Let's face it: Humans like to put on a facade of rationality, but more often than not the connection between human action and rational thought is seriously lacking. Bring a narrative of sin and redemption into the mix, and in all probability any hope of applying rational thought to the problem at hand will be lost. Are you telling me that you are in favor of evil? Debate over.
Which brings me once again to the subject of climate change. Somehow, at least among my favorite whipping boys the progressives, climate change has become the sin-and-redemption story of our times. You are committing the grave sin of destroying the planet by leading a comfortable, modern, energy-enhanced life; but redemption is at hand through using government coercive action to force you (but not me!) back into a state of pre-industrial poverty. Along the road to redemption, sign-posts keep popping up that point to things that make no rational sense. But the true believer plunges forward.
The issue is in the news this week in multiple contexts. Several state Attorneys General, led of course by the execrable Eric Schneiderman of New York, are investigating ExxonMobil for the alleged sin of misleading their shareholders about the risks to their business from climate change and the government response to it. Meanwhile, in Orlando, Florida, Democratic Party operatives have been considering the party's 2016 platform, to be adopted at the upcoming convention. Try, if you will, to make some rational sense of this. Believe me, it can't be done.
The Christian Science Monitor on July 6 reports on the back-and-forth at the Democratic Platform Committee meetings. On the climate change issue, it seems that the delegates broke down into two camps, one pressing for extreme measures now, and the other taking a more "moderate" approach (we will impoverish the people somewhat more slowly!). Sanders-nominated delegates, led by one Bill McKibben, advocated for the more extreme approach:
One of Sanders’s delegates is Bill McKibben, a climate activist and founder of the environmental advocacy group 350.org, who last Monday wrote in Politico that the Clinton campaign was “obstructing change to the Democratic platform,” particularly on climate policies. In particular, he highlighted how two of his proposals – to call for a carbon tax and a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the platform – were voted down 7 to 6.
Of course, it is the fracking revolution that is credited by just about everybody who knows about the subject with cutting the price of fossil-fuel-based energy about in half over the course of the past year. This decline has in turn cost the major oil companies and the petro-states hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue in just the one year. (The United States consumes about 7 billion barrels of oil annually. A price decline of $50 per barrel, as has occurred over the past year, therefore represents a loss to oil producers, and a savings to American consumers, of about $350 billion per year on oil alone. And that's just in the United States. Savings just in the U.S. from the corresponding decline in the price of natural gas could easily be another $100 billion, based on ~30 trillion cu.ft. consumed and a decline of $3 per thousand cu.ft. in the price.)
So how would a ban on fracking affect the major oil companies and petro-states? Likely it would be the best thing that ever happened to them. With possibly a few exceptions, the oil majors and the petro-states are not the ones who practice fracking; fracking is the game of the upstarts and the new entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, can anybody think of a reason why banning fracking would not promptly cause the price of oil to head back to the $100+ where it was found a short year ago?
Anyway, try to find a place where McKibben, Sanders, et al. admit that their agenda is explicitly to increase the annual cost of energy for the typical American family by around $2000 or so and transfer the money to the likes of Exxon, Chevron, Shell, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Qatar. The Christian Science Monitor article points to a group in the Democratic Party that it calls the "young climate hawks," who see the climate change issue as an "urgent existential" issue with no room for compromise.
[The] climate hawks . . . increasingly see climate change not as a political or policy issue, but as an urgent existential one. “There’s been progress made, and I’m happy to see that, but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied,” says Adam Hasz, executive coordinator for SustainUS, a youth-led environmental advocacy group. “I don’t think on climate we can afford a middle ground,” adds Avery Raines, the group’s environmental advocacy fellow. “Americans cannot afford to compromise in any way.”
Well, Adam, the guys from Exxon and Saudi Arabia couldn't agree with you more. Are you sure that you've thought this through? I guess the defining characteristic of "youth" is that, so far, somebody else has paid for the expenses of their lives. Just wait!
Meanwhile, on the "fraud" front, former Bank of England governor Mark Carney has convened something called the Task Force on Climate Related Disclosures to put some pressure on the fossil fuel companies. Carney has recruited none other than former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg to run the task force. The task force "seeks to bring transparency and consistency to how companies warn investors about dangers they face from climate change." Given that Mike Bloomberg is heading the thing, you can understand why Bloomberg News is all over the story. From July 11:
The fossil fuel industry risks losing $33 trillion in revenue over the next 25 years as global warming may drive companies to leave oil, natural gas and coal in the ground, according to a Barclays Plc energy analyst. Government regulations and other efforts to cut carbon emissions will inevitably slash demand for fossil fuels, jeopardizing traditional energy producers, Mark Lewis, Barclays’s head of European utilities equity research, said Monday during a panel discussion in New York on financial risks from climate change.
You might think that this is a really smart group of people. But could they really not have noticed that the effect of restrictions proposed by the most radical restrictors would clearly be to increase, rather than decrease, the value of reserves of the major companies? Yes, theoretically, all world governments could suddenly order that all fossil fuel reserves be kept in the ground, and thereby promptly plunge the world into darkness. Really, could anyone actually believe that that's going to happen? And if only half of production gets restricted, that makes the remaining unrestricted half all that much more valuable.
And then there's that $33 trillion value currently put on the oil reserves by the markets. Of course, if the markets thought that "green" substitutes like wind and solar would be a cheaper source of energy in the time frame before those reserves can be consumed, then the reserves would have no value. That makes the $33 trillion a very rough proxy for the loss the world would incur if world-wide government regulation in the near term prevents the extraction of all the reserves. Is it possible to think about this rationally and consider that a result that could possibly happen, let alone one that is morally acceptable?
But then, in the world of "climate change" advocacy, nothing makes any sense at all.