By Kristen Evans, LABB Art-to-Action Coordinator and EvanMarie Allison, LABB Volunteer Coordinator
On Sunday May 20, a local food bank held a “Rubber Ducky Derby” at a neighborhood festival in New Orleans. Chevron was the main sponsor, and its logo was splashed all over the event’s marketing material.
We see this sort of thing all the time, like “Jazz and Heritage Festival Presented by Shell”. So, what does it mean when an oil company sponsors a community event? We think that is an important question. So, the Bucket Brigade invited a family of ducks to the event to encourage people to think about it. We also handed out 400 fliers that presented facts about the oil industry to give people food for thought.
Our family of ducks was hard to miss. A buzz sparked among Duck Derby spectators as the ducks floated by. One individual pointed and asked, “Where is the BP duck?” missing the other mother Chevron and her BP and ExxonMobil ducklings. Followed by an affirming sigh, “Your BP duck should be bigger!” Attendees are all too familiar with the consequences of an oil spill and received the message well. Families were overheard recollecting ill feelings from the BP spill. Several spectators thanked LABB for its hard work and getting the message across.
Is it wrong for oil companies to give donations to good causes? No. They should be giving lots of money to the community, especially considering how much damage they have done and how little they pay for their oil.
However, a sponsorship is not the same as a donation. Sponsorships have strings (and logos) attached. A sponsorship is a public relations purchase. It’s buying goodwill, and it usually requires associating a company’s name with an event. In other words, sponsoring community events is a marketing strategy that Big Oil does to fool us into thinking they’re good guys and to distract us from what is going on behind the curtain. The facts about what Big Oil is doing to hurt us:
- There have been more than 4,500 spills in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP Disaster.
- Louisiana’s 17 oil refineries have averaged nine accidents EVERY WEEK since 2005. 
Ironically, southeast Louisiana food banks saw a 25% increase in demand during the BP oil spill. Yes, people go hungry because of the oil industry.
Sure, oil companies employ people. But that doesn’t give them the right to pollute Louisiana. They can afford to do better and spend the real money on equipment and personnel to eliminate their horrible record of spills and accidents. Chevron’s 2011 profits were $26.9 billion.
Chevron seems like a nice oil company when they sponsor local events, but they distract us with a few thousand dollars while refusing to reinvest their mega-profits where it counts: safety.
Chevron – Want to help the community? Put your money where your mouth is. Hire more people to maintain your facilities and buy more equipment to reduce your accident problem. Pay to repair the wetlands. Benefit our economy, our environment and our health by being a good corporate citizen.
It’s time to start questioning the oil industry in Louisiana. To get involved e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
 Waterkeeper Alliance, http://www.waterkeeper.org/ht/d/ContentDetails/i/23894