February 24, 2020

Oil Execs Threaten Sanders, Biden, and Warren In the Most Arrogant Way Possible

Oil Execs Threaten Sanders, Biden, and Warren In the Most Arrogant Way Possible

In a full-page advertisement in the New York Times today, the CEOs of about 50 oil and gas companies attack Democratic contenders Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren for criticizing executives from their industry. “Sen. Bernie Sanders,” their ad proclaims, “calls oil and natural gas executives criminal. Vice Pres. Joe Biden wants us in jail. Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls us corrupt.”  These CEO’s then retort in all caps, “WE, THE UNDERSIGNED EXECUTIVES, WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO PRODUCE OIL AND NATURAL GAS.”

The CEOs go on to explain in the ad how people need energy for heating, health care, food, and other necessities. They add, “Currently, there are no alternatives that do everything that oil and gas can do.” They also claim that burning natural gas is reducing greenhouse emissions.

Then the CEOs issue a threat to the Democratic candidates: “Were we to be prosecuted, as you promise, and forced to stop our life-sustaining products, 10.3 million jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars would be sent overseas to import the energy that Americans rely on.”

The Western Energy Alliance, a pro-fracking, anti-regulation trade group, paid for this ad, which depicts a small boy forced to study by the light of a kerosene lamp.

Heavens that’s scary. But among the many flaws in this remarkable piece of industry propaganda is an essential one: These oil and gas CEOs equate themselves with their companies. (En Francais: l’état, c’est moi.)

Democrats and other critics assert that some oil and gas executives have engaged in climate denial — deliberately deceiving the public about the harms their industries are causing to the earth’s climate. Critics, including state attorneys general, also contend that some industry executives have engaged in securities and consumer fraud — misleading investors and customers about the financial risks of climate change and the effects of their products.

Democratic candidates are offering plans that would hold oil and gas industry executives accountable for false statements and other misconduct.

Industry executives can rightly be called corrupt and criminal without it following that their companies must stop producing all oil and gas immediately, lay off all their workers, and shut down. None of Sanders, Biden, and Warren is calling for an instant shutdown of oil and gas production.  Instead candidates are pushing for a prompt transition to wind, solar, hydro, and other sustainable energy sources — which, contrary to today’s ad, already can do the things fossil fuels do — before our planet passes the point of no return to dramatic climate destruction that destroys life on earth.

In fact, energy companies will provide more sustainable futures for their investors and workers if they are run by executives who take seriously the dangers of climate change and work for responsible solutions; executives who stop pretending that natural gas is the answer to climate risks, and take seriously the harms caused by methane leaks and fracking. These companies will have more sustainable futures if they are run by executives who invest in, or at least stop denigrating and blocking, promising alternative energy options.

The CEO arrogance, and denial, that this ad embodies — criticize us and your lights will go out — is breathtaking.