The oil giant funds both civil rights groups and police, saying “Black Lives Matter” while committing acts of environmental racism all over the world.
By Amy Westervelt
At left: A fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery in 2013; at right, the company’s BLM Twitter post.
At a House committee hearing on fossil fuel deception last year, Congressional reps from oil and gas states repeated a long-used talking point: A clean energy transition is just a big fuck-you to poor people. They claim that it risks leaving marginalized communities out in the cold and stalls development in Africa. (They love to talk about how dependent African economic growth is on fossil fuels, never about how they’ve destroyed water sources and wetlands and murdered protesters there). The grossest part: fossil fuel companies also fund various civil rights groups to spread their message for them, all while simultaneously literally choking the life out of Black and brown communities with refineries and petrochemical plants.
It’s an underhanded trick that’s almost as old as the industry itself. In fact, some of the same PR firms that helped Big Oil come up with the strategy of framing a transition away from fossil fuels as racist helped Big Tobacco push the idea that a cigarette tax would disproportionately harm Black communities back in the 1990’s. The tobacco guys even put money into the same civil rights groups to spread that message as the oil companies are funding today.
Earlier this year, civil rights groups the National Urban League and The Rainbow Push Coalition began campaigning for the oil and gas industry to diversify their hiring practices. Not a totally outlandish request, BUT it happens to dovetail with initiatives at most fossil fuel companies to market themselves as “diverse” and therefore good. Oil companies have never been ones to pass up an opportunity to co-opt one thing to hide another.