Somebody thought Royal-Dutch Shell did an extra-good job this year, and decided to give them a trophy: The oil giant was named "Energy Company of the Year" at the Platts Global Energy Awards. According to its website, Platts is the "leading global provider of energy, petrochemicals and metals information," and is in no way related to screen legend Oliver Platt.
Now, just to refresh your memory, Shell is the oil company whose most notable adventure in 2012 consisted of trying and repeatedly failing to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska this summer. So why did the company win an award, as opposed to the ridicule of its peers? Are extra points awarded for transforming an oil drilling operation into a tragicomic circus show?
Or maybe Shell won "Energy Company of the Year" by excelling at lying its ass off; a requisite trait for any major oil company? After all, after it spent years and billions of dollars convincing U.S. regulators that drilling was safe, and then turned around and admitted its safety equipment in the Arctic was a joke. Its containment dome, allegedly designed to capture any underwater spillage, was "crushed like a beer can" under ordinary conditions. Or maybe because it spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, after no one had stepped up to the plate for a few months?
Perhaps the Energy Company of the Year has to also prove that it's willing to despoil foreign countries and then scoff at local residents who want them to pay for cleanup costs? Like how Shell spilled twice as much oil in the Niger Delta as BP spilled in the Gulf, and is currently getting sued for negligence?
Is that what it takes to be the Energy Company of the Year? Or is the whole award just some sort of an industry-wide pity prize? Or outright mockery, like the Razzies?
Must be. Otherwise, the president of Platts would have to be serious when he said the sentence "Platts congratulates winners and finalists alike for their efforts to promote a secure and socially-responsible energy future" aloud and in public and was talking about Shell.
And surely this PR release is 100% tongue-in-cheek: "Judges were impressed by the company's commitment to continual innovation," it reads. "The judges also cited Shell's advancements in deepwater drilling, shale development and tight-gas extraction, all of which are helping to drive U.S. energy independence."
Surprise: there's not a drop of satire in this sad little ritual. No, we do indeed live in a special moment wherein the world's best oil company has broadly displayed aggressive ineptitude in a fragile, pristine environment, has dumped oil heedlessly across Africa, and has covered up the shortcomings of its own safety procedures. That's what it takes to be the Energy Company of the Year, as far as the fossil fuels industry is concerned.