Fossil fuel companies seem to have invested heavily in Google ads. According to a new analysis by The Guardian and InfluenceMap, Google shows ads for fossil fuel companies to users who have searched for climate change.
The inconsistency of Google search terms with the ads displayed has always been a controversial issue. The research team searched for 78 phrases related to climate change, and more than 1,600 ads appeared. The group says that over one in five were from companies “with significant interests in fossil fuels.”
ExxonMobil, Shell, and Aramco are among the fossil fuel companies that owned most of these ads. McKinsey and Goldman Sachs are next in line.
“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,” InfluenceMap senior data analyst Jake Carbone told The Guardian.
Google ads for fossil fuel companies look like regular searches
What makes Google ads for fossil fuel companies even more controversial is that the ads displayed are very similar to the common search phrases, and users have difficulty distinguishing them. The Varn research in 2020 proved that 58.1% of users could not distinguish an ad from a regular link.
The advertisements of these companies are also interesting. Fossil fuel companies, unlike other companies, do not use Google ads to sell their products because the authorities of any country do not search Google to buy oil or diesel.
Fossil fuel companies are promoting their net zero plans
Most of the ads from fossil fuel companies focus on moving towards green and promoting their net zero strategies. For example, the British oil and gas company Shell says it’s “a willing and able player in the energy transition.” Another British company BP insists on “Building and advocating for more renewable capacity & infrastructure.”
According to The Guardian and InfluenceMap study, in 86% of the search results for the “net zero,” about 153 ads from Shell showed up. This shows the heavy investment of Shell in promoting its strategies.
Most fossil fuel companies have announced their plans to reach net zero in the following decades. BP and Shell said that they would reach net zero by 2050. However, these aspirations seem a little far from reality, and the two companies will continue to sell fossil fuels until 2050.