renewables

Mythbusting the Oil Libel

[This is a lazy, boilerplate response to the even lazier notion that Big Oil is behind climate skepticism. I’m sick of copying and pasting it for their edification. It’s a work in progress and some links are missing. —BK]

Dear Oil Linkers,

Your Logical Fallacy is: Boring Me.

I know you think you’re smearing skeptics, but it ain’t working.

Big Oil is Big Energy. The major players in fossil fuel are diversified enough to make money hand over fist whatever the protest du jour is.

Their interest in alarmist climate science is self-explanatory: public fear of global warming has created new markets for these corporations out of thin air while doing little or no damage to their traditional revenue streams. Congratulations, believers: you’ve just made the rich richer.

The non-rich, meanwhile, will always prefer reliables to renewables. The market for hydrocarbon-bond energy is essentially inelastic, while demand for the landscape-mutilating colossi of neo-Medieval venticulture is an artificial construct.

Muchos kudos, believers: you’ve just killed more bird life than DDT.

If the dangerous-AGW hypothesis is the main selling-point of the wind-farm industry, it’s the very raison d’etre of the energy-indulgences anti-industry: carbon credits, carbon capture, carbon sequestration, emissions trading.

ExxonMobil gave Stanford University a cool $100 million—much more than anyone’s ever spent on a skeptical research project—for its Global Climate and Energy Project, which develops “ways to meet growing energy needs without worsening global warming.” It endowed another $600 million for Biofuels Research.

But Exxon was late to the party—the other energy giants have been capitalizing on the climate movement from day one. We shouldn’t forget that the carbon-trading clause in Article 16 of the Kyoto Protocol was the creature of BP and Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room. BP and Enron were also the major lobbyists telling governments around the world (including Australia’s) to ratify it.

BP, or should I say Beyond Petroleum, stands squarely behind “mainstream” (alarmist) climate researchers. It funded research into “ways of tackling the world’s climate problem” at Princeton University to the tune of $2 million a year for 15 years. It funds an energy research institute involving two other US universities, to a total of $500 million, whose mission is “to develop new sources of energy and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.”

The corporation was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, substantially funding the climate-related lobbying of its members, which include the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy and World Resources Institute.

BP even put on the champagne and canapés at the book launch for Rajendra Pachauri’s erotic novel.

Shell International has a huge Clean Development Mechanism [CDM] division. It also has billions of dollars riding on the carbon credit exchange, which at peak insanity was worth $130 billion per annum. You only need to imagine how much value it’d haemorrhage from that portfolio if the CCX tanked to know why Shell has never supported dangerous-AGW skepticism (except in Michael Mann’s mental cinema).

Thanks to a courageous cybercriminal, we know the University of East Anglia CRU and the Tyndall Centre came to be seen by British fossil-fuel giants as a business partner. Big Energy was worth a lot of funding to these alarmist ‘scientists,’ their alarmist ‘science’ was worth a lot of revenue to Big Energy, and both parties knew it.

The following emails come from a single year, the year 2000, which marked the start of a bidding war between Shell, Esso/Exxon-Mobil and BP for control of the ‘science.’

The scientist Mick Kelly writes to his colleagues Mike Hulme and Tim O’Riordan (Climategate file 0962818260.txt):

I’m talking to Shell International’s climate change team, but this approach will do equally for the new [Foundation], as it’s only one step or so off Shell’s equivalent of a board level. I do know a little about the Foundation and what kind of projects they are looking for. It could be relevant for the new building, incidentally, though opinions are mixed as to whether it’s within the remit.

Mike Hulme then discusses with O’Riordan the potential benefits for the Tyndall Centre:

Tim, I am meeting with Mick at 09:15 next Tuesday to talk about his links with Shell—and Tyndall dimension re. studentships, etc. Are you here and can you join us?

The courtship goes well. Later in the year Kelly sends out a progress report:

Mike and Tim

Notes from the meeting with Shell International attached…. What ensued was necessarily a rather speculative discussion with the following points emerging.

1. Shell International would give serious consideration to what I referred to in the meeting as a ‘strategic partnership’ with the T[yndall] C[entre], broadly equivalent to a ‘flagship alliance’ in the TC proposal.

A strategic partnership would involve not only the provision of funding but some (limited but genuine) role in setting the research agenda etc.

2. Shell’s interest is not in basic science. Any work they support must have a clear and immediate relevance to ‘real-world’ activities. They are particularly interested in emissions trading and CDM.

Next, “Esso”—which is UK English for “Exxon-Mobil”—also sees the investment opportunity. Mike Hulme writes (Climategate file 959187643.txt):

I would think Tyndall should have an open mind about this and try to find the slants that would appeal to Esso.

The Tyndall climatologists grow so accustomed to the attentions of the fossil-fuel giants that by year’s end they’re taking it for granted that Beyond Petroleum will be another suitor. The scientist Simon Shackley writes:

Subject: BP funding…

dear TC colleagues, it looks like BP have their cheque books out!

How can TC benefit from this largesse? I wonder who has received this money within Cambridge University? Cheers, Simon

BP, FORD GIVE $20 MILLION FOR PRINCETON UNIVERSITY EMISSIONS STUDY

This kind of collaboration isn’t just a British phenomenon. Here we can read (thanks to Freedom of Information laws) an interesting email from the University of Arizona climate scientist Dr Jonathan Overpeck.

“Peck” writes to an Exxon-Mobil executive:

In addition to seeing and catching up w/ you, I’m also quite intrigued by what Exxon-Mobil and the University of Arizona could do together on the climate change front. As you’ve probably figured out, we have one of the top universities in this area, and lots of capability, both in understanding climate change at the global scale down to the regional scale, but also in terms of understanding how climate variability and change impacts society…

Overpeck is no denier. He’s a believalist.

Why would these corporations barrack for skepticism? They haven’t lost a cent in the AGW panic and it’s unlikely they ever will.

(Do you seriously think anything is going to “emerge” the next time someone throws a Kyoto Protocol reunion at a luxury resort? You know perfectly well the most binding document it’ll “produce” is a large alcohol tab.)

If the devil’s best trick was to convince the world he doesn’t exist, then Big Oil’s best trick was to convince you it’s on the devil’s side. Wake up, angels. It’s on your side.

frame 01190 10849816_1088107857871189_5621248415674734251_n

Satan from Biz’s Paradise Lost

28 thoughts on “Mythbusting the Oil Libel

  1. Immediate response Brad is that a Believerist would say this is rather dated, Big Oil was paying blood money to salve it’s conscience, and that Big Oil today is indeed supporting the Deniers (no evidence).

    Two additional points: wind farms don’t get their raison d’être from the dangerous-AGW hypothesis. Altamont Pass, for example, began installing wind turbines in the early 1980s, well before CAGW got into its stride.
    CRU and Tyndall are quite separate entities. CRU came first and was intended to study “the science” of climatology. Tyndall is largely a later “soft science” grouping that assumes warming is occurring and seeks to address how societies will adapt in the future. If you think CRU is bad, the Tyndall Centre is so much worse. When I was still at UEA, some young Turks within Tyndall, still wet behind the ears, targeted me, accusing me of being funded by big Oil (I wish).

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Many thanks, Alan. It’s always good to anticipate objections, whether baseless or (more importantly) valid.

    As to “dated,” yes, I first wrote it in 2012 and have reused it so often that I thought it best to finally put it in one place to which I could simply refer confused believalists [sic].

    As to “today,” let them say that and then provide evidence, if it exists, that Big Oil has switched sides. I will certainly give it a fair hearing. I’m not sure how relevant it would be, since the state of the “debate” has hardly moved forward in the last 8 years.

    As to “blood money,” I’m not so concerned about that objection since that would require them to admit Big Oil has a conscience.

    You’re suggesting my claims about venticulture are too strong. OK. Would it be fairer to say that *most* wind-farms wouldn’t exist without the dAGW hypothesis? *Some*?

    OK, I will distinguish CRU from TC. You’re the first person to explain the difference!

    Cheers mate

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Re venticulture and soliculture:

    Per my series over at Climate Etc recently, due to the (dual-natured) interaction between catastrophic climate-change culture (CCCC) and religion, attitudes that drive both climate activism and climate policy penetration are greater in nations with lesser religiosity.*

    Due to longer-term impacts of religious culture on society, it is well-known that factors like the IHDI index anti-correlate very well with religion. This in turn includes elements based on national wealth / economy, education, and equality. Separating out the former (e.g. using GDP-per-Capita) shows that aside from exceptions such as the oil-rich Arab states (which have low equality / education but huge GDP, so IHDI still conforms but not GDP), religiosity and GDP linearly anti-correlates across many nations.

    So, if Wind and Solar power were more akin to Power Stations than Cathedrals, you’d expect to see that installation capacity would approx follow GDP, hence also linearly anti-correlate with Religiosity. Whereas if Wind and Solar power were more akin to Cathedrals than Power Stations, i.e. largely driven by culture per the above attitudes as measured within my series, we’d expect some kind of *power* not linear ant-correlation with religiosity, since religiosity is now multiplying its effect already partly expressed via GDP.

    Having roughly charted these, Wind and Solar installation across about 30 nations does indeed look more like a power anti-correlation with religiosity, not a linear one; but rough is the right word for the data so the fit is only somewhat better for the former than the latter. Interesting though, I may follow it up. And there’s a hugely ironic wrinkle. Due to a quirk of history, our journey from religious faith to secularism started in northern cloudy places that happened to have some of the least sunshine duration on the planet, and so from here spread outwards progressively to more sunnier places, of which the sunniest it hasn’t yet reached as they are still very religious indeed. Of course there are exceptions on this journey, but it’s surprisingly consistent overall. Hence, though the sunniest places are about 2.5 times sunnier than in the UK and Holland say (which for any engineering efficiency calculation is a huge difference), there’s also a *power anti-correlation* of Solar installation with annual sunshine duration across the same 30 countries. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it, indeed also supporting the case that utility is not at all what these things are actually about.

    * = note this works everywhere there is a 2-way dance between CCCC and religion. In the US, there’s a 4-way dance with 2 extra partners, and in countries where religion is squelched by a one party state, it’s a 0-way dance.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Alan, I’ve incorporated your corrections (I hope). I also rewrote it to address believers, rather than believalists, since satire is all well and good for our own amusement but I want to honor the basic reasonableness of the millions of people who buy into the superficially-plausible conspiracy theory of petrogenic climate skepticism.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Didn’t Big Oil also fund the original anti-nuclear green movement (Nein Dank)? because nuclear power was seen as a direct competitor.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. re ‘believers’, even this touches off serious defensive attitudes too I’ve noticed. Most likely because it is associated with ‘religious belief’, rather than rationality, which considering the nature of the beast is going to be a problem because no way no how will that be self-admitted by any who do believe in this manner. Nor does it go down well with anyone who just thinks that mainstream science has instructed us to follow these policies (which considering the dominant narrative, why wouldn’t many people?) ‘Orthodox’, or ‘mainstream’ are terms I’ve used, having the advantage that they cover a whole range of strong or weak bias (theoretically down to zero). But even ‘orthodox’ carries some overtone, and these terms only work regarding the ‘science position’ too, rather than policy or for people (the public who don’t frequent climate blogs) who are not climate literate. ‘Supporters’, is maybe the least offensive regarding policy.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. In addition to big oil, electric utilities have glommed on to the scam as well, especially in the de-regulated world with all the market “efficiencies”. Given the choice of developing a fossil-fired power plant and taking the risk that the market analysis projections will actually pan out and the plant will make a profit versus developing a wind or solar facility with government subsidized guarantees, what is a power company executive to do?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “Religious beliefs” can be very practical and non- spiritual. Look at Marxism, The Cultural Revolution, Khmer Rouge, the dynasty ruling N Korea…
    For me the real cultural dysfunction has been the longevity of secular apocalyptic claptrap. Inspire of each and every prophet of doom, from Malthus to Ehrlich, to Hansen to Mann to Gore to Greta- they have been proven wrong by history and the most cursory review of the facts. Yet the normal gatekeepers, academics, journalists, government are mostly supporting the claptrap. Which is all just to frame the question: why?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Bet those last shares divested went for an absolute song.
    When will people realize that when you divest from the evil fossil fuel companies, the shares you sell are bought by somebody else or by the company itself, so enhancing the value of the other investors. A lot of cut noses and spited faces.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. BP even put on the champagne and canapés at the book launch for Rajendra Pachauri’s erotic novel.

    Both selling oil, but in Patchy’s case it was snake oil.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Further to my gratitude to Alan, I hope anyone else who has corrections or suggestions for improvement will also share them.

    I was thinking it might be useful to have (à la our ugly stepsister site Skeptical Science) several stock rebuttals like this one, to which we can refer proponents of zombie myths. Do I need to make it clearer, in y’all’s opinion, what claim I’m actually debunking here?

    Like

  12. Hunter: “Which is all just to frame the question: why?”

    Great question. Because that is exactly how strong cultures work. Their core narratives *have* to outright contradict reality in order for them to achieve ‘purpose’. We’re very familiar with this and all the attendant behaviours, from earlier cultural entities, aka religions (that still indeed roll on even as the secular ones have arisen too). What is ‘purpose’? As bequeathed by evolution (which is why we are so orientated to these behaviours, it goes right down to brain architecture level), to keep large groups together (and even in the face of the unknowable – plus let’s face it practically everything used to be unknowable, and a great deal about navigating our future for sure still is). Why did evolution gear us towards keeping large groups together come what come may and even at he expense of rationality (within culturally conflicted topics at least)? Because this has been a massive evolutionary *net* advantage.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Andy West,
    Thanks for the insights.
    It just seems like we could the rational part into balance with the Faith part a lot better

    Liked by 2 people

  14. ‘If the devil’s best trick was to convince the world he doesn’t exist, then Big Oil’s best trick was to convince you it’s on the devil’s side.’ Clevah! So Sun Tsu.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Bill Bedford: “Didn’t Big Oil also fund the original anti-nuclear green movement ,,, ?”

    Jerry Brown and his father Pat (both California governors) have a very interesting oil background that goes along with Jerry’s anti-nuclearism.

    http://environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2018/1/11/jerry-browns-secret-war-on-clean-energy

    While Siri and Brower were arguing about nuclear energy, California’s former Governor, Edmund “Pat” Brown, Gov. Jerry Brown’s father, started helping the Indonesian military dictatorship raise money to expand its state-owned oil industry.

    Pat Brown eventually raised an astonishing $13 billion ($100 billion in 2017 dollars) mostly from U.S. banks, the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters reported in 1990.[7]

    In exchange for Brown’s services, the state Indonesian oil company Pertamina gave him exclusive and highly valuable rights to sell Indonesian oil in California.

    The Indonesian generals also gave Brown half-ownership of its office in Hong Kong, giving Brown “a little taste,” said Walters, “as they might say in the Mafia.”[8]

    At the time, California burned significant quantities of oil for electricity production, not just for transportation.[7]

    Between 1966 and 1974, the Sierra Club started to favor coal over nuclear, even though prominent nuclear advocates like Oak Ridge National Lab’s Alvin Weinberg were warning the world of the threat of global warming from continued coal use.[9]

    Said one Sierra Club board director in response to those arguments, “Unlike nuclear, which risks long-term genetic damage, coal’s impacts won’t be felt generations from now.”

    In 1974, Jerry Brown ran for governor. Executives from Pertamina, the Indonesian oil company, gave him $70,000 — $350,000 in 2017 dollars.[7]

    Gov. Brown’s sister, Kathleen Brown acknowledged that her father gave her a “living trust” that originated from money earned by her father selling Indonesian oil in California, but Gov. Brown has never said either way whether he inherited his family’s oil wealth.[7]

    Whatever the case, shortly after he won, Brown started taking actions to defend his family’s oil monopoly in California.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. All energy assets constitute options on the price of energy. Which is to say they gain a good part of their value from volatility on that value (irrespective of direction – put call parity applying evenly to oil and gas wells as to stock options) Moving from denser to lighter hydrocarbons –whose low energy density brings greater price instability — adds massive value to any portfolio of gas assets. Which is to say, many a large oil company. Oil will continue to add value in other non-heat applications such as petchems, bitumen etc.

    It’s funny that Extinction Rebellion treats the Shell doc ‘Climate of Concern’ as a badly kept secret instead of taking it at its fully earnest face value.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Sr De La Vega,

    Thanks for an excellent addition to the conversation.

    > It’s funny that Extinction Rebellion treats the Shell doc ‘Climate of Concern’ as a badly kept secret instead of taking it at its fully earnest face value.

    I guess it’s like the breathless pretense that Heartland was trying to keep its climate agenda secret until Gleick bravely gleaked it. Most of the climate khalasar is too lazy to check into such a narrative, so if you don’t have any incriminating evidence, why not rebrand banalities as scandals?

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Upcycling banality describes much of what might charitably be called ‘climate PR’.

    whats most absurd about the climate of concern non-scandal is that this documentary wasn’t just screened in a boardroom and then covered up, but distributed to schools and universities. This has to be the world’s most inept conspiracy and the worst ROI since Deepwater Horizon.

    It speaks to the inability of some people to see how policy-agnostic are almost ALL climate beliefs including vigorously anti-carbon ones. Which tends to undermine any follow-the-money style ideation.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.