The early months of 2020 were a heady time for fossil fuel-hating climate worriers. Never mind that a new disease, that would go on to kill millions, was sweeping the planet. Never mind that huge swathes of humanity were effectively suffering house arrest. The roads were quiet. Emissions were falling. And oil was dead.

On 1st April 2020 the Guardian was ecstatic, crowing: “Analysts say the coronavirus and a savage price war means the oil and gas sector will never be the same again”. That was the sub-heading to an articlei that, in fairness, did contemplate the possibility that the oil industry might bounce back after the end of the pandemic, but it very much looked forward to it not doing so.

Whatever happens, the industry will never be the same again after the double whammy of the pandemic and price war. “The companies that emerge from the crisis will not be the ones that went into it,” said Carbon Tracker’s Bond. “We will see write-downs, restructuring and radical change.”

Less than three weeks later and the excitement was almost palpable. This time the headline to an articleii in the Guardian (on 20th April 2020) was “Oil prices dip below zero as producers forced to pay to dispose of excess”. Wow. Oil had become a liability! Better still:

Historically weak oil markets are likely to bring lower prices for drivers at service station forecourts, but the price collapse will also hurt pension savings which are often invested in major oil companies through funds which track equity markets. The oil price crisis has already wiped billions from the market value of the largest oil companies, many of which will not be able to pay dividends if the market rout drags on.

Fast Forward Seventeen Months

As I write this, in the evening of the last day in September 2021, Brent Crude is priced at $78.39 a barrel. Demand for oil has bounced bank with a vengeance, we have a shortage and queues at petrol stations, and the online headline in the Guardian this evening is rather different, the latest articleiii being headlined “Nearly half of UK’s independent petrol stations still lack fuel – Petrol Retailers Association say fuel is being bought faster than it is getting restocked”.

The story continues to be one of people being desperate to get their hands on fuel:

The Petrol Retailers Association said drivers were continuing to buy fuel faster than it could be restocked, despite the insistence from chief secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, that the situation was “back under control”.

Things are also getting fraught:

The PRA chief executive, Gordon Balmer, said motorists were subjecting staff at forecourts to unacceptable levels of abuse and violence.

Imagine how motorists will react when they’ve all been forced to switch to electric cars, the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shining, and the French are playing hard ball about supplies via the interconnector. Politicians (of all parties), you have been warned.

Reality Hits Home

It should be fairly obvious by now that people, especially having spent months locked down, don’t want to be subject to ongoing restrictions any more. They want to be able to fly to sunny climes for their holidays. They want to fill up the fuel tanks in their cars and drive where they like. They don’t want empty shelves in shops. If they didn’t mind doing without we wouldn’t see examples of panic buying time and time again. And one Guardian journalist has come clean and accepted that the only way he and his fellow climate worriers can achieve their aims is by reducing economic activity.

On 29th September 2021 George Monbiot’s articleiv appeared in the Guardian under the heading “Green growth’ doesn’t exist – less of everything is the only way to avert catastrophe”.

Having written “Saving the Planet by Trashing it”valmost six months ago, in which I pointed out that for many eco-worriors “…[a]ny environmental degradation is acceptable, even welcome, it seems, if it’s “renewable”. The end justifies the means…” I find it rather refreshing to read these words in the Guardian:

When we box up this predicament, our efforts to solve one aspect of the crisis exacerbate another. For example, if we were to build sufficient direct air capture machines to make a major difference to atmospheric carbon concentrations, this would demand a massive new wave of mining and processing for the steel and concrete. The impact of such construction pulses travels around the world. To take just one component, the mining of sand to make concrete is trashing hundreds of precious habitats. It’s especially devastating to rivers, whose sand is highly sought in construction. Rivers are already being hit by drought, the disappearance of mountain ice and snow, our extraction of water, and pollution from farming, sewage and industry. Sand dredging, on top of these assaults, could be a final, fatal blow.

Or look at the materials required for the electronics revolution that will, apparently, save us from climate breakdown. Already, mining and processing the minerals required for magnets and batteries is laying waste to habitats and causing new pollution crises. Now, as Jonathan Watts’s terrifying article in the Guardian this week shows, companies are using the climate crisis as justification for extracting minerals from the deep ocean floor, long before we have any idea of what the impacts might be.

…Everywhere, governments seek to ramp up the economic load, talking of “unleashing our potential” and “supercharging our economy”. Boris Johnson insists that “a global recovery from the pandemic must be rooted in green growth”. But there is no such thing as green growth. Growth is wiping the green from the Earth.

We have no hope of emerging from this full-spectrum crisis unless we dramatically reduce economic activity. Wealth must be distributed – a constrained world cannot afford the rich – but it must also be reduced. Sustaining our life-support systems means doing less of almost everything. But this notion – that should be central to a new, environmental ethics – is secular blasphemy.

Now, George and I have had our differencesvi, but on this occasion I feel he has identified a very real truth. There is no such thing as green growth. Green jobs are pie in the sky too. Pretty much every attempt to replace fossil fuels with “renewables” or to create some sci-fi “carbon capture” scheme, are both expensive and environmentally damaging.

The choice facing humanity is not the choice that will be offered us at COP26, between “climate chaos” or a “green revolution”. No, it’s a choice between continued use of fossil fuels and a dramatic reduction in our standard of living. Given the choice between CO2 emissions, and the environmental devastation caused by attempts to reduce CO2 emissions, I go with the environmentally-friendly life-enhancing choice every time, and I suspect so would most people when the choice is put to them in those terms. Does anyone really think those abusive panic-buying petrol forecourt gas-guzzling drivers want us to do less of almost everything? Does anyone really think people will be happy to pay more for the fuel for their motor vehicles, for the fuel for their homes, to be told they must travel less, possess less, and accept empty supermarket shelves and less choice?

No, although George’s essential premise is right, if it’s put to the people as he puts it, the “green revolution” will be stopped dead in its tracks. Oil isn’t dead after all. Long live oil.









  1. Andres Stuttaford wrote at National Review:

    “Instead of looking at these alternative approaches, the EU, the U.K., and, soon enough, the U.S., seem set on what is looking more and more like a headlong rush into disaster. To understand why this might be, it is important to understand that for many climate warriors a “bloody hard” transition is a feature, not a bug.

    Concentrating on resilience and adaptation do not follow the millenarian narrative that is an unmistakable subtext of the message now being sent out by many climate warriors, whether inside government, linked to government, or outside it.

    Underpinned by the expectation of apocalypse, this narrative, which has repeatedly demonstrated its dangerously persuasive power over the centuries, is based on the thought that a wicked humanity faces punishment and must, with the assistance of a morally superior, enlightened vanguard, be made to change its dreadful (often self-indulgent) behavior.

    Adaptation and resilience, by contrast, offer the prospect that our species will muddle on through, living pretty much as it has been doing, except even better, and without donning the hairshirt integral to so many climate warriors’ faith. Theirs has the characteristics of a religion, and there is little that is original about it.

    Pointless asceticism comes with the territory.”

    Stuttaford’s essay:
    My synopsis:

    Updated Sept. 28 Europe Energy Stress Test Under Way

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It was said of George Orwell that he couldn’t blow his nose without thinking of the condition of the workers in the handkerchief factory. Monbiot can’t wipe his bottom without worrying about the loss of biodiversity in the Scandinavian forest. He once agonised publicly about how he was obliged to buy a car because of the impossibility of getting from Oxford to Cambridge by public transport. (Oh, the sufferings of the journalist with two visiting professorships at once.)

    I agree with him though that we all of us consume far too much stuff. All of us except people trying to save for a mortgage on the minimum wage, or bring up children in a damp council flat, or run a business when half your clients can’t get on a bus without a passport and are at home clicking on Amazon… So not really all of us then. Just the chavs with their two cars and gadget-addicted kids. Not all of us; more all of them.

    I came to the same conclusion as George about consumer society at the age of eight, from spending Saturday afternoons being dragged round the shops to buy a new school blazer or look at curtains. Did George’s dad bundle the family into the Ford Prefect and head off to the shops every Saturday afternoon? As Chairman of the Conservative Party, possibly not.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was pleasantly surprised by an opinion piece in last weekend’s FT titled: “Gas crisis shows why we must stop demonising fossil fuels” with a sub-heading: “Whether we like it or not the green transition involves long term reliance on carbon-heavy energy”. The writer is the editor-in-chief of Money Week.
    It included the fact, familiar to sceptics, that fossil fuels supply approx the same share of the world’s primary energy as they did 10 years ago and went on to the obvious inference that renewables aren’t even keeping up with the growth in demand.
    A bit of solid common sense commentary in a paper which usually follows the green script.
    Straws in the wind, perhaps?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. “Europe risks €87 billion in stranded fossil gas assets, report reveals”

    Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, said that “with the EU Green Deal and the 55% target, natural gas demand in Europe needs to start declining today, otherwise we risk wasting billions of private and public funding on stranded assets. The fossil fuel era has passed – we must invest crucial public resources into reliable and cheap renewable energy that is ready today”.

    This was probably a non-controversial thing to say on the 8th of April 2021. Now? Not so much. I wonder what “reliable and cheap renewable energy” Tubiana had in mind?

    Meanwhile the obsession with insulation (including during the present motorway clown fiesta) is nothing less than an admission that the electricity of the future will be too expensive to waste.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks, as always, for the interesting comments and links.

    I think this winter might be crunch time. Realisation of what the net zero obsession is causing might just be dawning on people.

    George Monbiot’s revelation is gratifying in it’s way. My views of his writing vary between irritation at what seems to me to be an utterly one-sided and loaded way of writing, which to my way of thinking stretches the truth to its limits; and astounding honesty and clear-sightedness, telling the truths that many of his fellow-travellers wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.

    In that article he’s lifted the curtain on the real agenda. Will the Tory government (a TORY government, for pity’s sake) now wake up and smell the coffee?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Meanwhile:

    “China orders energy firms to secure winter fuel supplies at all costs
    World’s second biggest economy is grappling with power cuts that have affected industrial output”

    “China’s central government officials have ordered the top state-owned energy companies to secure fuel supplies for winter at all costs as the country battles a power crisis that threatens to hit growth in the world’s second biggest economy.

    The vice-premier, Han Zheng, has told energy companies to make sure there is enough fuel to keep the country running and made it clear that Beijing would not tolerate blackouts, according to a report by Bloomberg.

    China has been hit by widespread power cuts that have closed or partly closed factories, hitting production and global supply chains.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The shortages of fossil fuels would be ameliorated immediately if all those opposed to their use stopped using and benefitting from the stuff. Today.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “‘Green growth’ doesn’t exist – less of everything is the only way to avert catastrophe”.

    I think George Monbiot is operating under a false premise. We need more of everything to solve poverty, pandemics, asteroid strikes, little ice ages, … We even need more billionaires. If we run out of something, they can go out into space and find more.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Mark, from the above post quote –

    “We have no hope of emerging from this full-spectrum crisis unless we dramatically reduce economic activity. Wealth must be distributed – a constrained world cannot afford the rich – but it must also be reduced. Sustaining our life-support systems means doing less of almost everything. But this notion – that should be central to a new, environmental ethics – is secular blasphemy.”

    anybody know what Monbiot is trying to say with this ?

    stopped reading the Guardian yrs ago as any anti comments went in the bad bin.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. dfhunter, I think his point is that rich people emit lots of CO2, so we can’t have rich people. Secondly, but more significantly for the rest of humanity, we need to do less of everything, because doing anything emits CO2, and also involves environmentally unfriendly activity – quarrying, mining, logging, etc. He seems to be firmly in the humanity is bad for the planet therefore we need to wear hair shirts group.

    Although he is a doomsday prophet to that extent, I found it encouraging that he has been brave enough to go against the politicians’ slippery mantra of talking about “green growth”, when what they are really talking about is destroying our way of life and the environment at the same time. Monbiot has come clean and simply pointed out that the concept of “green growth” is a fallacy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Monbiot IMHO has got it dead wrong when he concludes the world cannot afford the rich. It shows a real ignorance or denial of history. Until the late nineteenth century it was the rich that employed the skilled and the wise to provide them with fashioned objects or managed and protected their wealth. The wealthy endowed centres of learning in which the necessary skills and knowledge could be developed. Without the rich would we have anything of value? Certainly the objects and knowledge of the past that we value most today were produced for the rich and super-rich.

    The only possible exception to this is the church and it’s clergy that possess valuable objects and commonly a learned personnel. But it is arguable the these personnel are, or behave like, the rich.

    There is another aspect that Monbiot seemingly ignores – that huge swaths of us are actually richer than Croesus compared to those of the past. I am comfortable in my retirement yet cannot be considered rich compared with those of my contemporaries. Yet looking around my house I know that I have possessions that even the richest of the rich of the past would sacrifice most to possess : A functioning large, flat-screen television that dispenses information and entertainment not least amongst them.

    So it is my belief that the rich are essential to provide a demand for the skilled and knowledgeable. Without the rewards of becoming rich, where would the drive to control and organise our societies come from? What value would possession of skill or knowledge have?

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Alan, I largely agree with you, especially on the point that compared to pretty much everyone who has gone before we are mostly as rich as Croesus. However, I think it’s fair to say (though his words must speak for themselves) that Monbiot isn’t really interested in how humanity is doing, his overriding concern being the state of the environment. At least that’s how I read him. By those lights, the rich are harmful, because they have rich, CO2-spewing lifestyles.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mark, Indeed the rich are harmful because they employ armies of other humans to cater for their needs/desires. Without the rich those people would starve or would never have been born. It is probably true that the environment would recover or thrive if human populations were decreased substantially, but who is going to advocate it, let alone put it into practice. The urban Chinese attempted to do it with the one child policy, but this eventually led to worker shortages and has been abandoned. What Monbiot is suggesting is impossible. We would require several Tamerlanes.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Alan:

    We would require several Tamerlanes.

    That got me reaching for Wikipedia:

    Timur invaded Baghdad in June 1401. After the capture of the city, 20,000 of its citizens were massacred. Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show him. When they ran out of men to kill, many warriors killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign, and when they ran out of prisoners to kill, many resorted to beheading their own wives.

    There’s more, in a similar vein. Best avoided, methinks.


  15. “UK industry could face shutdowns as wholesale gas price hits record high
    Steel, chemicals and fertiliser industries warn of difficult winter unless government takes emergency action”

    “…Paul Pearcy, federation co-ordinator at trade body British Glass, said companies that make windows could be forced to revert to powering their furnaces with polluting fuels that had been abandoned.

    “Some of our members still have heavy fuel oil on site, having moved over to gas,” he said. “Some of them are seriously considering moving back to that because of the price of gas….”.

    So much for oil being dead. Meanwhile, in Cloud Cuckoo Land:

    “…The business department said: “We are determined to secure a competitive future for our energy-intensive industries and in recent years have provided them with extensive support, including more than £2bn to help with the costs of energy and to protect jobs.

    “Our exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to build a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.””


  16. “Energy crisis reignites demand for oil, threatening climate targets, says IEA
    International Energy Agency warns shortage of gas and coal could trigger oil market rebound”

    “The worldwide energy crisis has reignited demand for oil, posing a threat to the world’s climate ambitions and the global economic recovery from Covid-19, according to the International Energy Agency.

    The global energy watchdog said the shortage of gas and coal across the biggest economies, which has caused energy markets to rocket, could trigger a faster-than-expected rebound in the oil market and drive demand to above pre-pandemic levels as soon as next year.

    The Paris-based agency said this would greatly increase costs for energy-hungry industries which, along with power outages, could lead to lower industrial activity and a slowdown in the world’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

    “Record coal and gas prices as well as rolling blackouts are prompting the power sector and energy-intensive industries to turn to oil to keep the lights on and operations humming,” the IEA said.”

    What a difference 18 months makes.


  17. “Oil hits multi-year highs on tight global supply”

    “Oil prices rallied above $86 a barrel on Monday, extending multi-year gains after Saudi Arabia urged the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to stick to a cautious approach to raising global output.

    Global benchmark Brent crude jumped 71 cents, or 0.8%, to $86.24 a barrel, continuing growth after seven consecutive weekly gains. Earlier in the session, Brent price brushed $86.43 a barrel, reaching its highest level since October 2018.

    US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 87 cents, or 1%, to $84.63 a barrel at 3:42am GMT, after 1.5% growth on Friday. It also touched its highest price since 2014 at $84.76 earlier in the day….

    …Oil prices have more than doubled over the past year as the global economy struggles to recover from the pandemic-induced crisis. While energy consumption has surged and storage has run low, OPEC+ decided earlier this year to raise its monthly crude production by 400,000 barrels. Despite repeated calls to boost output further, the oil alliance has so far resisted pressure to do so. The group is next scheduled to meet on November 4.”


  18. What a difference 18 months make:

    “US to release oil reserves in attempt to lower prices”

    “The US has said it is releasing 50 million barrels of oil from its reserves in an attempt to bring down soaring energy and petrol prices.

    The move is being taken in parallel with other major oil-consuming nations, including China, India, Japan, South Korea and the UK.

    US President Joe Biden has repeatedly asked the Opec group of oil-producing nations to boost output more rapidly.

    But Opec has stuck to an agreement to only increase production gradually.

    It says it is concerned that a resurgence of coronavirus cases could drive down demand, as happened at the height of the pandemic.

    Crude oil prices recently touched seven-year highs, amid a sharp uptick in global demand as economies recover from the coronavirus crisis.

    It’s driven up petrol prices and energy bills in many countries.

    In a statement the White House said: “American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the pump and in their home heating bills, and American businesses are, too, because oil supply has not kept up with demand.

    “That’s why President Biden is using every tool available to him to work to lower prices and address the lack of supply.”

    As part of the coordinated effort, the UK government will allow firms to voluntarily release 1.5 million barrels of oil from privately-held reserves.

    It said the action would support the global economic recovery but “any benefit for UK drivers is likely to be limited and short in nature”.

    India will release five million barrels, while South Korea, Japan and China will announce the amount and timing of their releases in due course.

    Officials said it was the first time that the US had coordinated such a move with some of the world’s largest oil consumers. But analysts questioned whether it would have much impact.

    “It’s not large enough to bring down prices in a meaningful way and may even backfire if it prompts Opec+ [which includes Russia] to slow the pace at which it is raising output,” said Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist at Capital Economics.

    But the effort by Washington to team up with other major economies to lower energy prices sends a warning to Opec and other big producers that they need to address concerns about high crude prices, which are up more than 50% this year

    Opec+, which includes major producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, has repeatedly rebuffed requests to pump more oil at its monthly meetings, causing frustration in the US.

    “We will continue talking to international partners on this issue,” a senior US administration official told reporters on Tuesday.

    “The president stands ready to take additional action if needed, and is prepared to use his full authorities working in coordination with the rest of the world.””

    So much for Biden’s “green” agenda, and so much for COP 26.


  19. “New UK cost of living threat as oil rises to highest price in seven years
    With petrol and diesel already close to record highs, driving costs look likely to increase again”

    “Britain’s hard-pressed households face a fresh threat to their living standards after fears of Middle East supply disruption sent the price of oil to its highest level in seven years.

    With the cost of petrol and diesel already close to their highest-ever level in the UK, the cost of driving is set to rise again after a jump in oil prices to almost $88 (£65) a barrel.

    Latest figures from the RAC show motorists paying an average of 146p a litre for unleaded petrol and 149p a litre for diesel. But the rise of more than $1 a barrel in the cost of Brent crude after drone attacks by Yemen’s Houthi group on an oil facility in Abu Dhabi will put upward pressure on pump prices.

    US investment bank Goldman Sachs has said the price of crude will hit $100 a barrel in the second half of 2022 as global economic activity recovers from the disruption caused by the Omicron variant.”


  20. “UK motorists face record fuel prices as global oil costs rise
    Diesel already at all-time high of 151.2p with petrol close behind as Opec production falls short”

    “Motorists face the return of record high prices at the pumps as global oil markets continue to climb towards $100 a barrel after a slowdown in output from the Opec oil cartel.

    British drivers will now pay 151.21p a litre of diesel after pump prices on Thursday climbed above the previous all-time high of 151.10p a litre in November last year, compounding the national cost of living crisis.

    Meanwhile, petrol prices have moved to within 0.05p of their November record to 147.67p a litre across the country, according to the AA, and are already above the 147.72p a litre UK record in London, the south-east and East Anglia….

    …The cost of oil has increased by more than 60% in the last 12 months, from about $60 (£44) a barrel last February to highs of $98 (£72) in the last week. After a brief slump the global oil price has resumed its march towards $100 a barrel, reaching $92.42 (£68) a barrel at midday on Friday.

    The rise has been driven by growing demand for crude following the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions, as oil production among the world’s biggest suppliers has struggled to keep pace. Tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which is the world’s third-biggest oil producer, have also fuelled higher oil prices.

    The International Energy Agency (IEA), which is considered the world’s energy watchdog, on Friday blamed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for failing to produce enough oil to meet the quotas set out by the Opec oil cartel and its allies….”


  21. “Ukraine conflict: Oil price soars to highest level since 2008”

    “Oil prices have soared to the highest level since July 2008 after the US said it was discussing a potential ban on Russian supplies with its allies.

    Brent crude – the global oil benchmark – rose to above $139 a barrel, before easing to around $130.”


  22. “Saudi Aramco to increase oil production to meet global demand
    Saudi Arabia’s state oil company also reports its net profit rose by 124% to $110bn (£83bn) in 2021”

    “Saudi Arabia’s state oil company said it would increase spending on oil production to meet rising global demand, as it reported a doubling of profits in 2021.

    Saudi Aramco – the world’s largest oil exporter and one of the world’s most profitable companies – said its net profit increased by 124% to $110bn (£83bn) in 2021, compared with $49bn a year earlier.

    The company said its profits had soared as a result of higher crude oil prices as demand for oil rebounded after the pandemic, and also because of increased margins in its refining and chemicals business.

    Brent crude oil rocketed to $139 a barrel, a 14-year high, earlier this month, but has since dropped to closer to $100. In early December, a barrel of crude was priced below $70.

    Aramco expects demand for oil to keep climbing, and said “substantial new investment” is required to meet this demand, in a move likely to dismay climate campaigners.”


  23. “Saudi Aramco: Oil giant sees profits jump as prices surge”

    “Saudi Aramco has posted its highest profits since its 2019 listing as oil and gas prices surge around the world.

    The state-owned energy giant saw an 82% jump in profits, with net income topping $39.5bn (£32.2bn) in the first quarter.

    In a press release, the firm said it had been boosted by higher prices, as well as an increase in production.

    The invasion of Ukraine has seen oil and gas prices skyrocket.

    Russia is one of the world’s biggest exporters but Western nations have pledged to cut their dependence on the country for energy.

    Oil prices were already rising before the Ukraine war as economies started to recover from the Covid pandemic and demand outstripped supply.

    Other energy firms including Shell, BP and TotalEnergies have also reported soaring profits as a result, although many are incurring costs exiting operations in Russia.”

    Remember this?

    “Whatever happens, the industry will never be the same again after the double whammy of the pandemic and price war. “The companies that emerge from the crisis will not be the ones that went into it,” said Carbon Tracker’s Bond. “We will see write-downs, restructuring and radical change.””



  24. Mark said:

    “Russia is one of the world’s biggest exporters but Western nations have pledged to cut their dependence on the country for energy.”

    Not any more. The EU has reversed their decision not to allow European gas companies to pay for Russian gas in roubles. This may be because the majority of such companies have already set up the required accounts with Gazprombank.

    The oil companies are likely to follow for all the reasons set out on this page:


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