So, hydroelectric power isn’t renewable…?

I was already in a fairly poor mood while watching the Oklahoma City Thunder get dismantled by Denver earlier this month, but the new ExxonMobil ad campaign featured during almost every commercial break did little to help the situation.

The 30-second spot is part of the conglomerate’s “Energy Quiz” initiative, and though I’m not sure I fully comprehend the reasoning behind it (is the oil and gas giant looking to diversify?), it’s interesting nonetheless. 

“Here’s a question for you,” the narrator says. “Is your TV powered by coal? Natural gas? Nuclear? Or renewables — like solar and wind?”

Now, maybe my interpretation of the commercial as a snub to hydroelectric power is more a reflection of Nugget shooting guard Randy Foye’s inexplicable performance that night instead of any actual malice on ExxonMobil’s part, but it does seem to reflect the common notion both in the United States and abroad that hydropower isn’t “renewable”.

According to ExxonMobil, coal and natural gas account for the vast majority of America’s energy generation at 39- and 28-percent, respectively.

Nuclear follows at 19-percent, while oil contributes just 1-percent.

Meanwhile, renewables (again, per ExxonMobil’s numbers) contribute the remaining 13-percent.

That neither the commercial nor the campaign’s accompanying website never really fully explain exactly what constitute “renewable” sources is, however, somewhat disconcerting given the large percentage of that percentage that hydroelectricity accounts for.

If the Natural Resources Defense Council is to be believed, then hydroelectricity makes up about 6-percent of the nation’s overall energy supply, making it America’s largest source of renewable energy. And unless ExxonMobil is completely ignoring hydroelectricity as a renewable, you’d think it would deserve billing beside solar (which adds less than 1-percent) and wind (about 4-percent), right?

So why hydropower being ignored?

It’s a rhetorical question, sure, but still one that begs asking.

I don’t think it’s faux rage to say hydropower’s omission from any discussion about renewable energies is fairly egregious at this point — especially in the United States, where hydro is being included in renewable portfolio standards at both the state and federal level.


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