Just in case anyone is not already aware of the climate crisis, António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, has again sounded the alarm:

  • “Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.”
  • “Our planet has had enough. Our addiction to fossil fuels is killing us.”
  • “But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

His passionate outcries are supported by the recent IPCC report on the mitigation of climate change, including the headline statement: “Reducing GHG emissions across the full energy sector requires major transitions, including a substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use.”

An article in The Guardian was even more blunt, “It’s over for fossil fuels: IPCC spells out what’s needed to avert climate disaster.”

Another passionate plea came from NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus: “And it will continue to get worse until we end the fossil fuel industry and the exponential quest for ever more profit at the expense of everything else. There is no way to fool physics.” Later, he added on Twitter: “Now that Will Smith has been banned from the Oscars for 10 years, can we talk about something that really matters ... like banning the fossil fuel industry from profiting off the death of our entire planet?”

After these latest warnings from such prominent and respected figures, surely nations would recognize the urgent need to meet the Paris Agreement target, as time is clearly running out to keep the global temperature rise below the critical 2 C level. One would also expect the public to be demanding reductions in the use of fossil fuels and the voices of dissent to be, at least, chastened if not silenced.

You can imagine how shocked I was at seeing instead a surge of activity on Twitter from what I call “oil apologists” who are unabashedly pushing for the greater use of fossil fuels.

Oil apologists represent just another shade of climate denialism (the anti-science movement that denies climate change is mainly caused by humans, and action is required now). Unlike most climate deniers, oil apologists don’t have a lot to say about the science of climate change because they generally ignore the topic. Their messaging is focused on fossil fuels being necessary for the progress of humanity.

Opinion: Oil apologists have been around for decades but have generally been quiet. Why the sudden surge? The war in Ukraine, writes @GeraldKutney. #ClimateBrawl #ClimateAction #ClimateCrisis #ClimateEmergency

Such views, for example, have been expressed by Alex Epstein in The Moral Case of Fossil Fuels, where he summarized his position: “I had just concluded, based on my research, that the short- and long-term benefits of using fossil fuels actually far, far outweigh the risks.” He discussed in his book “climate mastery”; namely, the ability of fossil fuels themselves to limit the impact of the climate crisis. On Twitter, Epstein, who has more than 90,000 followers, refers to himself and those like him as “climate humanists,” and has used terms such as pro-human for those who support fossil fuel growth and anti-human for those who oppose it.

Politicians are also oil apologists. During the Trump administration, Steven Winberg, assistant secretary of fossil energy, called fossil fuels the “molecules of U.S. freedom.”

Canada, more properly Alberta, has its own homegrown version of oil apologists. The message is the same — produce more oil — but with a twist: the target is other oil-producing regions. The main political spokesperson among the oil apologists in Canada has been Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta.

Jason Kenney’s favourite message is the use of ethical oil or energy from Alberta to replace dictator oil or energy from despotic oil producers such as the Gulf states, Venezuela and Russia. The intent is to grow oil production in Alberta at the expense of foreign competitors. While Canada is a democratic state and can be proud of its freedoms, that does not make oil, from anywhere, ethical, as the burning of even “ethical” oil still contributes to climate change.

Oil apologists have been around for decades but have generally been quiet. Why the sudden surge? The war in Ukraine presented the opportunity for this “humanitarian” justification of fossil fuels. In a recent interview on the Russia-Ukraine war, Noam Chomsky lamented the war profiteering by Big Oil:

“So, what has happened? Well, what has happened now is the euphoria in the offices of the oil companies even exceeds that of the joy in the offices of the weapons manufacturers… They want to be ‘hugged,’ as they put it in their words. We want to be hugged because we’re saving civilization by rapidly increasing the use of fossil fuels, and that’s what’s happening. That is one consequence of the invasion.”

Oil apologists want others to see them as the saviours of humanity and the protectors of freedom. They preach about the horrors of energy poverty and the need for helping lower-income regions achieve a prosperous future. Fossil fuels are humanity’s salvation. Hallelujah!

There are two fatal flaws with the outlandish position adopted by oil apologists. Foremost, they are largely ignoring the climate crisis and the devastating consequences of burning fossil fuels and, secondly, they wrongly presume that fossil fuels will be eliminated without being replaced or that replacements will be much more costly.

A favourite propaganda ploy of the oil apologists is emotional trigger phrases, such as the ones highlighted above, stirring up sentiment to distract and distort. They seek to control the narrative and are running a protection racket — not to protect us but to protect an industry that is harming humanity.

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"Oil apologists have been around for decades but have generally been quiet."

Can't agree. The "Drilled" podcast outlines the long history of climate change denial and fossil-fuel boosterism orchestrated by the oil lobby, PR firms, and an echo chamber of think tanks like the Heartland Institute — two sides of the same coin.
Add attacks on ENGOs a la Vivian Krause starting around 2009. (The third side of the coin.)

In Canada, Ezra Levant started pushing the case with "Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands" published in 2010. "Ethical Oil" became the rallying cry for Stephen Harper's Conservative government and launched the "EthicalOil" campaign in the U.S. and Canada.

Witness the more recent rise of astro-turf groups (e.g., Canada Action, Resource Works, Canada's Energy Citizens, Canada Proud, Oil Sands Strong), who conflate support for the oil industry with patriotism. Back in the days of Standard Oil and Rockefeller, anyone who wasn't pro-oil was anti-American.
Implicitly, criticism of industry is unpatriotic, if not traitorous. Albertans who oppose new pipelines are labelled anti-Albertan. People rash enough to criticize the oil industry are said to "hate" Alberta. Critics and political opponents become enemies. Enemies of industry are enemies of the state.

Alberta's Pipeline Queen, then-NDP Premier Rachel Notley, defended the oil industry, fought for the TMX pipeline, and threw billions of dollars in subsidies at multi-billion dollar oil companies on the pretext of fighting for "working people." As if the only jobs worth protecting were in the oil industry. Even as climate change wreaks havoc on jobs, livelihoods, and resources in other economic sectors.

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman: "I recall many times Jagmeet Singh has not been a friend to Albertans, to working people or to our nation when it comes to energy policy."
Premier Notley heaped scorn on federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh over Trans Mtn:
"To forget that and to throw [working people] under the bus as collateral damage in pursuit of some other high level policy objective is a recipe for failure and it's also very elitist."
"To do that and forget the needs of working people, or to throw working people under the bus, means that both economic growth and environmental protection are bound to fail."

Meanwhile, Notley was busy shovelling public money into corporate accounts and shareholders' pockets. Note to NDP: neoliberal policies do not help working people. Neoliberalism helps the rich get richer at the expense of working people.

Easy to vilify Jason Kenney. But progressive parties' embrace of neoliberalism shifts the discussion window and allows the Kenneys of the world to slide further right.
When it comes to the oil industry, Notley and Kenney are on the same page.

Federally, the Liberals' focus has been on economics:
Trudeau (2016): "There is growth to be had in the oilsands. They will be developing more fossil fuels while there's a market for it, while we transition off fossil fuels."
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."

Oil revenues will even fund our energy transition someday:
When the IPCC issued its latest report, then-Environment Minister "Wilkinson reaffirmed Canada's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but said achieving that target will require money generated by fossil fuels."
"Ottawa says it needs revenue generated by the Trans Mountain pipeline to fight climate change" (CBC, 9-Aug-21)
https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/wilkinson-climate-report-1.6135502
New pipelines to fight climate change. Like selling cigarettes to cure lung cancer.

Oil industry apologists also write in the pages of The Observer (18-Apr-22):
Max Fawcett: "Yes, Canada could move to wind down oil and gas production more aggressively, but that would only create an opportunity for other producing nations — or OPEC, which has spent the last few years deliberately restricting its supply — to fill the resulting supply gap."
The same argument the Conservatives make. The same arguments Canada's asbestos industry used for years.
"If we don't sell it, someone else will." The drug dealer's defence.
"Why should we stop selling crack? Someone else will just take our place."
https://www.nationalobserver.com/2022/04/18/opinion/steven-guilbeault-le...

The new denialism. Just as delusional as the old kind but more insidious. And far more dangerous.
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, 2016)
https://thenarwhal.ca/new-climate-denialism-time-intervention

Ho, ho, thank you for my morning chuckle. (If I hadn't laughed, I would have had to cry.) Your quote from Alex Epstein was so utterly ridiculous that I had to laugh. “I had just concluded, based on my research, that the short- and long-term benefits of using fossil fuels actually far, far outweigh the risks.”

If that's not the most ignorant — and tragic — thing he could have "concluded" .... oh my gosh, we're living in the insane asylum.

Let's get working together on Mutually Assured Survival, shall we? Or would we rather just quietly slide into fossil-fuelled extinction? Well, it won't be a quiet slide, it will be done in a chorus of our grand/children's cries of hunger and starvation and thirst and pain. But apparently the benefits of FFs outweigh a future for the children ... of all species. Our now globalized Western form of capitalism —predatory, cannibalistic and suicidal — will literally be the death of us all. I apologize for my part in it.

It does not sound to me like Epstein is ignorant. It sounds like he is a paid lying propagandist.

Yep. As Neil Young said a few weeks back about Rogan and Spotify, "Lying for money."

The Paris Agreement was for 1.5 degrees wasn't it?
Given what we've got already at what is it, 1.2 more or less?
Time's long past that the can can be kicked further down the road. But there isn't a leader in Canada doing otherwise.

Meanwhile, on the oil price front, demand declines as prices soar. And inflation enters the picture, which created a difficult scenario for addressing deep oil dependency in the absence of readily available alternatives to quickly slip into its place. The oil apologists focus only on the inadequacy of renewables to quickly step in while adding the topic of inflation to the list of stuff to avoid talking about, like climate mitigation and the hazards of extractive economies.

Take Germany. Governments of both stripes (conservative and social democratic-green) spent decades investing in driving up Germany's thirst for cheap Russian oil and gas, therein the biggest economy in Europe became grossly dependent on long supply chains of foreign carbon they thought were reliable. That will go down asa one of the biggest blunders in EU history. Then along came Putin's crimes against humanity in Ukraine, an event that is actively changing the world order and raising oil prices dramatically, resulting in joy among oil apologists in Canada who are populated by opportunists who don't care to acknowledge that their lead organization (CAPP) represents companies with a collective 70% majority in foreign ownership.

Meanwhile, converting Germany's energy portfolio to 100% renewables is a very difficult thing, even when over 40% of its energy already comes from renewables. North Sea permits are a tangled web of offshore wind farm, fishing ground and international boundary conflicts. And last summer the wind there didn't blow enough. Natural gas doesn't just power up peaker plants, but it is also a feedstock for very large industrial interests, like BASF, complexes that cannot be easily transitioned out of fossil fuels quickly. And the Greens are against nuclear energy, even in a nation with a superb safety record, and are supporting the plan to continue the shut down of the last three nuclear plants next year with no adequately scaled alternatives waiting in the wings. So far, the only replacement has been coal, something the Greens are silent about when considering coal's far more damaging history on human health. One wonders if Green politicos avoid dentists and hospitals due to a bias against dental x-rays and CAT scans, even when serious health issues crop up.

The fossil apologists completely ignore the fact that LNG import and regasification facilities don't exist in enough numbers to make up for any Russian gas banned in Germany. Therein the new German government is criticized for dithering and not having the courage to turn the valves down, which to some is the result of the lack of a genuine transition plan. Thus Putin still has the revenue to finance the mass destruction of Ukrainian lives, culture and cities.

Germany has determined that the next least destructive / expensive course of action is to "temporarily" build / expand LNG import facilities to maintain fossil energy to German industry, specifically to diversify the gas sources and to dilute Russian gas with LNG from Algeria, Indonesia, the US and other countries with existing export terminals. Canada is not one of them -- no LNG terminals yet, no matter what the apologists imply.

Italy is in a similar predicament. Less than 20% of its energy supply comes from renewables. It, too, is having issues with permits for wind farms as opposition is building in many communities and its permitting process is hopelessly bureaucratic and slow. Still, the government is offering a grant program for consumers to switch over to electricity in home heating, cooking and domestic hot water that, at 110% of the costs to individual consumers, created a huge incentive to convert. Canada and the provinces should learn from that. Still, Italy is also concurrently looking to North Africa to supply gas to displace a portion of the Russian product.

Putin will still be laughing for a while yet. If any EU nation suddenly cancels their Russian oil and gas contracts (or a pipeline to the EU is bombed), the price will spike yet again as supplies notch downward, sending the world economy into another tizzy and rocketing the apologists into new rounds of orgiastic propagandizing about "ethical" oil and gas from Canada even as it's extracted by their foreign-owned employers. It is entirely possible for Putin's bank accounts to swell with oil revenue even as he sells less oil, but at higher prices. The only difference is that he and his pals may think twice about commissioning more superyachts with diverted oil revenue as they are at now at risk of seizure. They may need to convert roubles to Euros and US dollars and bury the cash in their palace grounds somewhere.

"Oil dependency is complicated." Eric Reguly, Globe and Mail.

The EU has promised to get off all Russian fossil fuels by 2027-30. Let's hope that it isn't merely replaced with oil and gas from other nations, but that overall demand to decarbonize spikes even higher just as EVs, stationary power batteries made from everyday materials (iron, manganese, metallic calcium, antimony, salt, graphene ...), more efficient renewable energy generation, new advanced microchips made in democratic countries, efficacious urbanism, Passive House building standards, regenerative agriculture + forestry and other realistic climate initiatives are taking off.

Here in Quebec, I am involved in a media battle with oil apologists.
1) On March 29, Le Devoir published my text where I wrote that the war in Ukraine could be an accelerator towards a transition towards renewables energies! If you can read French, please see
https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/idees/692331/environnement-la-guerre-pe...

2) On March 31, two members of l'Institut Économique de Montréal (IÉDM or the Economic Institute of Montreal- which has some financing from the petroleum industry) wrote a challenge to my text plus they called me «an ecological puritain»; they attacked my position and proclaimed that the energy transition must be towards THE GAS FROM QUEBEC!!! We have a lot of Hydro-electric power, but gaz???? and in quantities to influence the war in Ukraine???? see
https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/idees/693567/energie-le-puritanisme-eco...

3) I answered the oil apologists from IEDM with the text below. Unfortunately, Le Devoir did not want to be involved in a media tug-a-war. but you can read my answer to these oil apologists on the site of RVHQ;
https://www.rvhq.ca/replique-opinions/la-transition-nergtique-selon-lidm