“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others.” Lao Tzu
Education or propaganda?
Information or strategic communications?
Clarity or wishful thinking?
Quick Dick McDick or Gerald Butts?
Homer Simpson or Al Gore?
What is the purpose of raising a voice in the public square? To influence ideas? Support the troops? Bend policy? Entertain? Boost morale? Vanity?
Bad actors cheat, in a sense – they manipulate the microphones, control the loudest ones, render others ineffective. They take control of the airwaves and flood the message boards with feeling. Fear always works. Always. They create villains, the stereotypical bad guy, an icon around which to concentrate anger and feelings of injustice.
That tactic is not new, but it’s not equal. Anger can be channeled to work wonders, to force positive change, to get rid of corruption and incompetence. Anger can flush away apathy and is not always bad.
But beware the loud voices which dominate in search of control. They want people to do this or stop doing that in order to achieve some desired state. Desired by who and why are questions of paramount importance, yet hard to clarify, because the actors are not always open about true aims.
The voices in the public square used to be limited. Not everyone could shout at the same time. No one would be heard.
Now everyone shouts all the time, digitally speaking. And politics has taken over, which means appeals not to reason or facts or tangibles, but to feelings and ideology and control.
What should you listen to? And why would you listen to me even if I told you? People used to say opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one. Wrong. Everyone has fifty thousand of them.
Is there anyone worth listening to?
I think there is. There are ways to declutter the nonsense, to find the signal in the noise.
The first path is to listen to those connected to reality. Now, you might think that is a challenge, and it can be, depending on whose reality one listens to. That’s the problem with concepts like climate change, whereby a scientific phenomenon can be possibly observed/measured with the caveats that the system under study is complex beyond belief, or it can be “used” as a tool for social engineering, a situation in which objectivity goes out the window and the conversation disintegrates into political theatre.
Fortunately for those of us in the energy industry, the evidence is laid out rather well. There is no ideological axe-grinding involved in a declaration like: We are running out of fuel.
We are running out of fuel. Metaphorically, we have sold off the furnace because the local shopkeeper said a vastly better model would be here before winter, cheaper and cleaner.
He was wrong. The new furnace is not simply on back order; it is still in the design phase back in a lab. And winter is here soon.
Non-metaphorically, here’s the statement a bit more eloquently, from the head of Saudi Aramco: ““When historians reflect on this crisis, they will see that the warning signs in global energy policies were flashing red for almost a decade. Many of us have been insisting for years that if investments in oil and gas continued to fall, global supply growth would lag behind demand, impacting markets, the global economy, and people’s lives… Meanwhile, the energy transition plan has been undermined by unrealistic scenarios and flawed assumptions because they have been mistakenly perceived as facts…Perhaps most damaging of all was the idea that contingency planning could be safely ignored. Because when you shame oil and gas investors, dismantle oil- and coal-fired power plants, fail to diversify energy supplies (especially gas), oppose LNG receiving terminals, and reject nuclear power, your transition plan had better be right.”
Many have been saying this for years in voices that could not compete – no one worries about the furnace in the heat of summer, not when the cacophony warns of everything else but.
Winter is almost here. The pariah in the corner, the slandered one, the once powerful, the strong back that carried all the food to market, who still does, is telling you: we are running out of fuel. The pariah is saying he will not be bringing much food to market either, he has been ordered to retire. Those who would replace claim no need of strength to carry, they have spent summer on a new short cut. The experienced one, destined for retirement, says it will not work in winter.
He is saying no one is available to carry the load once he is gone.
No one listens. Yesterday’s fool. Obsolete, out of touch, dirty. Our way will work. Go away. The world listened to that message, for too long, and now there is trouble so epic in proportion we can’t imagine it.
Who to listen to?
Find reality for yourself. It is possible.
You don’t have to travel great distances across rural regions to get a feel for reality (although it is a great way to do it, contemplatively speaking). You can travel to the “other side” of a city, see where things are constructed, repaired, bought, sold. You will see armies of humans doing things, all the little things we don’t even know exist yet keep our worlds running.
Dave Yager wrote a fantastic column the other week, about a road trip from Calgary to Lloydminster. He catalogued the wonders visible along the backroads of a six hour journey across some real Canadian heartland: countless farms, small towns, small businesses, energy infrastructure, great open spaces that are both empty and filled with vast abundances that most the world would kill for. Time and space to make one think, and appreciate.
It is a view that if we can’t have we should at least contemplate the relevance of. All our stuff comes from somewhere, is made by someone, using energy and labour and raw materials that need to be brought together in a very specific way.
Maybe you don’t feel like traipsing around the landscape in search of hard truths versus theoretical maybes. There are ways. Instead of reading articles from, say, Stanford University professors about how they’ve modelled a realistic pathway to net-zero-whenever-you-like, try reading mining journals, and conference call transcripts from global mining giants, and follow metallurgical experts on social media.
Instead of reading WEF/UN/whomever articles about how bugs aren’t really that bad and that modern agriculture is terrible for the environment, read The Western Producer or follow soil agronomists or dare I say it even grain traders, all of whom make a living from the actual food chain itself.
Instead of listening to braying energy transition peripherals talk about how the oil and gas industry is a sunset industry but until it dies it isn’t doing enough to reduce emissions, try reading… the BOE Report (!), and other energy publications, and check out oil/gas producer websites and go to their sustainability sections. Every single company has one, and the developments underway are massive. In fact, new energy developments are being held back by the very governments that are insisting on rapid change because those same governments don’t understand the requirements of actually doing something. Barking out random demands like “reduce national emissions by 40 percent by x date” is the opposite of helpful; such slogans empower the laptop class’s thinking modes and yet have zero effect on the stone cold realities of building things.
Talking to “the people that do” is eye-opening. They will have perspectives that just can’t be learned otherwise (and obviously the converse is also true – the front-line people are often not aware of the perspectives of the “back office” et al; but the relationship is not equivalent. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself who you want in a bunker with you when as your dad warned you the entire world goes to hell (via Putin or otherwise) – a person that can do anything with their hands, or the person that deals with Wall Street).
In the laptop-class world of modelling, every variable is reduced to a cell. Supply chain challenges are met with “Hmmm, maybe I should put 0.97 into the supply downtime cell rather than 0.98… that oughta do it.” For the people that actually do stuff, a parts shortage can destroy a business, or a shipment, or a reputation. Theorists don’t understand logistical nightmares or impossibilities; only those that live them know what they mean.
It’s easy to lose sight of that, particularly in the social/mainstream media jungle. To borrow a phrase from the immortal Seinfeld, we are breathing in daily, in endless quantities, the Airing of the Grievances.
But there is hope, and there is positivity. Find channels that talk about doing things, real things that aren’t contingent on some government fantasy. Read about people who are actually making something happen as real businesses – not via artificial government-derived markets, and listen to their challenges.
You will encounter a human can-do spirit that will make your mood not sore, but soar.
Recent studies indicate some people have not bought this book yet. That might explain a lot of the chaos. Pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com. It’s not too late. Thanks for the support. And hang in there Ukraine! The world is cheering you on.
Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here, or email Terry here.