Op-Ed: Oil Companies Must Defend Their Product Before 'Green' Policies Tank Our Quality of Life


The American oil and gas industry at large has really dropped the ball over the past decades when it comes to telling the truth about its product, but maybe not the way most people think.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with some very thoughtful and inspiring oil and gas industry representatives who belong to the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, one of the few coalitions that actively bring companies and individuals together to take a positive position — not an apologetic one — on American energy production.

Many of the individuals I spoke with had the same idea — that American oil and gas companies ought to be aggressively promoting the importance of their product to our economy and standard of living, as well as the future of the developing world.

It’s taken smaller industry groups, think tanks and outsiders like Alex Epstein to really start appropriately explaining how important oil and gas are.

Worse, the largest companies more often than not actively participate in self-flagellation and apologize for their product. They advertise “decarbonization” efforts, maybe hoping that they will avoid the crocodilian maw of “green” policy.

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There also is a cynical side of me that believes it’s because high energy prices are good for the bottom line, so these companies think that playing the middle will help them make bank while also not totally giving up on oil and gas. They know that fossil fuels and their byproducts are still essential to both the developed and developing worlds.

One of the few recent exceptions to the silence (or groveling) is the Exxon Mobil Corporation, ever despised by the green activism crowd. The company recently said that the International Energy Agency’s net-zero emissions scenario, which suggests a 2050 deadline for “phasing out” fossil fuels, has “little bearing in reality.”

The IEA is a renewables-peddling climate advocacy outlet out of Paris disguised as an energy research group, a frequent sweetheart of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Economic Forum.

The reality is that getting rid of oil and gas in pursuit of net-zero emissions by 2050 would seriously impact billions of people’s standard of living globally, and Exxon is at least softly saying so. Exxon representatives went on to say that it is “highly unlikely that society would accept the degradation in global standard of living required to permanently achieve a scenario like the IEA NZE.”

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Indeed, multiple polls show that although most people claim to support “climate action,” once they see the actual price tag, they are far less enthusiastic.

California, that green paradise itself, provides a good case study. Although California residents are often celebrated for their climate bona fides, when polled on whether or not they would support a climate tax, their support fizzled. A California county board sought support for a tax increase of a mere 0.25 percent to use for climate goals, but even this was opposed by the general public.

Europeans, who are generally happier with government climate initiatives, also don’t support those plans once they begin to directly impact their way of life.

A recent YouGov poll of several thousand Europeans across different countries found that most were more than happy to support tree planting and similar projects. However, when the poll asked for more direct sacrifices, support fell off a cliff. In fact, most were not on board with limiting meat or dairy intake, paying more for electricity or energy-efficient appliances, limiting how many children they have, or limiting or banning vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

Since fossil fuel use is the backbone of all these parts of life, it makes sense that it is “highly unlikely” that a phaseout of fossil fuels will be supported once the masses realize the impact on the day-to-day it would have.

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Restricting or eliminating the use of fossil fuels will undoubtedly lead to higher food prices, because every step of large-scale food production relies on them and on byproducts from refining them.

Fertilizers and pesticides are made as a byproduct of natural gas production, and plastics and other specialized materials are made from the byproducts of oil and gas refining. Large tractors run on diesel fuel. The steel necessary for heavy farm equipment is made using coal. Transportation fuels get food from farm to table. The list goes on, and that’s just the agricultural industry.

Without these technologies, yields would plummet. In parts of Europe, the food supply is already being threatened by efforts to ban the use of fossil fuels in agriculture.

Fossil fuels are even used in the mining, refining, manufacturing, transportation and construction of renewable electric power sources like wind turbines, solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles.

Exxon knows this, other companies do as well, and it is long past time that other oil majors begin to sing the same tune.

If the public — and especially young people living in big cities where they are somewhat insulated from real-world physical realities — were fully aware of what Big Green and our government leadership are selling us, they might think twice about supporting candidates and policies that intend to drastically lower our standard of living.

Oil companies need to defend their product — for all our sakes.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Linnea Lueken is a research fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute.