New “Riding the Dragon” book pries open Shell Oil secrets, finds grave environmental abuses are continuing worldwide

Despite PR and advertising face lift, Shell's green record remains abysmal; Shell's global climate impact found to be bigger than Mexico, Argentina and Chile – combined!

provided by The Refinery Reform Campaign


hell Oil is spending millions of dollars to create the impression that it is a socially and environmentally responsible oil company. But the truth is that world's second largest oil company remains one of biggest environmental violators on the face of the Earth, according to Jack Doyle, author of the new book, Riding the Dragon: Royal Dutch Shell and the Fossil Fire, which is being released in the United States for the first time.

    In Riding the Dragon, Doyle documents a number of startling and troubling details including the fact that Shell officials recently rejected a cleaner oil drilling fluid – even though the environmentally beneficial product was developed by Shell's own staff. Doyle also reports that the supposedly “new” Shell is refusing to clean up what is now the world's largest urban underground oil spill in Durban, South Africa, where more than one million liters of oil have been dumped so far. Additionally, Riding the Dragon documents a concerted campaign by Shell to halt critical government reports, rewrite history and cover up its misdeeds.

    Explaining why the book was needed, Doyle said: “Coming on the heels of the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, Riding the Dragon is the first book to compare a major oil company's global record of operation to their published principles and advertising. Since Shell's controversial involvement in the execution of their highest profile critic, Ken Saro-Wiwa of Nigeria, Shell has claimed to adopt a new set of principles aimed at reforming their internal practices and remaking their image. Despite an ongoing civil trial in New York on Shell's alleged role in the execution of Saro-Wiwa and other activists, Shell has the temerity to advertise itself as a 'new' company committed to human rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. There is ample reason to be skeptical about this manufactured image, which is wildly at odd with the facts.”

    Jack Doyle received wide acclaim for Taken for a Ride, a major 1990 work exposing problems in the American automobile industry. The Texas-based Refinery Reform Campaign, a project of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, is making Riding the Dragon available at no cost to reporters and activists on the World Wide Web at www

    Commenting on the book, Refinery Reform Project Coordinator Denny Larson said: “The new independent research set out in Riding the Dragon confirms widespread failure on the part of Shell's managers to follow their own corporate high standards in many countries that they operate. To use Shell's own phrase, millions of your neighbors around the world want to 'Tell Shell:' It's high time for you to start practicing what you preach.”

Key findings in “Riding the Dragon”


    Among the major revelations in Riding the Dragon are the following:

  • Shell's failure to use ecologically superior oil drilling fluids, despite other oil companies' successful adoption of the safer technology and despite the fact that an environmentally beneficially alternative was identified by Shell's own staff.
  • Shell accounts for more carbon emission each year than the combined total of Mexico, Argentina and Chile! As a leading world contributor to global climate change, Shell accounts for more than 150 million metric tons of carbon emission per year.
  • In Nigeria gas flaring alone, Shell darkens the Earth's atmosphere with more than 15 million metric tons per year of COmaking it the home to one of world's single worst pollution sources.
  • For no fewer than eight years after Shell's own scientist reported that MTBE plumes leaking from underground gasoline storage tanks “are expected to move farther and faster” than other components of the gas, resulting in “more concentrated plumes” of toxic contamination, the oil giant continued production and marketing of the groundwater-polluting gasoline additive.
  • Despite claiming to be committed to sustainable production, Shell invests in fossil fuel production over renewable resources by a factor of 16, with $10-15 billion a year in capital infrastructure investments to prolong fossil fuel production and global climate change and just $200 million per year on renewable resources technology.
  • There has been no recent abatement of spills, fires and explosions at the Shell South Durban, South Africa facility, forcing neighbors, who were relocated near the facility by the former racist apartheid regime, to struggle for safer operations against increasingly aggressive and threatening Shell managers.

    Riding the Dragon also outlines steps that Shell can start taking now to clean up its abysmal environmental and plant safety record around the world.

About the author


    Jack Doyle is director of J.D. Associates, a Washington, DC consulting and investigative research firm specializing in environmental and business issues. He has been writing about technology, business, and the environment for more than 20 years. Publisher's Weekly called his June 2000 book on the US auto industry, Taken for a Ride: Detroit's Big Three and the Politics of Pollution, “a valuable source for... partisans on all sides of the debate.” At Friends of the Earth in the 1990s, Doyle wrote Crude Awakening, a book on the US oil industry, and Hold the Applause!, a critique of DuPont's “corporate environmentalism.” A 1985 book on agricultural biotechnology, Altered Harvest (Viking-Penguin), is regarded as a pioneering work on the subject. In the 1970s, working as a lobbyist and policy analyst at the Environmental Policy Institute, Doyle wrote reports on the coal mining industry that helped move strip mining legislation in Congress.

About the groups

    The Refinery Reform Campaign is a national campaign seeking to clean up America's oil refineries and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The Refinery Reform Campaign is achieving this goal by organizing refinery communities nationwide to demand reform of oil refinery operations and regulations, assisting industrial neighbors establish “Bucket Brigades” to test the air they breathe, providing tools and training for refinery neighbors to document “toxic trespass” of chemicals into their bodies, making the link between pollution and health problems and leadership training, development and resources for small community-based organizations struggling against major oil companies. The Refinery Reform Campaign may be found on the web at

    groundWork is a nonprofit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in South Africa, but increasingly in Southern Africa as a whole. groundWork seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people through assisting civil society to have a greater impact on environmental governance, with particular emphasis on those who are most affected by environmental injustices.

    The Environmental Health Foundation (EHF) is an education and advocacy organization working on protecting people's health through reducing toxic chemical exposures. EHF is one of the founding members of Health Care Without Harm, the Campaign for Environmentally Responsible Healthcare EHF is also working to hold the chemical industry accountable for its global contamination. The Environmental Health Fund can be reached at 41 Oakview Terrace, Boston, MA 02130. Phone, 617-524-6018; fax 617-524-7021.