The Big Oil Origins of the Term ‘Carbon Footprint’

British Petroleum created a ridiculously effective marketing campaign to obfuscate and deflect blame onto individuals

Mitchell Peterson


Photo by Yann Allegre on

These days, like the legendary Seth Godin, I see just about everything through the lens of marketing. From electoral campaigns to political movements, from Pumpkin Spice lattes’ twelve years without any real pumpkin to guru entrepreneurs like SBF, Elizabeth Holmes, or Bill freaking Gates claiming they’ll save the world, and from NFL Armed Forces Weeks to bringing ‘democracy’ by droning schools, the United States of America is too damn good at marketing.

The obvious other word that could be used is propaganda, and there is an interesting history of the public relations and communications fields euphemizing that ‘p-word.’

Today, it is generally agreed that companies run marketing campaigns and (foreign) governments run propaganda influence operations.

But, with its ‘innovative spirit,’ the US is by far the best in both.

As the former CIA director Bill Casey famously said, “We’ll know our information operation is successful when everything the American people believe is false.” Mission accomplished, Bill.

But when it comes to corporations with hundreds of billions of dollars at their disposal, the line between marketing campaigns and propaganda operations disappears. These companies have way more money than many governments, so I think it’d be fitting to call their PR and marketing divisions ‘Propaganda Units’ and the executives ‘Propaganda Ministers’ because that is the role they play.

They spend billions of dollars on mass influence campaigns to sway opinions and misinform the general public.

And they’re way too good at it.

I recently wrote about how Exxon’s own scientists accurately predicted global warming fifty years ago, but publicly the company sowed doubt and confusion.

They were so effective that all right-wing media, ‘intellectuals,’ and politicians repeat the myths nonstop and have created a voting base that thinks melting ice caps and starving polar bears are suffering from the ‘Woke Mind Virus.’



Mitchell Peterson

Freelance writer who spent nine years outside the US, currently in rural America writing the Substack bestseller 18 Uncles.