Austerity Measurement: Environmental Party In Cancun! Woooo!

If the BP oil spill did anything for economic growth, it blew the wellhead on energy advertising. Ask yourself, what energy company needs to advertise in this era of energy consolidation? Better than half the time, consumers are impotent as to what energy company they subsidize in their daily lives. Do you choose who supplies your electricity? Natural gas? Heating oil? During the crisis, protests at BP gasoline stations were rather quickly abandoned after some fact checking, as it turned out that BP didn’t actually supply gasoline to those stations, they merely provided the branding.

Though that does kind of undercut BP’s whole “our gas is objectively better” advertising campaign at the time. Since it wasn’t their gas. Yeah, they were lying, deceitful pricks even then. Surprised?

But as the BP oil crisis continued and people were existentially (not practically) disgusted by it, energy companies feared a backlash against the whole industry. BP even got backlash for mounting a marketing campaign against the backlash on the basis the company could have spent the marketing money on the cleanup.

Shell and other companies joined in with their marketing ideas to deal with the oncoming “energy problem” or “energy gap” or “energy peak,” in an almost charming display of good old-fashioned American technocrat condescension. “Don’t worry, we just invented something that allows us to rape the earth in ways that your small brain never would have imagined, and therefore, you can go to work in blissful convenience at a reasonable markup above inflation.” That is, unless you drive on any highway in New Jersey during rush hour.

Another firm, Logica, which supplies technology for energy companies, has a rather alarming global warming banner advertisement that transforms the Earth to look like Mars. Better click on that ad and join their “responsible” discussion about how to keep the air clean by doing the same old thing slightly differently.

So while energy companies pitch consumers on the benefits of oil sands and the controversial practice of hydrofracking (which could be construed as expensive energy at the cost of contaminated drinking water that makes Three Mile Island runoff look like Poland Spring), an immeasurably more useless group of people will descend on Cancun in late November and early December for what will be by far the least cool Spring break ever.

They couldn’t even schedule it in the spring. They did it in autumn. As far away from cool as you can be.

“They” are the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or the COP UNFCCC. Rolls right off the tongue. Makes USSR-era initialisms look welcoming.

Not so long ago, this group had the far sexier title of the Copenhagen Conference (though “Cancun Conference” ups the alliteration, I’ll say that), as Denmark was the locale for the meeting last December. Arguably, very little has been agreed to by the 190-plus member states in the COP UNFCCC since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and even then, the world’s biggest polluter (at the time), the United States, never ratified the treaty. Of course, there have been a few breakthroughs, such as agreements for the preservation of rainforest, but it seems that annual climate change conferences are becoming something of a World Cup or South By Southwest for politicians and environmentalists.

Don’t forget that on the docket for this year’s conference is the location to hold the 2012 conference, which currently Qatar and South Korea are bidding on.

And expectations are anything but high for this round of talks. After an exceedingly disappointing and controversial non-binding declaration hastily written on a napkin (or something) came out of the Copenhagen conference, this 16th meeting of the COP UNFCCC should be all about baby steps, according to UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. The heat was on last year for a solid extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in 2012, but rather than jump back in that quagmire, it seems even a little something is better than the limp excuse for negotiations Barack Obama came back with last year. Not that it was necessarily his fault, but he did actually show up and do some negotiating, unlike his predecessor.

Fat chance of that this year. With a stalled climate bill and a $30 billion commitment by developed nations to global climate change financing during austere times, the prospects for solving climate change via United Nations conferences seem more unlikely by the year. And if you think America’s new punching bag is going to show up, it would only be for the weather.

And the beaches are beautiful. Environmentalists might as well enjoy them while they can!