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Corn Cob Bob promotes renewable fuels, but not at a holiday show sponsored by Shell Canada

THE NEW YORK TIMES: No Corn Cob Bob on Canada Day’s Guest List

Corn Cob Bob promotes renewable fuels, but not at a holiday show sponsored by Shell Canada.

“They got leaned on by Shell…”

Published: Monday July 11, 2005


Like most Canadians, Corn Cob Bob put his feet up on Canada Day, the national holiday on July 1. But the day off was unexpected for Bob, a mascot for a renewable fuel organization, and it came from an unexpected source: the Canadian division of the global oil company Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

Bob, who has the body of a farmer and a corncob head, is traveling through Canada this summer, passing out balloons, temporary tattoos and other novelties on behalf of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, a nonprofit group that promotes ethanol and diesel fuel made from vegetable oils. Kory Teneycke, the association’s executive director, said one highlight of Bob’s tour was to be the Canada Day celebrations in and around Canada’s Parliament buildings in Ottawa.

But less than a week before Bob (played by two college students who alternate wearing the poorly ventilated corncob head) was supposed to set up his hula hoops and bean bag toss, the celebration organizers told Mr. Teneycke that his group was no longer welcome. Mr. Teneycke said he was told that Shell, a major corporate sponsor of the Canada Day show, had insisted that its contract banned participation by anyone else in the fuel business.

“They got leaned on by Shell,” Mr. Teneycke said. “The petroleum industry is not particularly excited about ethanol and biodiesel.”

No one could be reached for comment at Shell Canada, based in Calgary, which was closed for a holiday during part of last week.

However, Guy Laflamme, the vice president of marketing and communications for the National Capital Commission, the government agency that organizes the Canada Day celebration, said it appeared that the company was given the incorrect impression by his employees that the alternative fuel groups might be promoting gas station chains which, unlike Shell Canada, sell alternative fuels at all of their outlets.

“It would be unfair to put the blame on Shell Canada because they were not provided with enough information,” Mr. Laflamme said.

Nevertheless, the decision was particularly embarrassing decision given the Canadian government’s efforts to promote alternative fuels.

“I was just blown away when I heard our senior people turned them down,” Mr. Laflamme said. “This was just so inappropriate.”

Next July, Mr. Laflamme said, Corn Cob Bob will be welcome in Ottawa. As well, he hopes Bob will come to the city’s next winter festival.

“It would serve the cause of the association quite well,” Mr. Laflamme said, adding, “We had a smog alert during the last Winterlude.” and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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