ASA bans ExxonMobil biofuel ad

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an ExxonMobil advertisement after its claims relating to environmental benefits of using algae to form biofuels were found to be misleading.

A complaint was filed by a viewer against the TV ad, featuring a scientist talking about using algae to form biofuels.

He said: "In using algae to form biofuels, we're not competing with the food supply, and they absorb CO2, so they help solve the greenhouse problem as well."

However, the complainant - who believes that burning algae as fuel would result in the re-release of any CO2 that has been absorbed - objected that the ad misleadingly implied the technology would reduce CO2 levels.

ExxonMobil cited research which it claimed proved that second generation biofuels achieved greenhouse gas reductions on a comparative basis.

The firm acknowledged that the study did not specifically analyse algae. It said it was "generally agreed" that algae had a potential to be more productive than conventional biofuels.

However, the ASA said the ad "made an objective claim that algae, if developed as a source of biofuel, would help solve the greenhouse problem". It concluded that the ad overstated the technology's total environmental impact and was therefore misleading.

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