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The Oil Team

The Oil Team

(Clicking any of the underlined text in blue will take you to a reference on it.)

People, you gotta love ’em. We are really good at nature’s directive to survive and to multiply, and much of our success comes from being the best social animals on Earth. As the London Olympics illustrates, we compete intensely against other individuals and other teams, and yet we passionately support people and groups we identify with. We cheer for folks like us in terms of nationality, background and so forth. Humans’ love of teams has been our secret weapon in conquering the planet, as discussed in earlier posts especially one on Edward O. Wilson‘s book, “The Social Conquest of Earth.”

So it is no surprise that the very large and very powerful American petroleum industry team asserts that it, and all team members, will continue winning for many decades. The National Petroleum Council recently predicted that petroleum will continue as the dominant power in the world economy for many decades. The American Petroleum Institute (API) immediately issued a press release approving that viewpoint:

“This report underscores the importance of an all-of–the-above energy strategy for America that includes responsible development of our vast oil and natural gas resources,” said API Director of Downstream and Industry Operations Bob Greco. “We have more oil and natural gas than anyone thought possible even five years ago. We are sitting on a lottery ticket that could spur millions of jobs, billions of dollars in revenue for the government, and more than 100 years of energy for our country.”

The API’s vision of the future avoids talk of environmental damage caused by burning four cubic miles of hydrocarbons a year, reading in part:

Our energy vision is one of abundant resources, developed and refined here in the United States (U.S.) to the highest standards, creating domestic energy that is ready to work for America’s businesses and families. But current U.S. policies are failing us. They prevent us from adequately preparing for the long-term, when we know our nation will still need substantial quantities of oil and natural gas as well as alternatives.

Good teammates focus on using their team’s strengths and on exploiting the opponent’s weaknesses, so again it’s no surprise that the Big Oil team has attacked and belittled talk that burning oil is changing Earth’s climate. The bad news for the team is that Big Oil is no match for mother nature, and evidence of climate change is getting stronger as Earth responds to a long train of insults:

  1. Earth clearly is getting warmer, and heating has accelerated in recent decades – Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project;
  2. Human activities, including burning hydrocarbons, is likely the primary cause of global warming – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and
  3. Increasing temperatures have caused more extreme weather events in the past decade – James E. Hansen’s conclusions in the post “Presidents as Fiduciaries.”

I see two possible solutions. One is to persuade the petroleum team to to include everyone’s long term health and welfare in its goals, even though that means changing the team’s way of making a living. The second is to disband the team for the good of the league.


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