Thursday, June 28, 2012

Exxon CEO says Fears are Overblown

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson went on record yesterday as saying that the burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet but, not to worry, we’ll adapt.

Well, so much for all those right wings demagogues and Fox News telling us that Global Warming was a hoax. To my mind Tillerson’s statement essentially acknowledges that the right wing was, at best, wrong (so what else is new) and, at worst, lying through their teeth which wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

However let’s move on to the “we’ll adapt” part.

Tillerson addressed three different issues, climate change, oil and gas drilling pollution and energy dependence. According to Tillerson, Exxon has got us covered. Tillerson blamed concerns on a “math” and “science” illiterate public, a “lazy media” and advocacy groups that “manufacture fear.”

Some opinions from the CEO with commentary.

We’ll adapt to climate change. It’s an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.

Yeah, but that could be a hell of an expensive solution. Better might be to take steps to try and PREVENT significant climate change rather than having to adapt after the fact. He is right that’s it’s an engineering problem and will require an engineering solution. The big question is should we be pro-active or re-active? In general, pro-active solutions are less expensive and avoid a lot of pain.

Climate change models can’t accurately predict the impact of climate change and we’ll be able to adapt as changes occur.

A lot depends here upon what you mean by “predict.” Can it provide a precise measure? Probably not, but it can give you a good idea of the directions things are heading. I suspect that we ignore climate models at our peril.

Also, “we’ll be able to adapt as changes occur” sounds terribly re-active and could lead to lots of pain along the way.

While drilling for oil and gas will always contain risks, those risks are worth taking.

I suppose that depends upon the risks. Tillerson claims the risks are small, not life threatening nor long lasting. This sounds to me kind of subjective but I’m willing to put the data on the table and have the experts from both sides discuss it. I suspect that if you're in the path of the risk, you might have a different opinion about whether it's "worth taking."

Advocacy groups have alarmed a public that doesn’t understand drilling practices, math, science or engineering.

I have to agree with this statement. The question however is whether that alarm is justified? Again, let’s get all the data on the table and come to a conclusion based upon the evidence rather than political opinion.

“Lazy” journalists produce stories that scare the public without investigating the claims of advocacy groups.

I agree again. Journalists in this country have abdicated their responsibility to educate the public. It is journalism’s responsibility to investigate claims rather than simply report them. On the other hand, when journalists DO investigate and report that climate change is real and something to be concerned about, all we hear from the right and previous Exxon CEOs is charges of “Liberal Bias.” Now apparently Mr. Tillerson is admitting the media had a “Liberal Bias” because truth and reality had a “Liberal Bias.”

There is a distinction between energy security and energy dependence.

True, but the question is whether “energy dependence” is a major factor in “energy security.” I sort of find it hard to believe that it’s not.

Since oil is globally priced so a disruption in the Middle East, even if the U.S. only used North American oil, would increase gas prices and hurt the U.S. economy.

So, as long as the Middle East supply is secure, “drill, baby drill” is a load of horseshit? I have to admit that this surprises me more than a little. I have to believe that not depending upon foreign oil would provide a much more stable energy environment which in turn would help stabilize the economy. Are you seriously saying it doesn’t matter?

I think what Tillerson had to say is very important and could have far reaching consequences. The next to the last thing we want to do is over react to the situation and end up with a damaged economy as the result. However that’s better than not reacting to a potential civilization threatening issue until it’s too late and ending up on the list of nature’s extinct creatures.

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