UK media watchdog bans ExxonMobil ad

LONDON Wed Sep 3, 2008 12:42pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. oil major ExxonMobil may appeal a decision by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority on Wednesday to ban it from continuing to show a TV advert saying gas is one of the cleanest fuels.

Four viewers had challenged Exxon's claim that "natural gas is one of the world's cleanest fuels" and complained that the advertisement, which had been running on British television over summer, falsely implied liquefied natural gas was environmentally friendly.

"We concluded that the ad misleadingly implied that natural gas was one of the cleanest sources of energy and that liquefied natural gas was environmentally friendly," the advertising watchdog said in a statement.

"The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form."

Exxon said it was disappointed with the decision, denied that it had claimed LNG to be environmentally friendly and said it may appeal against the ruling.

"Our advertisement accurately stated that natural gas is one of the world's cleanest fuels, that liquefied natural gas will play an important role in delivering new energy supplies, and that all forms of energy will be needed to meet growing demand," Corporate Affairs director at Esso UK Limited, Nick Thomas said.

"We maintain that our ad was accurate and truthful, and are considering an appeal of the Council's decision."

Clearcast, which is responsible for reviewing advertisements before broadcast, said it was satisfied with the claim that natural gas is "one of the world's cleanest fuels" and that viewers would understand no fossil fuels are green.

Burning gas to produce electricity does emit much less climate warming gas than either coal or oil. Clearcast said carbon-free sources of energy such as solar, wind or wave power were rarely described as "fuels."

The ASA Council said that although the advert did not say LNG had been developed in an environmentally friendly way "we considered that was how viewers would interpret it."

(Reporting by Daniel Fineren)

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