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CAN THE OIL INDUSTRY WIN A BUMPER-STICKER WAR?

The oil and gas industry should take seriously what Robert Lind and Charles Dines are doing around Corte Madera, Calif.

The two middle-aged men, reports the Associated Press, are waging a propaganda war against sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

Their tactics are juvenile and easy to dismiss as misbehavior characteristic of environmental zealots. Yet recent history shows that this type of mischief works.

Lind, identified as the operator of a deer-repellent business, and Dines, a construction worker, patrol the area around San Francisco looking for SUVs. When they find one they attach to its bumper a sticker that reads: "I'm changing the environment! Ask me how!"

The vandalism, Lind says, is a way to "punish these people" for driving outsize vehicles, which tend to burn more fuel per mile traveled than smaller ones. "They think their status trinket is more important than the environment we all share."

Of course, there are no laws against driving SUVs. There are no laws against exercising choice.

There are laws against defacing the property of someone else. There are laws against presuming to punish people for legal behavior. But environmental zealots have a way of violating laws with impunity.

This minor infringement on the rights of others seems harmless. In fact, the activism it represents receives much popular applause.

But the oil and gas industry should resist acted-out self-righteousness such as this wherever it appears.

Sticking idiotic bumper stickers on vehicles judged offensive is not much different from illegally boarding the Brent spar while it was under tow in 1995 to be scuttled in the deep Atlantic.

Remember that shenanigan by Greenpeace activists? It worked.

Royal Dutch/Shell, which held permits for deepwater disposal of the old production and storage vessel, capitulated. Under pressure not only from the crazies aboard Brent spar but also from threats of boycotts and worse at its service stations in Europe, the big oil group contritely returned the vessel to shore, studied the problem for months, and finally decided to cut the vessel into pieces to be used in construction of a quay.

The option cost more than deepwater scuttling, the environmental effects of which Greenpeace has been shown to have wildly exaggerated. In this case, as in too many others, fact and legality yielded to environmentalist presupposition and demands.

The incident did more than protect the deep Atlantic from the tiny intrusion of a sunken vessel would have represented. It gave environmental extremists a new outlet for their preemptive righteousness. In Europe, decommissioning offshore oil and gas platforms now represents a serious challenge to the producing industry because disposal at sea is no longer an option.

All because a dangerous and illegal Greenpeace stunt-the intellectual equivalent of bumper-sticker vandalism-accomplished its goal.


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