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Royal Dutch Shell is hit by news hoax

Times Online

The Times May 18, 2010
Robin Pagnamenta

Royal Dutch Shell became the victim of an elaborate internet hoax yesterday after a fake news release was circulated about its operations in Nigeria.

The bogus e-mail, which featured a Shell logo, links to company websites and cautionary footnotes, claimed that the company planned to suspend deepwater drilling off the coast of Nigeria.

The e-mail invited journalists to call a telephone number, which was answered by hoaxers who claimed to work for “Shell media relations” and who claimed that the decision had been taken after pressure from campaign groups such as Amnesty International.

A spokesman for Shell, which holds its annual meeting in The Hague today, said that it was investigating the incident.

It is the second time in four months that Shell has been the victim of an internet-based threat to its security linked to its activities in Nigeria. In February, Shell launched an inquiry after personal details of 170,000 employees and contractors appeared on the internet. The list included names, phone numbers and other details of employees and contractors working for Shell worldwide and was sent to non-governmental organisations and an anti-Shell website in an apparent attempt to highlight Shell’s activities in Nigeria and to call for changes to company policy there.

Shell is set to face fresh pressure over its activities in Nigeria at its annual meeting.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands and four Nigerians are also planning to sue the group over oil spills in Nigeria.

Also in focus at the annual meeting will be Shell’s activities in the Canadian oil sands, against which Shell investors and environmental campaigners are launching a protest today.

Catherine Howarth, chief executive of FairPensions, said: “The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has proved that environmental and social risks are also financial risks, and has made the need for shareholders to carefully scrutinise the risk-management strategies of oil majors abundantly clear.

“Shell’s AGM will provide one of the first opportunities for investors to act on this responsibility for closer scrutiny, and we hope that, at the meeting and beyond, investors continue to press Shell and other companies to demonstrate that everything possible is being done to identify and mitigate the risks arising from tar sands extraction.”

However, the clampdown on offshore drilling after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is set to channel investment into the controversial oil sands industry, a Canadian minister said yesterday.

Rob Renner, the Alberta Environment Minister, who is responsible for regulating the industry’s safety, claimed that deepwater drilling was higher-risk than producing crude from tar sands was safer than deepwater drilling, in spite of the greater emissions of carbon dioxide involved.

“If you have a mishap two kilometres under the ocean, it is much more difficult to deal with than above ground,” Mr Renner told The Times on a visit to London. “The question is: do we have the requisite expertise and manpower to deal with it? We think there is a different profile between developments on land and at sea.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: “Presenting the tar sands as a safe alternative to deep-sea oil is like saying that filterless cigarettes are healthier than cigars. Both carry massive environmental risks in terms of local people, wildlife and crucially the long-term stability of the climate.”

The Gulf oil spill is raising new questions about America’s oil strategy. Although just over half of US oil is still imported from countries such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, the fastest-growing source is from North America — particularly from the Gulf of Mexico and Canada’s oil sands regions.

Oil production from these two areas has doubled in recent years to 3.9 million barrels a day, supplying nearly a quarter of total US demand.

Oil sands companies in Alberta are already producing 1.3 million barrels a day and are on track to treble production by 2030.

The bitumen-rich sands of northern Canada are thought to contain 150 billion barrels of oil — second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of global reserves. But producing them is an energy-intensive and environmentally fraught process.

TIMES ARTICLE

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