Posts Tagged ‘oil’

Every so often a company gets it so wrong you just have to sit back and enjoy the show. And laugh.

I give you Shell’s Arctic campaign.

Edited to add:

Well, it did always look a bit unbelievable that a company would get things so wrong on such a sensitive ground. Looking back, another red flag was that all of the posters, rather than just a majority of them, were green-type protests. Seems like the campaign was a Greenpeace stunt all along.

I discovered this through this New Statesman piece, which has the tag-line “Since when were Greenpeace the bad guys?” Um, I work in wind farms, and I’ve always been suspicious about Greenpeace: not just their tactics, which are often dubious, but their targets as well. But that’s perhaps an article for another time. More philosophically, there’s no such thing as bad people; just people who sometimes do bad things.

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I’m tired.

It’s been busy at work lately, and busy at home, and that’s part of the reason why.

But really I’m tired of seeing the same conversation played out over and over again.

It seems so clear to me that the status quo is unsustainable. Fossil fuels take millions of years to be created, and we’re using them up at a terrifying rate. Burning them and turning those long-dead sea creatures and forests into carbon dioxide, changing the composition of the atmosphere. One day, they will run out.

Not they might. They will.

You might be right when you argue that we have decades yet, perhaps a century, of using fossil fuels at the current rate. But what about the Global Middle Eastern Crisis of 2025? You know, where all the oil in the Middle East was stockpiled in various fundamentalist states that banned export to non-Muslim countries? When petrol reached £4 and £5 and then £10 a litre?

Or maybe it was in 2018, when a critical set of valves heavily used in offshore oil platforms turned out to be faulty. There were three explosions in various locations of the same scale as the BP Gulf Of Mexico disaster before the fault was finally traced; maintenance to fix the fault shut down another twelve.

Or perhaps the third world war broke out in 2035. Both sides enforced shipping blockades at key points to cripple the other side’s oil supply. Pipelines in the desert were targetted by missile fire; oil rigs bombed.

Or perhaps the tide turned in 2021 when there was a series of enormous climatological upheavals which brought drought to some parts of the world and floods to others, killing millions. The same year, the Gulf Stream which gives Britain its moderate climate suddenly shifted south to arrive in Portugal instead of Ireland, responding to tonnes of excess Arctic meltwater, and forced us to endure the hot summers and frozen winters they get in New York. Perhaps after that climate change stopped being something to debate and started being something we should work to prevent.

It may be that none of those things happen. It may be that the oil simply, and quietly, starts to run low. Before long only three nations have any claim to oil at all. Perhaps they’re benevolant and fair nations who don’t restrict the fair trade of their oil. Perhaps it gets rationed so that each nation gets a quota.

Eventually, one way or the other, the whole economy that we’ve built on relatively cheap, readily available fossil fuels will falter. It’s not an if. It’s a when, and a how, but not an if.

In your world, what happens next?

Do we leave our children or our children’s children to squabble over the remains of our technology? Do we trust to luck and good faith that technology will find a way forward, even if starved of the funding and the environment it needs to thrive? Do we risk that the scientists who say the data says the climate is changing are all corrupt or mistaken?

Or do we use what we can to build redundancy into our systems so that there’s an alternative when things get hard? Do we strive for flexibility, and to use resources that can’t be denied us by war or economy? Do we wait, with bated breath, for fate to remove what we’ve been able to exploit for so long, or do we plan for its demise to minimise its impact on our culture?

Every time you say “not in my back yard”, you’re arguing that we should sacrifice the future for the present. Every time you tell me that wind farms are useless or ugly, you’re not only mistaken, you are contributing to a climate where we have no alternative to fossil fuels and other fuel-based power.

Wind farms are not the answer. But they provide us with power from the wind when the wind blows. They are flexible and responsive. They enable and encourage us to develop a grid infrastructure that can respond to variations in supply as well as demand. They teach us to balance the demands of the ecology with our thirst for energy. And out there, on the hillsides, they are an unmistakable sign that someone, somewhere gives a damn about tomorrow.

And I’m tired of having the same argument. Don’t tell me I have to defend wind farms. You defend your strange belief that, contrary to all evidence, tomorrow will be just like today only better. It won’t. We have to create tomorrow.

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