil company sponsors the project is raising some eyebrows – and Shell itself acknowledges this. Actually, they go out of their way to make a big deal out of the concept that, while they’re sponsoring it, they have no input into the content. And a brilliant young friend of mine, Stephen Lacey of Climate Progress, who appears in the video, assures me that in fact, Shell did not meddle in the process of creating the work.
This doesn’t surprise me. There was no need for them to meddle, since they knew that where it was going was just fine with them.
The implication is that they wouldn’t have had a problem if the message were that the oil companies are rat-finks, e.g., that they own Congress, and have no intention of doing anything other than extracting, refining, and selling fossil fuels. Now that I find hard to believe.
But they knew from the outset that any filmmaker would conclude that extreme positions are indefensible. And again, this middle position, along with the accompanying civil dialog, works very well for Shell. I’m sure they’ll be very happy to see that dialog continue until the cows come home.
They certainly don’t want protesters/activists inciting enmity against them and the industry at large. And in truth, I don’t think they want the far right lunatic fringe whose ignorance and mean-spiritedness are becoming such an embarrassment, e.g., The Heartland Institute, Senator Jim Inhofe, etc. Rational Middle is really perfect for them with no meddling at all. It’s an example of the brilliant PR of which these guys have proven themselves so incredibly capable.