It’s been a very tiring week of energy madness, so this post is full of bafflement and the sentences are too long and there’s cultural generalizing and geographical stereotyping and just see if I give a crap.
Imagine you landed in England in the middle of rainy season, that is, a month whose name includes a Y or an A or an E. Imagine you find an active and antagonistic battle going on between people using umbrellas and people providing umbrellas, and the really weird part is that the people that provide the umbrellas are having to explain to the people using them that they’re really handy and that maybe they’re not perfect and they occasionally poke people in the eyes on busy streets, but that that doesn’t invalidate their value, and at the same time those users of umbrellas are getting legislation passed to ban umbrellas. Wouldn’t that be perplexing?
Or imagine you’re in northern Ontario in January, and you sell winter coats, and local groups, who are wearing your winter coats, are trying to not just to shut down your business but have coats banned from town, all the while they’re wearing them – what the hell is this, you’d probably ponder.
In slightly different form, however, those situations are life in Canada, and here is our true national divide – those that provide hydrocarbons are living the life of the umbrella makers or coat providers, and, outside of a few whose mental acuity is sharp enough to grasp the lunacy, much of the rest of the population has been convinced by well-funded campaigns that they need neither umbrellas nor coats, and they are all actively campaigning against umbrellas and coats, and the government joins their fight because they smell votes, and citizens whose attention spans extend beyond gossip columns stand dumbfounded, wondering how to save the bands of climate-warriors from themselves? Because left to their own devices they are intent on impaling themselves on sticks, and it’s a lot of work to prevent that from happening.
This overarching madness isn’t unprecedented, and if it is leaving you feeling lost and bewildered, you’re not alone. There is, if not help, several generations of support groups that get it. Joseph Heller captured it all spectacularly in the novel Catch-22 quite a few decades ago in a brilliant analysis of the madness of war (I’ve read the book twice, but was lazy and raided Wikipedia for this gem from the book: “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. To agree to fly dangerous combat missions when one could be declared unfit for duty meant one must be crazy. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”
This whole dialogue might sound like madness itself, but hear me out – it is a necessary path one must go down if one provides hydrocarbons to the world. We need to understand that the world is now governed by Catch-22s.
By providing hydrocarbons, we are deemed guilty of killing the planet by the press, by governments, by Swedish teenagers, by climate activists, and by most citizens that don’t understand where energy comes from. But if we were to cease providing hydrocarbons, everyone would die, and we would be guilty of killing the planet. (For the record, I’m not using the term fossil fuels anymore, wherever possible; hydrocarbons is a more accurate term (thanks, you know who you are).)
The opponents of hydrocarbons live in their own private Catch-22, on top of the big one. They demand an end to the development of hydrocarbons. At the same time, they demand “social justice” around the world, which means raising their standard of living through better access to medicine, education, air conditioning, heat, proper nutrition, etc etc., all of which require hydrocarbons. Catch-22.
Opponents of hydrocarbons live with yet another personal Catch-22 daily; they, to a man/woman/child/LGBTQ+/- cannot live without them, yet they demand that we quit producing hydrocarbons. That is, in plain language, they demand that we quit providing the fuel that keeps them alive. They choose short-term annihilation of the population to prevent a theoretical annihilation if the worst-case scenario of climate change does occur. But wait, some roll their eyes and say they don’t demand an immediate transition, they know it will take time. But then those same people joyfully retweet how fast the “divest fossil fuel investments” movement is becoming, or celebrate life-threatening lawsuits against petroleum companies, and they celebrate when teenagers take to the streets to demand immediate action, and they watch silently without protest as the world is urged to “panic” by their new messiah. They support by silent default immediate action and panic, and cheer its success, while at the same time declare that a transition needs time.
And there’s another level yet. Opponents of hydrocarbons choose to ram through a too-fast energy transition that does not work because it is not planned out, in an effort to save the world’s population from a potential shift in weather patterns that we have decades to plan for and that might not materialize at all in any meaningful way. In other words, we need to change the entire world’s infrastructure in an unbelievably huge way within a decade, based on the assumption that we won’t be able to change the world enough over the next 50 years to deal with creeping-higher oceans or modified weather patterns.
But wait, it gets weirder. Opponents of hydrocarbons block the safest way to transport them – pipelines – because the development of pipelines may lead to more global warming which will harm humans, or because said pipelines might leak at some point. Because of the moratorium on new pipeline construction, we now see things like a train full of oil turn into a giant fireball that killed 50 poor Quebeckers, and train after train after train derail and spill oil into whatever they happen to be near when they decide to overturn.
But they can’t ban the transportation of hydrocarbons outright, because, though they won’t say it out loud, they just like them so darn much. That’s not crazy talk; they really do. They love flying, though they hate the fuel. They love heat, but hate what provides it. They love sushi, but will fight to the death to dismantle the delivery system that brings it to them. So it is crazy. But it’s not, because it makes sense to want continued access to the fuel that keeps us alive. It’s crazy not to want that fuel. Except that they declare it to be crazy to allow producers to provide the fuel that they need, so they blockade producers and cheer happily when they succeed, though the world’s citizens are the losers because they need the petroleum, and if they don’t get petroleum global standards of living are reduced, which makes activists angry and forces them to act, which is yet another Catch-22.
And we’re not done yet, they’re piling up like hay bales. Hydrocarbon opponents block hydrocarbon development in regions where they are freely able to do so, because they live in a free society, and successfully halt new projects from going ahead. But they don’t block hydrocarbons in regions of the world that don’t have environmental standards, which means that they are strangling supplies of hydrocarbons that they can observe, measure, and hold accountable, and encouraging development of hydrocarbons in places that choose not to do much about emissions at all.
But hold on, I hear the climate activists say, this all about democracy. Didn’t Canadians vote for “real action on climate change?” Well, no, they didn’t – two parties went all in on climate change, and two supported hydrocarbon pipeline development, and Canadians voted more than 80 percent for the latter pair. But one of the latter two declared a climate emergency, yet supported (bought, actually) an oil pipeline project which invalidates the claim that there is a real emergency. Catch-22.
We, as providers of energy, grow more and more speechless each passing day watching the insanity unfold before our very eyes. Where do we go from here, now that we’re up to our eyeballs in Catch-22’s?
Just as Yossarian in Catch-22 watched the war unfold, it looks like we must too, and the insanity will eventually reveal itself. On one side is religion, escalating fear, and politics masquerading as environmentalism; on the other side is the fuel supply and the brain power to adapt to changes the world throws at us. As the storm rages outside, take a bit of solace at least from knowing that.
Time to stop disinformation in its tracks. Say no to the politicization of critical environmental issues, and yes to balanced discussions. Pick up a copy of “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or Indigo online. These Amazon reviews may be the wisest material you’ll find on the internet (except that one loser).