Monday, March 14, 2011

Nuclear debate fueled by ... natural gas?

The earthquakes in Japan triggered discussions in most developed nations about the recent renaissance of nuclear energy.  They range from the expected knee-jerk reactions among Green party politicians in France and Germany, to more reasoned predictions (here and here) that the recent events in Japan have put a serious damper on the hopes of the nuclear industry to become a key component of a long-term clean global energy strategy (see ad below).  

The tragedy in Japan, however, has not put a damper on corporate cynicism more generally. Statoil, a Norwegian gas and oil company, today placed a large banner ad on the home page of Germany's Die Welt newspaper.  Positioned prominently above coverage of the rising death toll of the earthquakes and the potential of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan, the ad promotes Norwegian gas as a clean alternative to "support economic growth in Germany" (see below for a screenshot).

It's possible and maybe even likely that the space for these banner ads was bought long before the earthquakes hit, and and that the placement is simply based on contextual advertising algorithms.  In that case, it would have been appropriate to put those ads on hold while the unimaginable human tragedy in Japan is only beginning to unfold.

Intentional or not, even the perception that oil and gas companies would try to capitalize on the events in Japan in order to regain some of the political capital they lost during the BP oil spill last year seems beyond inappropriate.  But I have a feeling that we may see an increasing number of similar media buys from coal, oil, and gas in the next few weeks, as the nuclear debate heats up and the search for "alternative" alternative energy sources gains momentum.

To donate to the Red Cross relief effort for Japan, please follow this link.