On Tuesday, the Energy Bill we’re all so exercised about (oh yes you are) went for its
second reading in the Lords. Their lordships Teverson, Deben, Prescott, Oxburgh and
others spoke well. Stern and Worthington are actually worth reading.
Bishop of London was impressive, although his colleague the Lord Bishop of
Hereford was very pro-nuclear, which was, frankly, a bit awkward. Is it only me
who feels horribly embarrassed every time the Church of England have a go at
trying to seem ‘modern’?
enough bishop bashing, let’s move on to the bad guys, and these aren’t your
common or garden bad guys, these are the aristocracy of wickedness.
of Maddingley (former head of BP and current head of Cuadrilla) spoke, but they didn't quite have the full
pantomime malevolence of Viscount Ridley of
Monte Carlo Northern Rock,
or my personal favourite, Lord Lawson of Blaby.
Lawson - who of course chairs the distinctly sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation - described the bill as "lunacy", "crazy", "stupid", "poppycock", "probably the worst bill of any kind that the present government have brought
forward" and "filth".
His lordship went on to say something very interesting, and, shockingly, not
must also look at the oil industry. Your lordships may not like the major oil
companies, but they are not stupid. If they really thought for a moment that we
were going to move into a decarbonised world, would they be spending untold
billions on exploring for new oil and gas - and even more for developing
must look at the oil industry. I can get behind that. Indeed, your lordships, I
would go further and state that we must hold a full and thoroughgoing
inquisition into the oil industry. We must not take our eyes off the slippery
swine for a second. But are these dislikeable chaps stupid?
suspect that in a decade or two they will be making a lot of legal submissions
to this effect. Respected and expensive clinical psychologists will be arguing
fiercely from the witness stand that all of the senior executives in these
corporations are in fact so dense as to be almost entirely oblivious to the
world around them, and so weak willed as to be easily bullied into committing
regrettable acts by their greedy, demanding shareholders.
I suspect Lord
Lawson’s statement yesterday in the house may well be used as evidence against
them. After all, if they’re not stupid, surely that would make them evil?
do they really think that we are going to move into a decarbonised world or
not? And if not, are they right?
They have published business plans based on forecasts and scenarios for global energy demand and supply
which quite clearly indicate we are as a civilisation, if not as a species,
They predict we will do a tiny fraction of what we would need to
do to save ourselves, and do it about 20 years too late to have any effect
whatsoever. But of course, we’ve never taken anything else the oil majors said
on trust, so why start now?
Lawson, perhaps anticipating this lack of trust, does not refer to what the oil
majors are saying, but what they are doing, and more importantly, what they are
spending. And they are indeed spending ‘untold billions’ on finding new oil,
despite the fact that they’ve already found more than enough to power the
planet into centuries of rolling, runaway catastrophe.
must prove that they are sincere, surely? We’re talking real money here. Our campaign teams have been up to the Arctic, down to the ocean floor and twice round
the world to check up on them, and they’re not bluffing. They really are
making enormous efforts and taking tremendous risks to scrape the bottom of the
oil barrel and make sure that our suicidal society has everything we need to
top ourselves, plus a few trillion extra barrels just in case.
If they sincerely believe all that oil will be burnt, then Lord Lawson is
wrong, and the oil majors are in fact extremely stupid. Even if you were
convinced that humans were daft enough to try to burn it all and march
defiantly into the abyss, we’d run out of demand (aka ‘people’) a long time
before we ran out of oil.
the oil majors’ market valuation is based on maintaining and increasing oil reserves, and so the
motivation to find more oil is not just to make money by selling it in a decade or
two, but to make money now by maintaining or increasing their market capitalisation.
Of course, the
weight the stock market puts on oil reserves when valuing shares rests on
the assumption that these reserves represent a useful, saleable product. This
is what’s known as the ‘carbon bubble’ – the faith that fossil fuel reserves which we can never use will somehow retain their value.
the bubble pops we’ll all be in trouble, but the oil majors will lose more value than an unregulated Viscount Ridley, and so they desperately need to keep
it inflated. That means giving the appearance of unlimited confidence in
unlimited demand. As an oil major, you can’t just say you have unlimited
confidence in unlimited demand and not act as though you believe it, and so to
protect their share price they have to risk ecological disaster and waste
billions on inaccessible, unconventional oil and gas fields.
Their exploratory activities don’t prove they are stupid in the sense of
believing their own spin, nor that they are evil in the sense of wanting to
wreck their own planet. But they are, nevertheless, spinning and wrecking.
despite Lord Lawson’s expert witness statement, the jury is still out. Evil or
stupid? Or is there a hitherto unknown third option?
ever, I have a theory, but perhaps you have a better one? Leave it in the
comments, and I’ll give you full credit when I steal it.