Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

Don’t Look Away Now

Love it or loath it as the voice of business, you can say one thing about the Financial Times, it normally covers the energy beat with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

That’s why is was so disappointing to read the latest misguided comment piece by the paper’s Washington columnist Edward Luce, in an article “Look away Greens: America is entering a new age of plenty.”  The article, coming as it does on the eve of the UN climate change conference in Durban, is particularly uninformed.

In short, it argues that  “America is entering a new age of plenty” due to the energy revolution under its soil: whether it be shale oil, shale gas or even the polluting tar sands.

Instead of concerns over climate change, argues Luce, “embrace instead the language of tar sands, shale gas, fracking and tight oil …together they have transformed America’s energy outlook … Welcome to a new age of plenty.” This new age of plenty promises enough gas to drive America for a hundred years or so argues Luce.

His argument is that everyone should stop worrying about climate change and enjoy this new age of abundant fossil fuels. Luce argues that “green energy and energy independence were often seen as the same thing. It is now much easier to see how distinct they are.”

There are two fundamental flaws to this argument, apart from the fact it is blatantly wrong: firstly, just because you have found more of the black stuff it does not suddenly mean that this will give you energy independence. He does not understand the way the international oil industry works and the way it is inter-connected.

He obviously hadn’t read the Oil Change report “Keystone XL Pipeline: Oil for Export, Not for U.S. Energy Security”. The report revealed that Keystone XL would not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but rather transport Canadian oil to American refineries for export to overseas markets.

The report revealed that Keystone XL is essentially an export pipeline. Valero, the key customer for crude oil from Keystone XL, had explicitly detailed an export strategy to its investors. The report also showed that in a shrinking U.S. market, Keystone XL was not needed.

At the launch of the report, Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International argued that  “Oil is a fundamentally global market – the idea that the pipeline enhances our energy security is a scam fall for it … In fact, the only way to truly reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to reduce our dependence on all oil.”

Secondly, just because you suddenly have found more oil does not mean that the issue of climate change will go away- quite the reverse. It makes the case for action even more urgent.

Just last week, the IPCC issued a new report warning about the dangers of more extreme weather due to higher temperatures, including more extreme temperatures and heavier winds and rains.

Finally Luce froths at the mouth of the so-called abundant oil that could be found under the Arctic. “ A growing number of players are scrambling for Arctic oil as the ice caps recede – US companies among them. A new era of fossil fuel appears to be upon us and nobody saw it coming.”

Wrong again. Environmentalists have been warning for years about the dangers and devastation the oil industry could inflict on the fragile Arctic North.

The so-called age of plenty of oil will have a huge ecological cost. We ignore that at our peril. We can’t look away now.
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