Perusing the Coors Brewing Company’s homepage reveals the words “Around here the best spots are located between perfect and just right. Like Adolph Coors brewery. It’s the only place with water worthy of his beer. Since 1873, it’s been brewed with rocky mountain water. And as long as it flows, so does the legend.” Next to this fine example of cowboy poetry are a frosty bottle and can of Coors beer.
Aside from a little exaggeration (it’s widely known that Coors beer is low-grade, anything but legendary) and deception (doesn’t malt barley and hops have more to do with beer quality than where the water originates?) the homepage is more or less a clear representation of the Coors Brewing Company—they make beer. Beer is their primary product, and the large beer can and beer bottle are indicative of this fact. Beer, and alcoholic beverages in general, is the subject of much controversy in American history. Heck, they were even made illegal at one time. Nevertheless, the purveyors of this product don’t claim to be selling anything but mildly alcoholic golden fun in a can. They’re worthy of a little shame, but don’t seem to carry any.
The world’s oil companies don’t share this bravado. Their web home pages seldom make direct references to their main product—oil. Out of 10 major oil company websites (Shell, Chevron, BP, Citgo, Sunoco, Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Total, Saudi Aramco, National Iranian Oil Company [NIOC]) not one has even a small picture of flowing crude or barrels of anything, much less any petroleum product of any kind. Unlike alcoholic beverages, possession of oil has never been a jail-time awarding punishable crime, but, judging from the level of shame present on the company websites, it would seem that they’re selling heroin.
Some websites, French oil company Total’s in particular, as well as Chevron’s home page, seem more appropriate for nonprofit environmental activists, much less oil companies. Total’s homepage is covered with phrases and words like “preserve” “combating climate change” and “cultural heritage,” while Chevron’s is just as misleading, with “human energy stories,” “Global Issues” “Energy Sources” and the words “protecting the environment” and “corporate responsibility” beneath a photo of an indigenous man throwing a fishing cast-net into a tropical swamp.
Amazingly, the word “oil” doesn’t appear on neither Chevron’s or Total’s page, nor does the o-word appear on the homepages of Exxon-Mobil and Conoco-Philips. No other industry is so shameful. Even gun makers aren’t so shy about their product. Contrarily, they’re proud. Winchester, an American Rifle and Shotgun manufacturer, doesn’t hide behind euphemisms at all with the homepage slogan “the guns that work.” Nor does Colt Mfg., proud to display large photographs of Colt-made compact semi-automatic handguns on their homepage.
The oil industry’s widespread shame is expected and understandable, since their product is the root of related to many of our world’s wars, political problems, and environmental issues. Their shameful web pages would be indecipherable to, say, and alien visitor from another world. The alien being would be hard-pressed figure out what service these oil companies provide—inevitably deciding they’re a bunch of large consultation firms that specialize in environmental awareness, sustainable development and renewable energy. The oil companies’ deception is tantamount to Coors claiming to be an organization dedicated to safe driving, non-violent conflict resolution, abstinence, and rational thought.