Oh, so now they want civility?
Ben van Beurden, the head of Royal Dutch Shell, is apparently a little perturbed by those of us who have marched, called, written and worked for strong action to reduce the carbon pollution that is cooking our planet. Now he's asking for a time-out in the discussion over human-caused climate change, and wants (his version of) sane and reasoned voices --- i.e., the voices of his Big Oil brethren --- to weigh in.
Ben van Beurden urged fellow industry leaders meeting in London to be "more assertive" in debates over the future of energy. But Shell's chief executive admitted that the oil sector had its own credibility problem, enhanced by the fact that too many energy industrialists had been slow to acknowledge global warming.
Of course, van Beurden downplays what really happened...
As Brad Friedman, Desi Doyen and writers Ross Gelbspan and Naomi Oreskes (among others) have chronicled, in the late-1980s the fossil fuel industry began a highly-financed, ruthlessly aggressive effort to convince the most gullible members of the public that human-caused climate change was a radical-left hoax. They employed similar --- and, at times, identical --- tactics as Big Tobacco once had to con the world about the dangers of their product.
Big Oil continued this campaign even after the very scientists they paid off to help them in this effort acknowledged to their financiers in the mid-1990s that the evidence of human-caused climate change was real and could not be debunked.
Indeed, the fossil fuel dinosaurs have a serious credibility problem on climate. It's a problem of their own making, as the industry chose to put profits over the planet, waging an unholy war against any effort, no matter how modest, to limit carbon pollution. Because of Big Oil's amorality, countless lives have been lost --- and more will perish so long as nothing substantive is done to stem emissions worldwide.
While the world's largest oil and coal companies, including Shell, now generally acknowledge the growing dangers of climate change, Van Beurden still refuses to accept the fact that almost all of the world's known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground to avoid more climate-connected death and disaster. The Guardian notes:
"The outcome of the political process is uncertain, but the trends behind it are unmistakeable. Even more than the oil price, these trends will shape the future of the industry over the coming decades. For a sustainable energy future, we need a more balanced debate. 'Fossil fuels out, renewables in' - too often, that's what it boils down to. Yet in my view, that's simply naive," he argues.
"Yes, climate change is real. And yes, renewables are an indispensable part of the future energy mix. But no, provoking a sudden death of fossil fuels isn't a plausible plan," he adds...
The comments from van Beurden indicate that the oil industry is beginning to become rattled by those talking about a "carbon bubble" of oil and gas reserves that should be left in the ground, and moves by the Church of England and universities to remove their investments from the large oil and coal extractors.
It's morbidly funny to see the most powerful industry on the warming Earth unnerved by citizen activism, to the extent that Big Oil's hired guns are launching new attacks on such figures as 350.org's Bill McKibben. However, it's just morbid to realize that this industry does not, and never did, give a damn about human life and the health of this planet.
The Wall Street Journal --- another shameless shill for fossil-fuel fiends --- reports that van Beurden is now calling for "policies to curb climate change, including a carbon-pricing system."
If van Beurden's serious, he'll call upon the U.S. House and Senate to introduce such legislation, so that America can lead the rest of the world away from the worst impacts of the carbon pollution Royal Dutch Shell and its Big Oil siblings are responsible for. Will van Beurden do this, or will he just keep hiding underneath his Shell?
D.R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and a former contributor to the conservative website Human Events Online. He has also written for the Washington Monthly, Huffington Post, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe Magazine, ClimateCrocks.com and FrumForum.com, among others. In addition, he hosted a Blog Talk Radio program, The Notes, from August 2009 to June, 2010, and served as a co-host of On the Green Front with Betsy Rosenberg on the Progressive Radio Network from August 2011 to March 2014. Currently, he is a contributor to the Climate Minute and Climate Notes podcasts for the Massachusetts Climate Action Network. You can follow him on Twitter here: @DRTucker.