No it’s not somebody’s idea of a joke or an online parody. There really is a new web-based startup magazine called Greening of Oil. And it’s providing a useful service, too.

Author Amanda Little, in her book Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells — Our Ride to the Renewable Future (HarperCollins), takes readers on board an offshore Gulf of Mexico oil platform and talks one-on-one with the engineers who drill for oil in the seabed. It’s engrossing, and it’s a form of reporting that isn’t done enough. More useful than one more blog post demonizing oil is a story on how the industry actually works. 

According to Kay Cashman, publisher and executive editor of Greening for Oil, “Our intent is simply to track the environmental impact/footprint of energy, concentrating mainly on fossil fuels, since we are all using them, whether we like it or not — at least for the next few decades. There’s almost nobody doing that. For some, it’s not as interesting as what’s happening with wind turbines and solar, but we think people should be interested in the environmental performance of the oil and gas industry.”

Greening of Oil is a venture of the Anchorage, Alaska, company that also puts out the trade magazine Petroleum News, which would lead some to conclude that its reporters have gulped down the oil-tinged Kool Aid. Petroleum is, after all, a very dirty business. “We’ve heard that perspective,” Cashman told me. “But we’ve also heard from industry people who say that we’ve sold out to the greens, and from people in the middle who say it’s perfect for us because we can dissect the spin.”

A blogger at the Houston Chronicle asks the big question: “Can a publication whose creators have their roots in the fossil fuels industry write about the environmental record of the business without sounding like an extension of company PR departments?”

You can judge for yourself online. Judging from banner ads for raised drilling platforms and tools, it does appear the magazine has an industry readership — which can be a good thing. Its perspective, from that perch in Anchorage, is northern, but that might change. An article such as “Shell Strives for Smaller Arctic Offshore Footprint” is admirably in-depth and has plenty of new information for me about what the company is doing to mitigate its impact. It quotes George Itta, the mayor of the North Slope Borough and a subsistence hunter, who raises questions about noise, air and water pollution issues related to Shell oil drilling. “We expect a huge company like Shell to clear the bar with room to spare,” Itta says in the piece. “We need them to provide robust protections, not just minimums.”

In a perfect world, I’d also like to see some comments from Alaskan environmental groups and other critics giving Shell a green report card. What is the company’s record to-date in the Beaufort Sea? Have they paid fines, been subjected to lawsuits?

Who knew that Exxon was in the EV business? The company, according to another Greening article, makes separators that aid in battery pack management. Tiny Canadian company Electrovaya uses them in its Maya, a neighborhood EV with limited range. Since Exxon has made it clear that (aside from some interest in biofuels, especially those made from algae) it is sticking to its core fossil fuel business, how does this initiative fit in to the company’s big picture?

Cashman, by the way, thinks we’re stuck with fossil fuels for another 30 years, which is also the consensus of the federal Energy Information Agency. The latter sees us as pumping substantially more oil in 2035 than we do now. That’s bad news for climate scientists and environmentalists who think we need to wean ourselves off oil much quicker than that.

I don’t see Greening of Oil as an industry mouthpiece (at least the basis of what’s been published so far) but you can keep them honest by posting comments on the articles.

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Online magazine 'Greening of Oil' covers petroleum's progress
Does the oil industry have a green story to tell? The publishers of Petroleum News seem to think so. Judge for yourself, as this new magazine gets its hands dir