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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chevron's Costly, Double-Page Ad is Deceptive, Says Group

Ordinary citizens who spotted Chevron Corp's two-page color ad in the New York Times Monday could only wonder what it meant, since it's obviously not aimed at consumers. The ad mimics the desktop of a busy corporate executive, littered with notes about oil demand and oil flow around the world, plus a checklist of Chevron's good deeds.

One answer is right on Chevron's website in a press release saying the company's ad campaign, which ran last year and is being renewed as the new Congress gets down to work, is "targeted at influentials who are involved with leading the energy debate."

That means Congress and the Bush administration, says the Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), which criticized the ads as deceptive by omission. As Chevron and other oil companies face the loss of tax breaks in the new Congress and investigations of price gouging in last summer's record gasoline prices, the ad tries to shift the discussion, the organization says. The global market in oil, says the ad, is "a world of rising demand, supply disruption, natural disasters and unstable regimes."

Such language absolves Chevron and other major oil companies of their own responsibility for "supply disruptions" in the gasoline market, which are due in large part to the industry's restriction of refining capacity even when, as in last year's price spike, there was no lack of availablecrude oil, says FTCR. The price spike equaled -- and in California exceeded-- the prices following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, despite the utter lack of such weather disasters nationwide last year, the group says.

The ad also aims to forestall congressional criticism of questionable foreign oil investments by California-based Chevron, arguing that oil investment should be allowed to "flow freely across borders," FTCR says. Chevron praises itself for "developing energy through partnerships with 26 countries."

"Those 26 countries would include Nigeria, where Chevron's ties with brutal security forces and broken economic promises to people near its oil fields have been strongly rebuked by human rights organizations," says Judy Dugan, research director of FTCR. "And Ecuador, where Chevron's toxic drilling wastes polluted regional water sources and triggered a lawsuit by indigenous tribes whose children are said to suffer four times the leukemia rate of unaffected areas.

"Chevron, aside from trying to shift the discussion away from its own behavior in the gasoline market, appears to be intent on quelling any trade regulation that might restrict its dealings with abusive regimes," says Dugan.

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