Big Oil Mocks Climate Action With Help From Big Media

So I go to read a Washington Post story online, “Climate change could burn a hole in the government’s finances, GAO says.” And there is this banner ad mocking humanity’s primary hope of avoiding climate catastrophe:

Energy Tomorrow is brought to you by the American Petroleum Institute (API),” in case you were wondering.

We all need to “imagine life without fossil fuels,” since that is where we will are going to end up this century one way or another:

  1. Either we will make the decision by choice fast enough to stabilize near  2°C (3.6°F) warming to avoid the very worst impacts — and that means the rich countries in particular will be essentially off fossil fuels by mid-century (see “Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy.”
  2. Or we will be forced off fossil fuels soon after that by the ever-worsening reality of climate change — when we realize that we are headed toward 10+°F warming and a planet with a carrying capacity far below 9 billion (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts“).

[Carbon capture and storage might enable the continued use of some fossil fuels until they run out, though it probably won’t be a decisive player in the solution and in any case wouldn’t save Big Oil.]

As the WashPost article explains:

As climate change leads to more frequent and destructive natural disasters and threatens crop yields, bridges and other infrastructure, the federal government faces big financial risks that it is poorly positioned to address, auditors said Thursday.

Try imagining life with more frequent and destructive natural disasters and threatened crop yields. It isn’t hard to do (see “We’re Already Topping Dust Bowl Temperatures — Imagine What’ll Happen If We Fail To Stop 10°F Warming.”

Now it appears the API ad is just appearing in rotation, but I did come across it again for another climate article:

The story on Tom Steyer (who is also on the CAP board) explains:

Steyer is convinced that global greenhouse gas emissions will have to begin to fall within the next few years or the world will suffer catastrophic consequences. But when he talks to many in his circle — including business leaders and prominent politicians — he finds them oblivious to what he sees as a monumental threat.

So yes this is a story about a billionaire investor who can imagine life without fossil fuels — and the business leaders who are oblivious to climate reality.

In short, the Washington Post is explaining that influential people are oblivious to a threat that the Washington Post runs ads regularly mocking.  You can’t make this stuff up (unless you are a fossil-fuel-funded denier, of course).

25 Responses to Big Oil Mocks Climate Action With Help From Big Media

  1. We can reduce our fossil fuel use in an orderly manner, or we can wait for nature to reduce it for us–which will be extremely disorderly and harsh, from the POV of humans.

    The planet’s energy balance will seek its new level, to account for the extra GHGs in the atmosphere. No telling exactly how nature will achieve that. But here’s my guess: we won’t like it.

  2. Ben Lieberman says:

    They will need to advertise heavily on anything posted by Joe Nocera.

  3. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    Nicely put.

  4. Daniel Coffey says:

    Yes, you have hit upon the right formula: we won’t like it.

    Of course, much of the wild world will have faded away well before we are pummeled into submission, and so our time-frames and schedules ought to account for a few of the wild plants and creatures we love and cherish – and I don’t mean our domestic pets and plants. The wild world needs rain for water and food; droughts are therefore not a good thing.

    Sooner is far better than later, and if later, why do anything at all, as such efforts, irrespective of scale, will have no real effect. We are going to act wisely now, or have no ability to act hereinafter.

  5. fj says:

    Unfortunately, Americans still allow big oil’s big lies.

  6. Thanks for this specimen of political dialog pitched to voters. Derisive comical is not proper tone on what should be such a non partisan issue. Time to come together on practical solutions. What do we do if there is a CO2 climate emergency looming a few years out? What, specifically, is their plan?

    But you’ve got to admit wind and solar alone can’t save us.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    Big Oil has purchased our media. Maybe Tom Steyer realizes it, and will support the program (mine) that will actually do something about it.

  8. John Cartmill says:

    Imagine no fossil fuels
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell and high water
    Above us unpolluted skies
    Imagine all the people living fossil free

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Apologies to John Lennon

  9. Zimzone says:

    The main problem with implementing large scale wind & solar is it can’t be ‘owned’ like big oil.
    Until large corporations can find a way to patent wind & solar, they’ll continue to drill, baby, drill.

  10. Merrelyn Emery says:

    It occurs to me that in all these discussions of the deniers’ tactics etc, there is a missing ingredient – the education system. If all our people had the requisite understanding of the action of GHGs, they would be innoculated against these ads and see them for what they are. They would waste their money because they would be ignored or laughed at. But it’s never too late. Maybe your President can sneak a little basic science into his next speech, ME

  11. Brian R Smith says:

    No, it’s not “Americans” who allow the lies to continue. It’s the glaring absence of a SERIOUS, coordinated strategy by capable, wealthy climate advocate organizations to counter the lies that allows them to continue. Consider:

    – In 2012, the National Center for Charitable Statistics’(NCCS) update on NGOs in the U.S. counts 57,425 groups (including 1,575! private foundations) dedicated to environment & conservation, DOUBLE the numbers of 4 years ago, when Robert Brulle estimated that “The U.S. environmental movement is perhaps the single largest social movement in the United States. With over 6,500 national and 20,000 local environmental organizations, along with an estimated 20-30 million members, this movement dwarfs other modern social movements such as the civil rights or peace movements.”

    – NCSS puts total revenues for environmental orgs in 2012 at $17,727,571,043 with total assets of $50,405,669,239.

    – For the last 20 years a deliberate program to block, delay and confuse climate action has been utterly successful, thanks to the superior media intelligence of oil and coal money. (Their side has no moral restraint and builds effective strength every day. Our side is still 90% dickering over whether it’s really appropriate to frighten the public with the deepening truth -or just continue the reactionary non-strategy of incremental skirmishes as each challenge comes up.)

    – The valiant efforts of @350, CP and many others to engage the public directly have arguably increased public awareness, but have not (as continually hoped) raised climate to a national priority, shamed the MSM into urgent/honest coverage or pried the President away from the “safe” all-of-the-above-everybody-wins proposals that we know lead to disaster.

    – Barring a miracle of unprecedented collaboration of advocates, the Tea Party is on course to hold the House in 2014, guaranteeing the INDEFINITE delay of federal legislation on climate.

    – All the powers available to the President to act independently of Congress, put together, including EPA directives, will not put us anywhere NEAR the goals for action indicated by the science.

    – The idea persists, incredibly, that the main value of the climate movement is to support Presidential (and other insider) attempts to forge policy, even though the policies being put forward have no teeth and in fact are already being watered down to meet low expectations of what’s possible.

    So it was a good sign that one of the main speakers on the 17th was Tom Steyer. A lot of other business side players are also in the game now and hopefully will bring a taste for ambitious action to it. Between the business side and the big green side, there is no lack of money or expertise for launching the campaign that can make the difference. To engage the public we have to deploy media intelligence. Yesterday.

  12. Sasparilla says:

    What awful advertising…It reminds me of the advertising Big Oil did when the electric cars were coming out in California in the 90’s (has that same nonsensical, derisive tone to it) – there’s probably a good reason it seems so similiar…

    I see this stuff and am reminded of how much I’m looking forward to our family’s first plug-in vehicle, I’m going to take a nice picture of it and send it to the CEO’s of the oil companies (Rex at Exxon for sure) with a note of “thinking of you…” on it. Ahhh that’ll be a sweet day.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You are partially incorrect, in my opinion. Wind and solar, if there was sufficient money and effort invested in their development and deployment, could certainly do much of the work of decarbonisation. Reductions in consumption and therefore demand would also help, as would efficiency improvements, albedo restoration, massive tree planting etc. But decarbonisation is absolutely the priority because of ocean acidification. Any burning of hydrocarbons now (as it has been for years)makes human civilizational destruction more certain.

  14. Brian R Smith says:

    If only we could buy our electrical vehicle way out of this. We can’t, at least I can’t, and I’m pretty sure the way to get Rex’s attention is to put a price on carbon he can’t refuse.

  15. Raul M. says:

    It’s not polite to interupt mother nature.

  16. Ozonator says:

    Big Oil supplied the AGW tornado and Looter Limbaugh gave them bottled sugar water. However, lacking extremist Republicans and Christians, “United Arab Emirates helps Joplin rebuild after tornado” (By Rajiv Chandrasekaran — The Washington Post;, 2/18/13).

  17. Mike: I was going to email you and recommend exactly that — but I see you’ve gotten on top of it.

    Now, however, I have a different suggestion. Read Brian Smith’s comment under post #3, above. 6,500 National Environmental Organizations with 25 Million Members and 17 billion bucks? Wow!

    Why piss around trying to reform our corrupt media? Why not start a united environmental front and get all these folks moving in the same direction on climate issues? It’s one thing for the NDRC to go to the Congress and say “We want this or that.”

    It’s an entirely different matter if a lobbyist walks into a congressman’s office and says, “I represent 25 million people who have 17 billion and a huge network of national and local organizations at their disposal. Wouldn’t you like to support our proposal for a carbon tax?”

    I’ve been thinking that we’ve needed a united environmental front for a long time. If there is any issue that touches and could unite almost any group of environmentalists working on almost any cause it’s climate change.

    Let’s get moving.

  18. ME,

    The 1960s generation in this country was the best educated in history. And we freaked out the establishment with our resistance to the Vietnam War, normalization of race relationships, women’s rights, gay rights, consciousness revolution and so on.

    Right then and there, public education was systematically attacked and dismantled in this country, culminating in the Bush (W.) era’s national tests and vouchers for private schools. It got so bad that history was dropped from many school curricula. (No accident. Studying nothing but math and science can make robots out of students.)

    So our educational system is pretty much shot — last, I think, among industrialized countries. It can be rebuilt, but it will take time — more time, unfortunately, than we have for dealing with climate change.

  19. Jan says:

    I suppose children (unless they go to private schools) don’t have a powerful lobby, unlike certain interests that then offer to provide subsidized textbooks to poor schools with their preferred lesson content sneaked in.

    Education needs funding, but who cares if there is an imperial military, and banks, and lots of other companies and their generous lobbyists for legislators to consider?

  20. Mark E says:

    Tea Party strategy:

    1. NORMAL PEOPLE (like you) run for LOCAL office

    2. HOT TARGET – school board and curriculum committees

    It ain’t sexy, but its still the most fundamental way to control the future political agenda.

  21. Mark E says:

    “Carrying capacity” is already far lower than 9 billion, even with 0-emission technology, for the reason that what we have is

    (A) A lot of poor agrarian people we’re trying to turn into consumers and

    (B) A lot of consumers we’re trying to turn into even bigger consumers.

    Under capitalism, no matter what the population is, we have to grow, grow, grow the economy and that means nonstop neverending growth in resource consumption. Carrying capacity in that world approaches zero.

  22. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Ideally, math and science should not make students into robots. It should be mind expanding, especially as about Nature. But when science curriculum is altered to teach creationsim (or its other moniker, intelligent design) we produce good little foot soldiers for the enemies of truth.
    And when history cirruculum are modified so as to make slave masters into kind overseers, and the Civil War becomes the “War of Northern Aggression”, etc., etc., ’nuff said.
    I thought that history – at least US History – was still being taught, and that the big stink was about dropping Civics as a requirement. Having the young ignorant about how our government is supposed to work makes them more receptive to its downsizing and/or virtual elimination.

  23. fj says:


    Yes, I have experienced this directly:

    “. . . 90% dickering (by environmental groups) over whether it’s really appropriate . . . ”

    Just thinking about it makes me appreciate how important Climate Progress is.

    Further, I have experienced in other areas that a huge number of people seem unable to provide a clear headed response to urgent situations; in fact I suspect I have likely been guilty of this myself and it seems that first-hand experience with 9/11 was when I fully appreciated the value of proper focus combined with broad access to good information.

    In reality, in the day-to-day, distraction can be unavoidable, and in balance, too much “fight-or-flight” is destructive.

    In response to the problem you describe, it seems natural that much of the so-called leadership that bubbles up to the top of large organizations get there by playing nice and not making waves effectively inhibiting the ability to act with due urgency during emergencies such as we have now.

  24. Stew says:

    Crimes against humanity await these profiteering fiends, and they better hope that, the people, who’s children and childrens children, will most drastically be affected, won’t demand justice, with calls for the death penalty.

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Steady on, Stew-make the buggers work at ecological repair. Life without parole, of course, as befits crimes against humanity.