What Would The Humble Oil Ad Look Like Today?



From a 1962 edition of Life Magazine available on Google Books
With 2 People on Board (Unlike Photo Above)

Last week many of us derived some pleasure from the irony of a Humble Oil Company advertisement in a 1962 edition of Life Magazine. It was rediscovered recently by a Grist reader, and subsequently covered by TreeHugger.

Humble Oil Company became Standard Oil before becoming Exxon. We know that Exxon spends more money on lobbying than the entire clean energy industry combined, much of it on framing climate change as a myth, was fined $1 billion dollars for sabotaging its own oil wells, pled guilty to killing protected birds, and who could forget (or forgive) the Exxon Valdez?

With such a long history of egregious offenses against the environment and a seeming disregard for what anyone thinks about it, it would hardly be a surprise if Exxon were to print this add today, as part of some climate change denial campaign. But what would the ad say today?The original ad says:

Each day Humble supplies enough energy to melt 7 million tons of glacier!
The giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet the petroleum energy Humble supplies -- if converted into heat -- could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second. To meet the nation's growing energy needs for energy, Humble has applied science to nature's resources to become America's Leading Energy Company. Working wonders with oil through research Humble provides energy in many forms -- to help heat our homes, power our transportation, and to furnish industry with a great variety of versatile chemicals. Stop at a Humble station for new Enco Extra gasoline, and see why the "Happy Motoring" Sign is the World's First Choice!

Today ExxonMobil extracts 3.921 million barrels of oil per day, or about 3% of global oil production. A barrel contains 6.1 gigajoules (GJ) of chemical potential energy and it takes 333.55 joules to melt one gram of ice. Exxon's daily extraction rate translates into 23.9181 million GJ, enough to melt 79 million tons or 914 tons per second!

Of course what the Humble Oil Company neglected to include in their 1962 advertisement was the lasting gift from burning their oil. Not only can oil melt the ice directly with heat, but also indirectly though climate change. Unlike direct heat, which gets used up in melting the ice, the carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuel persists in the atmosphere for many years. So ExxonMobil's modern-day contribution is not just equivalent to 79 million tons per day of ice-melting potential but also the climate change contributions from all of the past combustion of its oil.

By the way, the glacier in the original ad is the Taku Glacier in Alaska. It would have added to the irony to include a photo of a severely atrophied Taku Glacier today but it appears that Taku Glacier isn't doing too bad, unlike so many other glaciers around the world. You can read more about the research that has been done on the Taku Glacier here.

Tags: Carbon Dioxide | Global Climate Change | Oil

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