Where has all the oil gone? BP branding and the discursive elimination of climate change risk
Doyle, Julie (2011) Where has all the oil gone? BP branding and the discursive elimination of climate change risk In: Heffernan, Nick and Wragg, David A., eds. Culture, environment and ecopolitics. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, pp. 200-225. ISBN 9781443832014
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One could be forgiven for thinking that BP, the second largest global oil company, has recently become a renewable energy company given its current high profile global TV and print advertising campaign in which it both acknowledges the problem of climate change and at the same time offers itself as the solution to the problem: the energy company which goes ‘beyond petroleum’. However, such skilful use of advertising and branding processes serves to mask the dominant activities of the company; which remains the extraction and sale of crude oil, one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions and climate change. Through an examination of its print and TV global advertising campaign from 2005-2006, as well as its online literature, this chapter critically analyses the discursive and advertising strategies used by BP in its self representation as a renewable/sustainable energy company through its communication of climate change risk. In doing so, the chapter demonstrates how through the use of the language and symbols of environmental discourse, as well as the discourse of sustainable development, BP is able to acknowledge the current reality of climate change (and the role of fossil fuels within this), whilst simultaneously erase its own implications, as an oil company, within this. The chapter argues that by acknowledging the risks and reality of climate change through advertising and branding, BP is able to discursively eliminate the current risks of fossil fuel reliance through its presentation as the solution to, rather than producer of, climate change. As a major producer of oil, BP thus mitigates its own involvement in climate change through branding processes and risk discourse.
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