Energy News Today

Fossil fuel firms among biggest spenders on Google ads that look like search results

Fossil fuel companies and firms that work closely with them are among the biggest spenders on ads designed to look like Google search results, in what campaigners say is an example of “endemic greenwashing”.

The Guardian analysed ads served on Google search results for 78 climate-related terms, in collaboration with InfluenceMap, a thinktank that tracks the lobbying efforts of polluting industries.

The results show that over one in five ads seen in the study – more than 1,600 in total – were placed by companies with significant interests in fossil fuels.

Advertisers pay for their ads to appear on the search engine when a user queries certain terms. The ads are appealing to businesses because they are very similar in appearance to search results: more than half of users in a 2020 survey reported they could not tell the difference between a paid-for listing and a normal Google result.

ExxonMobil, Shell, Aramco, McKinsey, and Goldman Sachs were among the top-20 advertisers on the search terms, while a number of other fossil fuel producers and their financiers also placed ads.

Jake Carbone, senior data analyst at InfluenceMap, said: “Google is letting groups with a vested interest in the continued use of fossil fuels pay to influence the resources people receive when they are trying to educate themselves.

“The oil and gas sector has moved away from contesting the science of climate change and now instead seeks to influence public discussions about decarbonisation in its favour.”

Oil major Shell’s ads – 153 were counted in total – appeared on 86% of searches for “net zero”. Many promoted its pledge to become a net zero company by 2050 and align itself with a 1.5C warming target.

Google ads on the search term 'net zero'
Google ads on the search term ‘net zero’. Photograph: Google

However, Shell’s net-zero strategy relies heavily on carbon capture and offsetting, according to a Carbon Brief analysis, which says: “Despite its ‘highly ambitious’ framing … Shell’s vision of a continued role for oil, gas and coal until the end of the century remains essentially the same.”

A spokesperson for Shell said: “Shell’s target is to become a net zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society. Our short, medium and long-term intensity and absolute targets are consistent with the more ambitious 1.5C goal of the Paris agreement.”

Goldman Sachs, which facilitated nearly $19bn of lending to the fossil fuel industry in 2020, had the third highest number of ads. The bank’s ads appeared on almost six in 10 searches for “renewable energy”, with many emphasising its “continued commitment to sustainable finance”.

Consulting firm McKinsey’s ads appeared on more than eight in 10 searches for “energy transition” and four in 10 searches for “climate hazards”. Its ads stated: “McKinsey works with clients on innovation & growth that advances sustainability.”

Alongside its work on sustainable investing, the company receives significant income from…

Read More: Fossil fuel firms among biggest spenders on Google ads that look like search results

2022-01-05 01:00:00

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy
%d bloggers like this: