Wednesday, June 15, 2005

80 Million Barrels a Day

I'm happy to announce good new for all those either foolish or self-serving enough to deny that human activity since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution has affected climate change.

Philip Cooney, the White House's Council on Environmental Quality chief of staff and former oil-industry lobbyist, will join Exxon Mobil. When Cooney read government reports on climate change and decided to oversee final edits that would downplay human activity as a cause while casting doubt on good science, I'm sure Exxon Mobil was in the back of his mind. In part because Exxon Mobil Chairman Lee Raymond hates the Kyoto climate accord and constantly questions climate scientists and their work.

I can understand being skeptical about science. About the conclusions scientists reach. About the conclusions scientists reach that are acclaimed, upheld, and otherwise bolstered by the world's top scientists over many years then published in the world's top peer-reviewed journals. I can certainly understand being skeptical about work that you're not trained to do or understand. I worked in a lab a few doors down from guys studying glacial ice-core samples 10 hours a day with a view toward ancient atmospheres. Woah.

But when you work for Exxon, it's not really skepticism at play. It's your cause. Your livelihood. Your raison d'etre. If this global warming thing is true, and if enough people believe it, then Exxon has to find some new product lines. That's why the "skepticism" of Cooney and Raymond is nothing more than propaganda thinly disquised as righteousness.

All that said, I drive a car. I like driving my car because it makes travel much easier in a city beset by ancient socio-economic postulates that undermine public transportation. And it takes me one-third of the time to get to work. So I'm not against oil companies, as a general measure. Even if I didn't drive, I'm surrounded by enough plastic on a daily basis to stock the tables of a block-long stretch of Manhattan schtick-vendors. In fact, I'm becoming convinced that many of the oil companies are embracing forward thinking. Some even shy away from the prospect of drilling in ANWR.

But as long as profits are solely linked to our tired emotional and physical bond with petroleum as fuel, the prospect of global warming--despite the evidence--will remain anathema to those controlling the pump.

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