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Shell gets slammed by government agency over 'misleading' new ad: 'We strongly disagree'

The ad campaign about its activities shows details of its electric charging stations and investments in non-polluting energy.

Giant Shell's ads for renewable energy

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Oil and gas company Shell has had some ads banned by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority because they gave a "misleading" impression of how much of its business is focused on non-polluting energy, Reuters reported.

Shell has been harshly criticized lately for not living up to its promises to help the climate. Advocacy groups have pointed out that a large portion of the money it claimed it invested in "Renewables and Energy Solutions" actually went to natural gas, a highly polluting energy source. Shell justified its claims by saying that natural gas is less polluting than oil, which makes up most of its business.

Shell also offered the "Shell Card," which it said would allow companies to make up for the heat-trapping gas their cars produced by funding programs that remove that pollution from the atmosphere, like rainforest preservation. 

However, Greenpeace UK found that the programs were actually "protecting" areas of forest that weren't in danger anyway — meaning the extra funding did nothing for the environment.

Despite all this, Shell has been giving the impression that it's hard at work on becoming more eco-friendly, Reuters reported. Although its oil and gas put enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the air every year, it has claimed it will achieve "net zero carbon" by 2050 — meaning it will take as much carbon pollution out of the atmosphere as it produces.

The ad campaign about its activities shows details of its electric charging stations and investments in non-polluting energy, with the slogan, "The U.K. is READY for cleaner energy," Reuters reported.

The ASA was clear that this campaign crossed a line. "We told Shell U.K. Ltd to ensure that their future ads featuring environmental claims did not mislead by exaggerating or, omitting material information about, the proportion of their business activities that were comprised of lower carbon activities," it said in the ruling on its website.

"We strongly disagree with the ASA's decision," a Shell spokesperson told Reuters, adding that the ban might "slow the UK's drive towards renewable energy." However, it's not clear that Shell is making a meaningful contribution toward that drive in the first place.

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