Chevron Promotes Petroleum . . . with Clean Energy Game

If you’ve been scratching your head over oil companies’ green PR attempts, there’s a new goodie coming up: Chevron (CVX) is due to unveil its latest eco PR effort, and this time it amounts to an earth-friendly-version of SimCity. We were recently emailed a link to preview it, and while interactive games aimed at promoting energy education already exist, we couldn’t resist getting a glimpse of how an oil company would use a game to promote clean energy. The company will officially launch the free, online game on Sept. 5.

“Welcome to Energyville” reads the game’s intro. The year is 2007, and it’s up to the player to allocate funds to energy-generation plants, ranging from traditional coal to biomass, solar, and wind. The goal? Build an energy economy that keeps the city powered through 2030, without destroying the environment — or the municipal budget. The game tries to highlight the complexities of being “prosperous and secure” while also “living in a clean environment.”
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We named our city “Earth2Tech City” and, with a slight eye roll, prepped for play. To Chevron’s credit, it turns out that the game, which was done in collaboration with The Economist Group, is an easy-to-use and well-designed educational tool that provides an overview of the clean and unclean ways we can power our cities in the coming decade, all while looking at economic viability and safety challenges along the way.

In addition to laying out the challenges and opportunities for different types of power generation, our city (which, graphics-wise, looks more like a suburb that popped up in the middle of nowhere, with a lone car driving around its deserted streets) also has little clickable info boxes on its various buildings that detail how much power each type of energy-hogging facility needs, from commercial buildings to transportation. When that need is met, the info box gets a check mark, and the player can pat his or herself on the back for a job well done.

Thanks to in-game stats by the analyst and research firm Economist Intelligence Unit, we were inundated with stats at every turn while we drag-and-dropped various types of energy-generating plants into our miniature city.

In the end, though, after we decorated the screen with solar, hydro, and wind plants, we forgot to include one thing: petroleum. And Chevron didn’t want us to forget that! We got a warning message: “Earth2Tech City needs petroleum.” The company clearly wants to make sure we know that petroleum-based fuels will remain necessary well into the future, even though alternative fuels need to be part of the picture. Very true, though we’re not sure why we had to play an entire game to figure that one out.

Click back on this post on Sept. 5, and we’ll add a link to the game if you want to check it out.

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