Celebrities Against "Big Oil"

Posted: Jul 27, 2007 12:00 AM
Celebrities Against "Big Oil"

Actor Matt Damon appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno this week to promote his latest Jason Bourne flick, but most memorable from the interview was a clip Leno showed of Damon performing in a spot to promote alternative fuels. In the video clip Damon dressed as a gas pump and delivered the following line: “"Come on, Congress. Come on, big oil. Mandate cleaner cars and cleaner fuel. Flex fuel. A little bit of corn and a pinch of can-do attitude is all it takes. And kids love it too. Yippee!"

In addition to Damon, the videos produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund feature actress Jennifer Garner, comedienne Sarah Silverman, and similar to the Damon spot, Ben Affleck dressed as an ear of corn vowing to bring down "big oil."

I don’t doubt the sincerity of multi-millionaire movie stars willing to humiliate themselves by appearing as cartoon-like gas pumps and giant ears of corn. They must really believe they have the answer to solve a global warming crisis. If only they could convince enough people to push for alternative fuels they think they could bring down “Big Oil” and the world would be a better place.

John Stossel has identified quite a few problems with the idea that corn is the answer to our energy woes, but ad campaigns like this one are not about facts and real solutions to problems. They are about raising awareness. And there is certainly a heck of a lot of awareness-raising going on surrounding the issue of global warming.

In addition to the amusing vision of Matt Damon in a puffy gas pump costume, my awareness was raised this week when I read that Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, said she would be giving up tangerines to help save the earth. She referred to her decision to “buy local” while discussing a trade policy that would recognize the carbon footprint of transporting fruit. "I live in North Carolina. I'll probably never eat a tangerine again."

Edwards used the example to illustrate the "sacrifice" associated with policies that might be needed to address environmental problems. (Hey, if I was living in a 28,000 square foot mansion, and vacationing at a second multi-million dollar house I owned on exclusive Figure Eight Island, I think going without tangerines is a sacrifice I could make.) The Politico’s Ben Smith reported that “when asked about her comment immediately after the event, John Edwards avoided the question twice, then said he isn't sure.”

John Edwards is not the only public figure discussing environmental issues who is not so sure about the sacrifices that might be needed to address energy concerns.

Al Gore’s “Live Earth” concerts featured rock stars who John Berlau described as jetting around the world and burning massive amounts of fuel “to send the message to fans at home that they had better conserve their energy or face the allegedly dire threat of global warming.” Many of the celebrities and politicians preaching sacrifice have yet to give up their limousines or private jets or energy-gobbling mansions, but they are certainly raising awareness. I wonder how many carbon credits that buys them?

When even kids’ movies such as Ice Age: The Meltdown and Happy Feet include global warming references, it is obvious that “raising awareness” of the issue has been incredibly successful. In addition, drivers are reminded every time they fill their tanks of the cost of energy. More awareness is not needed, but a balanced presentation of accurate facts is. I wonder what kind of costume it would take to get a balanced view of environmental issues onto the airwaves.