Brent Spar 2: Greenpeace, Lego & Shell's Betrayal

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 10/15/2014 01:30:00 AM
This WSJ feature is sponsored by, er, Shell.
Environmentalist activists are not infallible despite being ostensibly well-intentioned. Common failings include impractical courses of action as well as those which actually make the situation worse. With regard to the latter, Greenpeace has some history with energy titan Shell. In 1995, Greenpeace singled out Shell for the planned sinking of an exhausted oil platform, Brent Spar. Greenpeace argued that it was better to bring the platform on land and dispose it from there at considerable additional expense. After making a huge racket, Shell eventually bowed to the environmentalists. However, this action was foolish and misguided. In a study published in the prestigious journal Nature, it was explained how sinking the platform into the sea as originally planned was actually the ecologically-friendly alternative:
However, the true scandal may have never made it to the public: In June 1995, a study was published in the scientific journal “Nature”. This study stated that the impact on the environment by sinking the Brent Spar would have been minimal and the authors even said it would have been a gift to the eco-system. In September 1995, Greenpeace had to publish publicly that the 5,500 tons of leftovers of oil they assumed to be in the Brent Spar, was too much. In October 1995, the assessment of the Brent Spar by a Norwegian independent institution found that it was only 75 to 100 tons of oil. This is 1.36% – 1.82% of the amount assumed by Greenpeace. In retrospective, it seems to be true that sinking the Brent Spar would have been the best option, also ecologically.
Good job, Greenpeace. Nowadays, we have "Brent Spar Round 2" as Greenpeace has singled out Shell again for its role in Arctic drilling and targeted Lego for creating toy sets which feature Shell gas stations and the like via a viral YouTube video. Always loving irony, the WSJ feature on this incident was preceded by--you guessed it--a Shell video playing up its alternative energy portfolio (see picture above). Anyway, on to the matter...
A 1-minute, 45-second video has ended a long-term relationship between Lego and Royal Dutch Shell. The Danish toymaker said today that it will not renew a co-promotion deal with Shell, after a Greenpeace video linking Lego with the oil company’s Arctic drilling program went viral.

The video, which shows an Arctic landscape built of Lego blocks being swallowed up in a pool of black oil, “may have created misunderstandings among our stakeholders about the way we operate,” Lego Chief Executive Jørgen Vig Knudstorp said in a statement. Greenpeace has been pressing Lego to end a partnership signed in 2011, in which co-branded Lego toy cars are sold at Shell stations in some countries.

Greenpeace, in a statement on its website, called the decision “fantastic news.” In a statement issued by its London press service, Shell said it did not comment on contractual matters. “Our latest co-promotion with Lego has been a great success and will continue to be as we roll it out in more countries across the world,” the statement said.
I myself have some distaste for Arctic drilling, but I certainly don't think that targeting Lego is ideal. After all, remember that Lego pieces are made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). ABS is a petroleum-based product, i.e. a "petrochemical" derived from fossil fuels.

Lego disowning petroleum-based products is like McDonalds disowning meat production. Ironic, and worst of all, dumb. First off, Greenpeace should not have targeted Lego, a marketer of petroleum-based products. Second, Lego was doubly stupid to give in since it undermines the whole business model of selling petrochemical-based toy elements. Makes you sad, doesn't it?