Is Shell Oil a Green Maverick?

Today I came across a video of the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas which was held in April, 2008.

The event is a competition between students from around North America (there is a different one in Europe) to create the most fuel efficient car ever. Purdue University won the prize for a solar engine vehicle reaching 2,861.8 miles per gallon. Penn State won the Fuel Cell category with a car reaching 1,668.3 miles per gallon, and Mater Dei High School claimed the first and third place trophies for the internal combustion engine category. The 5th and 6th Gen vehicles traveled 2,383.8 and 1,208.6 miles per gallon respectively.

But why is Shell, an oil company, sponsoring an event whose purpose is to invent cars which will obliterate the demand for its product? It reminds me of the Philip Morris commercials telling people not to smoke. David Sexton, President of Shell Oil Products said in a CNN interview, “We’re thrilled that if some of these ideas can maybe in the future reduce fuel consumption we think that would be good for everyone.” Does “everyone” include himself?

It must be a PR thing because otherwise it makes no sense. The oil companies are banking on the idea that even if fuel efficient, alternative energy vehicles do become practical and affordable, it will take decades before the supply of vehicles worldwide adopts the new technology. In the meantime Shell looks like a green maverick amongst its Big Bad Oil peers.

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