OWOE has pointed out similarities between today’s Big Oil and last millennium’s Big Tobacco several times over the years. In September 2022 we published “Don’t Blame the Suppliers, Unless They Are Big Oil” where we shared articles documenting the efforts of the fossil fuel companies to engage in a public relations campaign to sow doubt in the science of climate change by following the playbook of the tobacco industry. And in August 2023 we published “Big Oil Stuns Again” where we addressed the greenwashing that the oil companies are currently engaged in and speculated that Big Oil’s lack of civic responsibility might become legal liabilities in the future, similar to what happened with the tobacco industry. Recent events have made it even more clear that, yes, Big Oil is following in the footsteps of Big Tobacco and is likely to meet a similar fate.
There has been a significant and rapidly growing number of lawsuits around the world involving climate litigation against the oil companies (see Fig 1) with a growing focus on climate disclosures and greenwashing. However, this year in particular has seen a number of significant actions from states, countries, and the public, including a key ruling by the US Supreme Court:
The current situation regarding Big Oil lawsuits appears to mirror the history of Big Tobacco lawsuits going back almost 70 years. The first wave of tobacco lawsuits in the 1950s attempted to link cigarette smoking to cancer, and the tobacco companies prevailed in all of them. In the 1980s a second wave accused the tobacco companies of knowing that cigarettes were addictive and caused cancer but did not warn the public. Most of those lawsuits, but not all, were won by Big Tobacco. Then in the 1990s plaintiffs began winning these lawsuits when cigarette company documents were leaked showing the companies were aware of the addictive nature of tobacco.
Another interesting parallel involves Big Oil’s drive to increase the use of plastics and other petrochemicals, which currently account for as much as 12% of fossil fuel use. A 2020 documentary presented on NPR found evidence that Big Oil believed that plastic recycling could never be made economical yet spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising to sell the public on the idea that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled. As a result, plastic production has been growing about 5% annually, yet under 10% of the plastic produced is recycled. Compare this to the University of Kansas study published also this past September that uncovered that the chemically addictive fatty, salty and sweet foods that make up 68% of the American food supply were developed and marketed by tobacco companies when they owned some of the largest food companies in the world including Nabisco and Kraft-General Foods.
Despite all the parallels, there is one big difference between Big Oil and Big Tobacco. At the height of use in 1965, approximately 50 million Americans over the age of 18 smoked tobacco products or approximately 1/3rd of the adult population. Thus, 2/3rds of the adults in the US did not smoke. As the health effects of smoking became known, public opinion within the non-smoking population and peer pressure on smokers helped drive the anti-smoking health campaign. In contrast, today, essentially 100% of the US population is addicted to fossil fuel. Even those of us who have embraced electric vehicles (EVs), your author included, are dependent on fossil fuel. Air travel, heating, cooking, plastics, consumer products, clothing…virtually every aspect of daily life is tied to fossil fuel products. So, yes, OWOE sees Big Oil as the new Big Tobacco, but the path toward breaking our addiction is much less clear.
Bill Luyties, OWOE Technical Editor: There is no doubt that the world needs oil and will continue to need it for some time while the transition to renewable energy plays out. There is also little doubt that that burning of fossil fuels and associated carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere have contributed greatly to the current crisis that is global warming (see 97% of active climate scientists agree). Examples of the impact on the world’s climate are all around us – from the record-breaking temperatures around the world, to the forest fires in Canada, California, Spain, Greece, and Hawaii, to the melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic and rapidly rising sea levels. So, where does Big Oil fit into this ongoing transition? The last several years have seen Big Oil, which has been the source of much of the public misinformation about climate change, pushing the narrative that they will be part of the solution. How is that going?(more…)
Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: There are a lot of peculiarities about Canada that foreigners do not understand and residents shamefully ignore. For one, Canada is one of the biggest money laundering countries in the world. Ask any person on the street about the dangers of corruption and he or she will point to places overseas, oblivious to the extensive graft in Canada. Graft and corruption exist at every government level and in every region of Canada. But the governments choose to overlook these things. Coupled with outright incompetence, Canada does not look good for common folks striving to make a better life.(more…)
Blog by Bill Luyties (OWOE Founder and Editor): Over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple articles pop up on my news feeds that proclaim that an EV can cost as much to drive per mile as an ICE vehicle. These all appear to be based on an Anderson Economic Group report titled: Real World Cost of Fueling EVs and ICE Vehicles (2nd Edition), dated April 2022 but apparently not issued until early 2023. One article headline actually shouts: Shocking study finds EVs cost more to fuel than gas cars in late 2022. While I generally feel that the Anderson study did a good job of trying to compare costs, the authors of these news articles ignore most of the study and focus on a single headline-grabbing finding that for mid-priced cars EVs cost about the same as ICE cars when charged at home, but cost more when using commercial chargers (see Figure 1). This may well be true today, but the Anderson study and these articles miss the real point – such a comparison is misleading and almost totally irrelevant for a number of key reasons.(more…)
Guest blog by Yumusbe Joacquin: Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven’t gotten much media attention over the past year.
Wind Turbines Causing Earth to Speed Up
In 2020 scientists noticed that the earth’s rotation had begun to speed up. Historically, the earth has been slowing down, primarily due to the drag created by the gravitation effect of the moon. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) has been adding leap seconds every now and again to make up for the slower spin (which last happened on December 31, 2016). However, there were 28 days in 2020 where the earth actually spun faster than any time during the previous 60 years. And on July 26, 2022, the earth completed its quickest-ever spin with a rotation that was 1.50 milliseconds less than its nominal 24-hours.(more…)
Guest blog by S.A. Shelley: For some time, I’ve written in previous blogs that the world has gone nuts with respect to energy policies and proclamations. Too much emphasis is on a speedy , if not immediate, Green Energy transition that does not mesh with physical reality. Politicians are master tacticians but lousy strategists and while the world needs more green and renewable energy and associated products, the world is instead starting to see uncontrolled cost increases, supply chain bottlenecks, and increasing local opposition to energy salvation. Reality bites.(more…)
Blog by Bill Luyties (OWOE Founder and Editor): I had the opportunity and pleasure to visit the Floating Wind Solutions (FWS) 2023 conference in Houston, Tx, last week and thoroughly enjoyed the three days of exhibits, presentations, networking, and reconnecting with colleagues. This was the third annual FWS and by far the largest and best attended with close to 90 exhibitors and approximately 800 attendees. The mood of the participants was very upbeat, as floating wind has experienced a number of positive developments over the last year. While there are still key hurdles to overcome, the industry appears to be on the verge of taking off.(more…)
Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: Welcome dear readers to another blog highlighting more energy follies. The world is a mess on several levels, with equity markets roiling, bonds markets churning and of course inflation running amok. Politicians at every level use every hurricane to announce that catastrophic climate change has arrived, and every excuse except fiscal imprudence as the sinister root cause for inflation (nytimes.com, nbcnews.com). We have Europeans still worrying about heat this winter and OPEC+ machinating oil prices. In response to OPEC+ moves, Washington intelligentsia responded by condemning OPEC while sidelining any effort to increase US oil production let alone finish the Keystone XL pipeline. In Europe, Germany has rapidly fired up previously shut down coal burning power plants, and citizens in Austria are scavenging forests for firewood (euronews.com, abcnews.com). In one panicked moment Germany has fallen back to fossil fuels and will once again pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than when it began its Energiewende. Perhaps the sudden new German energy plan is to accelerate global warming to prevent freezing of its populace?(more…)
Guest blog by S.A. Shelley: WARNING: Adult language and un-woke phrases are embedded in this blog.
Writing a good blog takes some forethought and planning. But sometimes, nay too often these days, so many politicians of all stripes are continuing to make horrendously dumb statements regarding energy matters that I feel compelled to write a rebuttal to something that Angela Merkle, the former German Chancellor, said last week.(more…)
Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, reported at 303 billion barrels in 2019 (BP Statistical Review of World Energy), and yet only produced 723,000 barrels per day (MBPD) in August 2022. In contrast, Saudi Arabia is a close second in total reserves at 298 billion barrels, produced 11 million barrels per day (MBPD) that month. That is, with essentially the same reserves, Saudi Arabia produces over 15 times as much oil. The history behind the collapse of the Venezuelan oil industry is a clear lesson of the failure to understand how to manage a critical natural resource in today’s complex, interdependent world economy. If we turn to Russia, before the invasion of Ukraine it was producing 11.3 MBPD and was the largest exporter of oil to the world’s markets at 7.8 MBPD in December 2021. About 60% of those exports went to European countries. Given the West’s determination to end its dependence on Russian oil coupled with the impact of Western sanctions on Russian finance and industry, it is not hard to see the collapse of the Russian oil industry and a new oil-rich but oil-dysfunctional country ensuing, one which we will start referring to as Eastern Venezuela.(more…)