Why polluters use the words they do
Listening to the BBC World Service Newshour this morning I heard that the Ugandan government opening up oil extraction. When asked about the scale of the projects, the Minister of Energy and Minerals, Irene Muloni, said,
We’ve confirmed in place 6.5 billion barrels of oil, and about 500 billion cubic feet of gas in place. We are looking about recovering about 1.4 billion barrels of oil from this 6.5 billion.
Read that answer again. Does anything stand out? For me it’s “recovering”.
Here, Ms. Muloni describes drilling and digging up of oil as a rescue mission — liberating oil from the ground that holds it.
The polluters have always been pretty good with language. They’ve promoted ideas like prosperity and energy independence brilliantly. But they’ve always struggled with the dirtiest aspect of their operations — drilling and the mess it causes.
There’s no doubt that “recovering oil” is strategic. I looked through the websites of Shell, Chevron, BP, and ExxonMobil and they all use “recover”. The companies embedded in the tar sands in Canada use it.There are numerous smaller polluters who use “recovery” in their company name.
Whether Ms. Muloni used “recover” purposefully or not, the word is being used to disguise what it actually is — sinking drill-bits into the ground and scraping the earth for dirty energy. Polluters spin, and they spin well.
We don’t need to rescue oil.