The days when your mater and pater gave you your first 100,000 shares of a company, and you held on to that stock for the rest of your life and uttered a hearty “huzzah!” when the dividends would roll in, are long gone. Which is why we Billionaires in the petrochemical industry, as we reach Peak Oil, when offered the choice between securing the long-term well-being of our companies by making the agonizing shift to renewable energy sources, or embarking on a mad, hungry dash for every last barrel of oil that can be squeezed out of the most remote and inaccessible ends of the planet, it was a no-brainer: We’re putting our chips on the Alberta Tar Sands, baby!
But the only way to make all that sand- and clay-soaked bitumen that takes four times as much energy to extract worth our while is to pump it to our refineries in Texas so we can sell it on the world market. That’s where the Keystone Pipeline comes in. Our flurry of fat campaign contributions has already bought us much of the political good will we need for the project to move forward: last Wednesday, the Nebraska legislature voted to let the governor there approve the project, determine the route and use eminent domain to wrest the right of way from less-than-enthusiastic ranchers and farmers.
But before we can move forward full-bore on this, we need to neutralize all those environmentalist whiners who have shown an annoying degree of persistence as they protest our every move. And the most effective way to silence them is to win the rest of you over to the positive side of our ledger. We don’t want to tout some mythical environmental benefits of extracting oil from these dirty tar sands. Our PR flacks at our Petroleum Institute have done such a fine job confusing you about the reality of Climate Change, so bringing up the environment might just remind you that there is an environment worthy of even a small part of your attention. And if we push too hard on the idea that this new source of ungodly profits for us will somehow lower the price of the gas you buy, someone’s bound to counter that we’re not even going to sell the proceeds to Americans – it’s all bound for the World Market where the power-hungry Chinese are going to pay top Renminbi for it.
So we’re telling you that it’s about jobs. You all like jobs, and you’re all kind of anxious about keeping, losing or finding them. We’ve got a nice-looking actor in our ads, posing as one of our engineers assuring you that the Keystone Pipeline “could create over half a million jobs here in the US!” We’re running our ads on MSNBC where most of those environmentalist whiners are tuning in. The pipeline “could” do a lot of things. It “could” create over a half a million jobs if it leaks, just trying to clean up the Oglala Aquifer that provides 30% of America’s water. What it will do though, is allow us to keep minting money for ourselves for the foreseeable future.
Truth be told, we don’t have to push that hard to sell all of you on a new source of fuel, however remote or destructive accessing it could be. Witness the impatience that Louisianans mustered after Mr. Obama placed a moratorium on deep-water drilling after the big BP Deepwater Horizon spill destroyed even more of their state’s natural beauty a few years ago. The Science of Climate Change has been out there for a long time, and only in the last few years, as we’ve been charging you absurd prices at the gas pump, have you awakened to your hankering for hybrids. You don’t really want to change your behavior. And neither do we.
We’re like the owners of a bakery that specializes in very sweet, fatty confections, and you’re like an obese diabetic teenager. We could urge you to stop killing yourself by stuffing your face with our delectable profiteroles. But where’s the profit in that? Or we could stop making sweets and switch over to healthy ingredients that your body actually needs to thrive, but we don’t know the first thing about healthy food. We’re really good with butter and cream and sugar, and anything we put in our display case that isn’t laden with all of these is bound to infuriate when you can’t get your sugar fix.
So instead, we will continue to assure you that there’s nothing wrong with your diet, health and weight and that it’s okay to keep sucking down the éclairs. Yes, there will be a reckoning. You’ve got a date in the unforeseeable future with a diabetic coma, but oh, how happy you’ll be in the meantime.
We’re not just selling you oil. We’re selling the comforting illusion that everything’s okay. So just keep on driving that SUV and pay no heed to the more and more obvious effects of Climate Change, and we’ll keep squeezing oil out of the most remote and inaccessible ends of the earth. Let’s keep dreaming together for as long as we can!
Clifford J. Tasner
(aka Felonius Ax, Minister of Musical Manipulation, The Billionaires)