'Polar Bears' Protest Exxon Ads at 'Green' Nationals Park

By Penny Starr and Keriann Hopkins | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

Video (CNSNews.com) - Protesters -- some dressed in polar bear costumes -- gathered at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on Friday to denounce ExxonMobil ads inside the new baseball stadium, which they said contradict the facility's environmentally friendly construction and operation.

An ExxonMobil official noted, however, that the company is the "official energy partner" of the stadium and that it was not known whether any of the protestors were aware of ExxonMobil's environmental record.

In comments to the crowd of mostly reporters, Mike Tidwell, founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said: "Our message to the Washington Nationals today is this: You cannot be green if your No. 1 advertiser is the world's biggest environmental abuser.

"What do we tell our children when they sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballpark' and they sing about peanuts and Crackerjacks while it's called the ExxonMobil Seventh Inning Stretch and Exxon's name is plastered on baseball's biggest scoreboard? It's time to strike out ExxonMobil at Nationals Park," said Tidwell.

Similar remarks were made by representatives from other environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA and the Hip Hop Caucus. A mock oil well with oil-stained baseballs and three sandal-clad "polar bears" holding signs reading "Exxon = $4 Gas and Global Warming" provided the backdrop for the protest.

"(ExxonMobil's) record profits come from our pain at the pump," Steve Kretzman, executive director of Oil Change International, said at the event.

"Texas is back," he noted. "It's bad enough the Texans have had the White House for the last eight years. Now, after we've finally got baseball back, we have to endure advertisements for Texas's largest corporation, ExxonMobil, here in our park. It's our park, it's our team, our stadium and we are not going to let Texas take it again."

Alan Jeffers, spokesperson for ExxonMobil, told Cybercast News Service that energy is at the heart of the corporation's sponsorship at the park.

"We are actually the official energy partner with the Nationals Stadium," Jeffers said. "What we are doing is working with the Nationals Stadium to jointly promote greater awareness of energy conservation."

To that end, Jeffers said there will be messaging around the park giving fans energy conservation tips such as keeping tires properly inflated or turning down air conditioning in cars to save on gas.

"One of the easiest ways to reduce environmental impact of energy uses, and also save money, is by using energy wisely," Jeffers said.

Jeffers said that to his knowledge, none of the groups represented at the protest have contacted the corporation to learn about its position on the environment.

"We take the issue of climate change very seriously," Jeffers said. "And we're taking steps to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions and help consumers reduce their emissions."

Jeffers said that in 2007, ExxonMobil reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 5 million tons. He compared that reduction to Toyota's recent claim that since selling its first 1 million Priuses, it had helped reduce greenhouse gases by 4.5 million tons.

ExxonMobil also contributed $100 million to the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University, which states its mission as "supplying energy to meet the changing needs of a growing world population in a way that protects the environment."

Pat Michaels, senior fellow in environmental studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told Cybercast News Service that world markets, not ExxonMobil, determine oil prices and, in turn, the cost consumers pay for gas. He also said that it is consumers who are willing to pay $4 a gallon at the pump.

"The greatest cause of carbon dioxide emissions is the behavior of consumers, not the behavior of producers," Michaels said. "Nobody is holding a gun to people's heads saying that they have to buy gasoline."

Nationals Park officials declined comment on the protest.

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