MAYFLOWER, Ark. — In an unprecedented public-relations campaign, ExxonMobil is “demonstrating the health of the petroleum industry” by spilling thousands of barrels of crude oil and debris from one of its tar-sands pipelines. “So often oil producers like us are overlooked in the popular press,” said Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s vice president of public and government affairs. “In order to heighten our profile in the public eye, we cut a large gash into one of our pipelines, spilling an oil-laden sludge into the streets—and eventually the water supply—of Mayflower, Arkansas.
“We believe that the imagery of this fossil fuel flowing through suburban neighborhoods will demonstrate to local residents, and eventually to the world, how ExxonMobil contributes to the dominance of this country by unleashing the abundance of energy that drives our economy.
“We can’t take all the credit, though,” Cohen added. “We would like to thank the American people for financing our company through the billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies we receive every year. We couldn’t do it without you!”
Critics were quick to question ExxonMobil’s stance that this massive spill is part of a promotional campaign. “If they are using this spill to publicize their company, why did they prohibit the media access to the spill site?” said Arkansas State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. “The only reason we have these pictures is because residents took them.
“In fact, Exxon has so much pull with the federal government they got the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to order a no-fly zone over the spill so that people couldn’t see the extent of the damage being done here. Does that sound like they want word to get out?”
ExxonMobil’s Cohen countered that “Being secretive about the spill just generates more interest. It’s what’s known in the PR industry as ‘generating buzz.’ People just want what they can’t have.
“And this is just the beginning. The pipeline now spilling into Arkansas is only one-tenth the size of the proposed tar-sands pipeline coming through this area. Consider the current spill as just preview of coming attractions.”