An article was posted today about the National Science Teachers' Association's rejection of several tens of thousands of copies of "An Inconvenient Truth". Naturally, much discussion ensued about how Big Oil (and big companies in general) are too involved in politics. What I want to discuss is a side topic that arose: Big Oil and Global Warming. I can't and won't debate whether Global Warming is real or not--my knowledge and expertise are not sufficient to make a judgement. For the sake of this piece, we'll assume that Global Warming is real and caused directly by humans.
The general consensus is that an increase in the quantities of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere traps solar radiation and, over time, increases the temperature of the earth. And the largest source of Carbon Dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is the combustion of fossil fuels--oil, natural gas, propane, coal, etc. I have no problem with that. However, to blame it on the companies that produce that fuel is at best a mistake and at worst an attempt to seize political power by eliminating any responsibility for our own actions.
Blaming the human race's use of fossil fuels on the companies that produce them is a logical non-sequitur. It's like blaming auto manufacturers for car accidents (at least those not caused by a defect). The oil/gas/coal companies are simply supplying a good that people demand. Did you catch that? Supply and Demand. People demand energy, whether it's in the form of electricity for the home or business, gasoline for the car, or heat for the home. Under current circumstances, oil/gas/coal are the most economical way to produce that energy. The people, WE, are the ones causing the production of greenhouse gases.
Example #1: Please excuse a pet peeve of mine: enormous, bloated, oversized SUVs. I see tons of them on my way to work with a single occupant. There are a few people who genuinely need an SUV, but a vast majority of SUV owners bought it for questionable reasons. How much gas do we waste by driving these behemoths? And why do we insist on living so far from our work?
Example #2: I currently live in Houston, where by some undefined Divine Decree every business sets their thermostat at a frigid 70F or colder during the summer. Nearly everyone finds this too cold, and it wastes lots of electricity, but 70F is the standard. On the flip side, we recently took a trip to Utah, where we found that despite the cold (30-50F) temperatures, all the buildings were heated to the high 70's. Again, how much energy is being wasted here?
The point is that we can't blame the oil & gas/coal companies for our own selfish irresponsibility. The way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce how much oil/gas/coal/wood/whatever we burn. That's right--Only you can prevent greenhouse gas emissions.