One Finite Planet

Big Oil, AKA Big Fossil: How real, and what about ‘big climate’?

Who are big oil / big fossil?

It is not hard to find organisations of significantly wealth, who stand to lose a lot revenue if sales of fossil fuel products are reduced. Here is an extract from the list compiled by influencemap, of just such companies who lobby and act against measure to limit climate change.

As you can see, all the companies have substantial means to pursue their agenda, and either earn revenue, save costs, or improve market position from the continued use of fossil fuels.

What about big renewables, big science or big climate?

Big Renewables: Big Sun, Big Wind.

If a company could own the rights to sunshine, or wind energy, the way a company can own supplies of oil, coal or gas, then there would be two equal sides arguing which should be used for energy. But in the end, no one monetises the sun or wind itself, and no one, at least so far controls supply. This means the amount of money available to promote fossil fuels is orders of magnitude beyond that available for promoting green energy. Further, there are entire nations, such as Russia and those in the middle east, who have a vested interest in promoting continued use of fossil fuels. Plus, even governments in countries without any reserves of fossil fuels, achieve more economic activity and taxation revenue from the sales of fossil fuels than is possible with renewables, which can though home solar etc, even allow consumers to have energy without any opportunity for the government to take a cut.

If someone finds a way to earn as we use sun or wind, then this could become a reality, with implications beyond energy.

Big renewable energy equipment suppliers?

There are companies who make solar cells. There are companies that make the turbines for wind farms. These equipment suppliers of ‘renewable energy equipment’ are the equivalent of oil rig construction companies or mining equipment companies. Note that oil rig construction companies and mining equipment companies do not make the list of ‘big oil’ or ‘big fossil’. In the end, supplying equipment just isn’t a big enough business to justify the spending required for a publicity campaign, nor is it so specialised that the industry relies on building one specific thing.

So: no ‘big equipment suppliers, either supporting fossil fuels or renewables.

Big Science.

Again, their is no ‘big science’ industry. Scientists are people who work in industries that monetise science, but science it self is not an industry. A scientist could make big money from, for example, the pharmaceutical industry, for their breakthrough research, but the industry making money is pharmaceutical industry, there is no science industry.

Scientists doing climate research generally not funded by any industry, but instead are funded by research bodies.

One thing ‘the big bang theory‘ comedy gets right, is that research body scientists are not well paid, and research funding is limited. Despite the suggestion that these people, despite being highly intelligent, could not find work if not for research grants, wall street is one of the top employers of physics graduates.

People work in science because they are passionate about science. There is no real profit motive for so many scientists to find the same conclusions as everyone else: that climate change is real. In science you get more attention by finding something new, not the same things over and over.

As a scientist you could fight for a government grant, or a big oil grant. Which is likely to provide the better funding? Or is there the possibility of a grant from ‘big climate’?

In any event, there is no ‘big science’.

Big Climate.

So what about ‘big climate’? In the recent Australian election, candidates with a policy supporting action on climate change could get funding from ‘Climate 200‘, a group supported started by a billionaire who wants action on climate change, apparently following his frustration from being expelled from a group to support a politician for calling for support for more action on climate change.

Other groups like this exist and support action on climate change, but there is no evidence any of the donors to these groups have any financial motivation for action on climate change. Sure, the donors tend to be very wealthy, but they become donors after they have gained wealthy from unrelated business activities.

The influence of ‘big’ groups on policy and the market.

Advertising: Consider sport advertising.

First it was tobacco, then it was banned. Then alcohol became the main sponsor, with limits now applied because of negative health outcomes. Currently the most visible advertiser is often gambling, another product that has prompted governments to place limits on advertising. At least in theory.

So why do governments limit advertising of certain products? Because two factors are at play:

  1. Advertising works, with enough advertising, you can change the behaviour of a percentage of people
  2. Many of the most advertised products, result in negative outcomes for those influenced by the advertising

So are fossil fuel companies advertising? Yes:

I plan to more links over time.

At this time, this is an early version of this page, so this section is just a raw collection of largely unsorted links. I hope to improve things over time, but in the meantime there quite a number of stories on how ‘big oil’ spends billions in a fight against action on climate change.


Table of Contents


The EV climate change lag problem: Don’t buy an EV just to save the planet.

The bad news is EVs won’t help in time to keep global warming below +2.0oC, or reduce emissions in the critical years up to 2040. The EV transition means things still get worse before they get better, until late as 2050. The problem is not the ‘long tailpipe argument‘, but the challenge of the transition to EVs. EVs do, over their lifetime, result in a reduction in emissions, but the whole process can take decades, does not alone solve immediate climate problem. Emissions can even be worse if too many people buy EVs too soon.

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Home Charging: The Challenge To A Green Equitable EV Transition

Moving to EVs is going to increase electricity requirements, and at a time when there is already a technical challenge to more the electricity supply to “green” source. But what it electric vehicles could solve the “green power grid” problem, provide energy security, and avert a threat of increasing inequality? It turns out dream scenario is definitely possible, but can be fully realised only if the home charging problem be solved.

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COP26: Were The Deck Chairs Sufficiently Shuffled?

COP26. It sounds like a police officer who can’t be named. For me it raises questions such as:

  • Why “COP26” and what happened to the first 25 COPs?
  • Are all decisions are made in advance, or is anything really agreed at the conference?
  • Is there more than politicians and fossil fuel companies agreeing spin and token gestures?

Read More »

Solar and Wind: Renewables alone not a substitute for fossil fuels.

At least, not alone. Solar and Wind have proven to be successful partial cost effective substitutes for fossil fuels, neither wind nor solar is stored energy. Without strategies and adding stored energy available on demand, it is impossible to reach the goal of removing reliance on fossil fuels.

Consider home solar. With solar panels you can reduce your electricity costs, but to go ‘off grid’, you need a battery or other energy storage for the solar power. Yet, the need energy storage is being installed, but not connected to the grid.

Read More »