Ethical Oil FAIL: so slimy it gets mixed with Saudi crude anyway

Interesting Times12/01/2011 7:00:00 pm PST

“Ethical Asbestos”

“Ethical Tobacco”

“Ethical Endangered Species Soup”

…in other words:

“Ethical oil”: Choose your poison

In principle, we could look at this as a matter of “choose your poison.” Do you want the oil that’s associated with human rights violations, or the oil that’s associated with environmental destruction? Interesting dilemma, in principle. But for most of us, it’s a moot point: oil (and the gas that comes from it) is an undifferentiated commodity, and we don’t get to choose based on nation-of-origin. So it’s not like the ad in question is really intended to help consumers make more ethical consumption choices.

The Truthiness of Ethical Oil

“Even if Westerners tune in to the messaging at and then demand that their local gas stations purge all Saudi-origin content from their supply chain, there won’t be a single Saudi Sheik who loses a nickel,” says Kay. “If you want to hurt the Saudis, there is one thing you can do: Depress the global demand for oil by using less of it.” Otherwise, you’re just needlessly poking an oil-rich bear with a stick while obfuscating the very essence of what it means to act “ethically”.

“Ethical Oil” doesn’t hurt the Saudis. Depressing the global demand for oil - by advocating for fossil fuel alternatives - does. Ergo, anyone who genuinely cares about human rights (and not just for citizens in oil-producing countries) knows what path to take.