Many Australians are finding it outrageous that a major cycling event (the Tour Down Under), held in a state which is a leader in renewable energy, is being sponsored by fossil fuel giant Santos. Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher on the other hand has responded by telling the media that people advocating for a faster transition to renewable energy are “dreaming.”
The Transition Bridgetown Facebook page states: “Gallagher defended Santos’ efforts to open up new gas fields by saying there is ‘no alternative’ to fossil fuels. But as Playwright Ben Brooker said: ‘There is no alternative to fossil fuels says company sponsoring a bicycle race in a state that was entirely powered by renewables for almost a whole week last year.'”
350.org has launched a petition to ditch Santos. It states: “If enough of us take action, we can pressure Events SA to find a new naming rights sponsor for the Santos Tour Down Under in 2023 that has no association with fossil fuel companies … or the financial institutions that support them.”
The petition will be presented to the Executive Director of Events SA when it reaches 7000 signatures. 350.org hopes to mobilise cyclists to take action and engage media.
Fossil fuel companies like Santos “greenwash” their image and extend their social licence by sponsoring sports, just as tobacco companies used to do. A new term has been coined – “sportswashing.”
“If we block their ability to sportswash their image and erode their social license to operate, then we will make it too risky for financial institutions, governments, organisations and communities to associate with them,” says 350.org.
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
350.org writes: “A growing number of competitive and professional cyclists*, support the following statement, by Fossil Free SA:
We support a Tour Down Under that promotes sustainability and showcases South Australia’s forward-looking energy policy. Events SA partnering with Santos is inconsistent with the promotion of a healthy, clean sport such as cycling.
Santos is a fossil fuel company committed to expansion of the gas industry, including controversial ‘fracking’ projects. Santos has no credible transition plan towards net zero emissions.
Events SA should seek a new naming rights partner, for 2023 and the future, with credentials that better align with the event values and Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sustainability principles.”
If you’re an athlete or someone involved in the race you can have an even bigger impact by signing the supporter statement here: https://t.co/4j0XnzDe97
— Cyrus Monk (@Cyrus_Monk) October 19, 2021
“What has impressed me the most is their willingness to learn and improve every day." 📖🇦🇺@GLBrown321 loved what she saw from our rising stars over the last three days at #TDUFestival.#AusCyclingTeam | @AusCycling | @garminau | @tourdownunderhttps://t.co/99op9ClLTo
— AusCyclingTeam (@AusCyclingTeam) January 25, 2022