The Greening of Black Gold: Big Oil and the Environment

Over the last few years, Big Oil has been on a Public Relations campaign to green its image. But the greenification of black gold is not easy, and colors a lot of people skeptical.

Fossils: there would be no society as we know it today without them. From them, we get gas, coal, and oil. According to the U.S. Department of energy, 85% of our energy needs come from the Earth, itself, in the form of fossil fuels. We can debate it. We can protest it. We can seek alternatives and demand that others do the same. But what we can’t do, regardless of how we feel, is live without it. We can try to reduce our dependency on it. But what we have to do in the mean time is learn how to live with it in the most environmentally responsible ways we can. No group is more aware of this fact than Big Oil.

Over the last few years, Big Oil has been on a Public Relations campaign to green its image. But the greenification of black gold is not easy, and colors a lot of people skeptical. In all fairness to the fossil fuel industry, everyone is trying to present a greener profile to the public. For the fossil fuel industry, it is a herculean task. First, because it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to extract materials embedded deep beneath the planet’s crust without doing some amount of damage to the planet. Second, the industry has a history to overcome of casual disregard about such things. But times are changing, and so is Big Oil. Here are a few notable improvements:

Greener Equipment

The path to greener energy is paved with greener equipment. One of the significant advances oil companies are making flies almost completely under the radar. The parts and machinery, both great and small, are built to a higher spec of safety and efficiency. You can learn more about such suppliers at

This trend toward more earth-friendly earth-moving equipment is not new. Back in mid-2008, CNBC was reporting on how several major manufacturers were giving their orange and yellow equipment the green treatment. Recognizing the inherent environmental damage caused by machines that can single-handedly produce as much particulate matter as 500 cars, the U.S. government is creating initiatives to promote cleaner, greener equipment. Volvo, and other companies are stepping in to provide more environmentally friendly equipment to build our brave, new world.

Clean Fracking Chemical Replacement

No, I’m not swearing in the fashion of Battle Star Galactica. I am referring to the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.

That liquid, to which the above definition casually refers, is quite toxic. It is not the sort of thing you would want to drink on a dare. Yet, drink it is exactly what a Halliburton executive did in the Summer of 2010.  Don’t worry, he is doing just fine according to this CNN Money report from 2011. The point was not to win a bar bet, but to show fracking fluid did not have to be toxic. He was demonstrating the non-toxicity of a new fracking formula based on ingredients sourced from the food, rather than the chemical industry. According to that same report, Halliburton is hardly alone in the pursuit of safe fracking.

Investments in Renewable Energy

Finally, it is worth noting that the oil industry is one of the biggest contributors to renewable energy research. Some might cynically suggest that their investment is no different than a cigarette company’s investment in programs that help people quit smoking. They are just grudgingly complying with government regulation. But at the end of the day, motives don’t matter, only actions. Whatever the reasons, Big Oil is contributing to a world that will have significantly less reliance on the product they are currently producing. From News Blaze:

Shell was an early proponent of alternative fuels and energy efficiency and in 2007 drafted a pro-environmental “sustainability report” that predicted supplies of easily accessible oil and natural gas probably will not meet demand after 2015. The study said, “To close the gap, the world will have no choice but to use energy more efficiently and increase its use of other sources of energy.”

Getting one of the worst offenders to make such a public admission as got to be considered progress. But perhaps the worst offender of all is the public. We buy bigger houses than we need, and HVAC them to within an inch of their lives. We buy bigger vehicles than we need. We drive them without ever considering walking to work, or taking public transit. At least we can look at Big Oil and see their improvements. Now, perhaps it is time we look in the mirror.

One response

  1. wtf? an industry that is the focus of the last 3 wars? because of the us dependence on foreign oil? An industry that is being shunned because of fracking and the irreparable damage they have done to the environment? what about the funds that are now dropping oil companies because of climate damage. That every single republican has lied about over the last 20 yrs. Now required reporting in California and other states?

Leave a Reply