In many ways, the integration of fossil fuels helped the United States and the world altogether. As a substitute for previous energy sources, coal and petroleum negated the need for increased cutting of trees and the hunting of whales for their oil. Fossil energy companies and their supporters helped and continue to support a vastly growing global economy. However, the mass consumption of oil, coal and natural gas does not come without a cost: increasing reports resource depletion and negative climate impacts have demonstrated that these consumption patterns are unsustainable and detrimental to many. In response, many supporters of the fossil industries have distanced themselves from reality. A number of their statements and solutions are in stark contrast to their current business operations.
Many multinational energy giants state unequivocally that humans should reduce their emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change, knowing their business is the source of that warming. Marathon Oil admits to the concerns of climate change, but outright states that their emissions will continue to grow. BHP-Billiton, the largest mining company on the planet, discussed rebuilding coal export facilities “to be more durable to climate change.” Looking past the inherent irony, climate skeptics now have no valid excuse to allow for increased emission output. Norwegian energy giant Statoil candidly publishes the need to reduce CO2 emissions, and yet they sponsor research from noted climate deniers such as Ivar Giaver. Unfortunately, their checkbook is not in sync with their desire to heal the planet. Oil gas and coal companies pumped almost $200 million into climate change denial this year. Also, oil and gas companies have poured billions of dollars into Arctic drilling, even though the practice is said to be environmentally destructive by environmental groups and oil companies alike. Shell already admitted to future spills, and according to Michael T. Klare in The Race for What’s Left, “when ice covers the area, it would be impossible to dig a relief well, (Location 1229 of 6515). Should the oil companies’ statements align with their actual practices, I would expect a very different energy market.
One of the most potentially effective climate policies would be the implementation of a carbon tax. The interesting aspect is who seems to advocate such a policy. Exxon Mobil recently announced its support for the tax. As the largest natural gas producer in the United States, Exxon would likely see higher profits from an increased demand in lower-carbon fuels. Exxon gives millions directly to political candidates, with over 90 percent going to Republicans. While it would make sense that a carbon tax would align with Republicans’ idea of cleaning up the tax code, the underlying reason for advocating a carbon tax is ironically greenwashing and tax breaks. In the face of overwhelming opposition, GOP leaders straightforwardly object to any legislation regarding carbon, and they also paradoxically oppose ending billions in oil subsidies. Most of the right’s mentioning of a carbon tax is used in the context of preserving the Bush tax cuts, which admittedly might not be too bad of an idea. In Exxon’s blog, they highlight offshore drilling as the key to pay off the deficit with no mention of the equally as effective carbon tax. The insincerity of energy-related statements does not persist solely among the industry, though.
Despite hilarious failed attempts to portray climate science as illegitimate, the opposition’s tactics defraud themselves. The libertarian and oil-soaked Cato Institute released an “addendum” to a climate change report with the hope that it will be recognized as an authentic publication. The Cato report looks almost exactly the same and uses a great deal of fraudulent science and anecdotal evidence to make its point. The fun doesn’t stop there- The infamous Koch brothers funded research projects from Richard A. Muller, a noted climate change skeptic. The research resulted in him reversing his position and recognizing the connection of rising temperatures and manmade emissions. Perhaps what’s most important, criticism of climate science and legislation does not come in the form of peer reviewed science. It consists of just petitions and forged letters to the government. The catastrophic effects of climate change, military involvement over natural resources, and offshore oil drilling lead to the deaths of many people, yet climate deniers point to environmental groups as the “Taliban”. In addition to suggesting that environmentalists advocated the murders of Genghis Khan, they publicly tried to connect them to the Unabomber. Lastly, the U.S., as one of the few countries lagging behind on the acceptance of climate change, is the only nation hostile to climate scientists. The hypocrisy of climate dissenters harmfully affects those trying to mitigate climate problems.
Conservatives pick at clean energy and climate legislation, fearing a possible rise in energy costs and government control. The ‘No More Solyndras Act’ highlights an overrated disdain in clean energy and hypocritical stance towards energy subsidies. With the infrastructure in place from massive historical and present-day government support, fossil fuel supporters say clean energy subsidies aren’t needed. What’s worse, the fossil fuel companies receive five times the amount of subsidies than do global emissions savings programs. In addition to dumping health costs onto the general population, these energy giants receive far greater amounts of money than programs devoted to mitigating those same companies’ emissions impact. Even if they paradoxically believe in climate change, of which about half of Republicans do, many are opposed to doing anything about it. Ironically, the increasing damage from fossil-fueled hurricanes calls for a bigger government out of necessity. This is evident in the recent tribulations of Republican Governor Chris Christie, a long-time proponent of small government. When the hurricane hit, he embraced support from both federal aid and President Obama, and his popularity soared. Although it will require a little belief in the facts of prominent scientific institutions, advocating climate policy could actually decrease the size of the government. State-wide renewable energy targets would allow individual states to choose the most effective types of energy, rather than requiring federal intervention to retroactively mitigate the effects of floods, drought, and forest fires.
Unfortunately, these occurrences are not mere random examples of hypocrisy, but instead a coordinated and calculated effort to “muddy the water” of science and factual policy just as the tobacco industry tried. These examples are not only a statement of criticism but a presentation of opportunity for these fossil fuel companies and climate skeptics. Statoil is making strides in the shift to renewables, even though funding it with oil revenue. The National Rifle Association should welcome legislation that maintains the fish and wildlife instead of vehemently oppose it. Truthfully, the climate denial and love of fossil fuels do not necessarily go hand in hand. Bob Lutz famously stated that “global warming is a crock of s***,” and yet he continues to advocate the Chevy Volt as an ultra-fuel efficient car. Perhaps by not making climate change an issue, Lutz more objectively advocates electric and fuel efficient vehicles than environmentalists. Short of Senator Inhofe’s recognition that climate change is real if it doesn’t cost a lot, the adoption of clean energy does not require belief in climate change. However, with the over 99.8 percent of peer-reviewed climate articles and most fossil fuel companies stating that the climate is real, climate deniers cannot in good conscience say that increased reliance on any conventional fossil fuel is the answer to our energy future. After all, climate policy is energy policy.