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On How Do You Justify Consuming ExxonMobil's Oil?

"I can lay the facts before you; if you refuse to acknowledge them the value of further discussion on this topic is limited."

Likewise, since the "facts" you keep laying before me have nothing to do with the essay -- which is to explain how they think -- then discussion is indeed limited. I have explained how they think, and you respond with cartoon caricatures and irrelevant responses about transgressions. And now add an ad hominem to your schtick with your ignorant "blinding devotion" comment. I doubt you have ever considered that you might just be wrong about what they are thinking, and that someone who has seen it from the inside might have a better understanding.

When you say "more accurately" XOM realizes they can just use billions to stifle innovation -- you are operating deep in cartoonland. I can explain that to you over and over, but people in cartoonland never recognize that's where they are. 

April 19, 2014    View Comment    

On How Do You Justify Consuming ExxonMobil's Oil?

Robert, more accurately I think...

Bob, I am just explaining to you how they think.  If you read their entire response, you will see it laid out pretty clearly why they don't believe their reserves are going to be stranded. I can promise you it's as I laid it out, but if you wish to believe the cartoon version by all means do so. But you -- like the advocates who brought these resolutions -- will never have true insight into understanding what they are doing and why. It will certainly make it harder to engage and interact with them if you don't understand how they think.

As an aside, I think most people would be stunned if they took a tour of an R&D lab at a major oil company. I know, because I used to work in one. We were working on all kinds of non-oil related stuff, but people believe (as you indicated) that all they do is attempt to stifle innovation. I saw a study a couple of years ago that showed that oil companies had actually spent more money on development of renewable fuels than the renewable fuel industry.  

April 18, 2014    View Comment    

On How Do You Justify Consuming ExxonMobil's Oil?

Would you expect something like, "Our core business might be in jeopardy, it's been a nice ride?"

Of course there is no reason for them to do this, when they figure there is near zero chance that this is the case. That's the whole point. They don't see the same thing that you see. 

April 18, 2014    View Comment    

On How Do You Justify Consuming ExxonMobil's Oil?

Actually they noted that they stress test their projects against potential carbon taxes. Even at 10 times the current European price, they don't believe there are viable alternatives. 

April 18, 2014    View Comment    

On How Do You Justify Consuming ExxonMobil's Oil?

"you're clearly calling out hypocrisy."

I am pointing out cognitive dissonance. There is a disconnect in thinking here, and it explains why ExxonMobil's rationale is correct for why their oil reserves won't be stranded.

April 17, 2014    View Comment    

On How Do You Justify Consuming ExxonMobil's Oil?

"So I'll politely excuse myself from any charges of hypocrisy.."

It's not about hypocrisy, Bob, which is what I explicitly stated. It is about pointing out that as long as we justify consuming oil, ExxonMobil will have ample justification to continue producing it and there isn't a reasonable likelihood that their reserves will be stranded.

April 17, 2014    View Comment    

On KiOR: The Fat Lady Warms Up Her Voice

To see this one only needs to read the stuff written by, say, Amory Lovins from around the late 1970's and early 1980's. 

It never ceases to amaze me -- with his track record of inaccurate predictions -- that people still listen to him. 

March 24, 2014    View Comment    

On KiOR: The Fat Lady Warms Up Her Voice

You are right at stating that bio-oil is rather an old technology, but I wouldn't agree with you that any particular failure of a so called "renewable technology" "damages the credibility of the sector."

It's not just the failure. It is failure after a tremendous amount of high profile hyperbole. As more companies experience this sort of failure to deliver after making huge promises, the public will lose faith in the sector. In fact, that has happened to a large extent.

March 24, 2014    View Comment    

On How Bitumen Gets to Market

"I don't know how many ways I can explain this but you're simply wrong about price differentials..."

No, I am not. I understand price differentials well enough that I am paid to explain their cause and mechanism to people. So while I appreciate your opinion, others have spoken with their wallet that they trust that I am well-versed in the differentials. I have no further interest in arguing about whether you think I understand these differentials.  

"We got the world into this mess; now you want others to get us out. That dog won't hunt."

There is another saying, and it's "The horse has left the barn." We are indeed responsible for the lion's share of what's up there (I have actually calculated and published the historical amounts from the top emitters), although China is racing to catch up. But we can't solve that problem, short of inventing a mechanism to suck vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air. Whether we are responsible isn't the question. We, in the West, are incapable of solving that problem because we are no longer driving it and have no realistic way of pulling our legacy emissions out of the air. So while we should do all we can, the US could cease to exist tomorrow and it wouldn't make a big dent in the problem. That's something people need to understand, so they can more adequately focus resources. It's not a matter of wanting someone else to fix what we caused.There is no pathway by which the west can solve it, short of inventing carbon neutral to carbon negative technologies that are cost effective enough for the developing world to embrace. Entertaining fantasies of us solving this problem is one sure way to simply watch carbon emissions continue to increase year after year even as ours decline in the west. 

There aren't in fact good solutions. China on a per capita basis uses about 1/10th the oil we do. So we could cut our oil consumption in half and still not be able to be an example to them. It is literally like having lots of starving people eating just a little bit of food, but they want just a little more. But there are so many of them, it cumulatively drives the problem. 

December 19, 2013    View Comment    

On How Bitumen Gets to Market

"Perhaps this still seems like a gross misallocation of resources. In that case, you must be full of suggestions for how Americans might better direct their efforts. Should we be sending petitions to the People's Republic of China to stop creating so much carbon?"

Any climate change activism that has any hope of making a difference must address China's coal  problem. Some will argue "well, at least we are doing something" but if you are spending your time working on something that really won't make a difference while the thing that will make all the difference continues to expand, all is lost. How to address it? Well the problem is...

"1,400 new coal plants appears grossly irresponsible, until one considers the U.S. has the ninth-highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, while China ranks a distant 59th. Our righteousness would likely fall on deaf ears."

A point I have also made many times. We aren't exactly in a leadership position here. The analogy I have made is a fat person telling a skinny person they need to diet because there isn't enough food. The fact that billions of low per capita users are the primary current driver of carbon emissions does not bode well for our ability to address this issue.

"I've proven to you that despite all your hypothetical transport scenarios pipeline bottlenecks are creating a real, estimable price differential."

You have it backwards. You don't have to prove it to me, because I am well aware of where these differentials exist and why they are there. What you underappreciate is that it is these differentials that are driving all the pipelines, rail, and marine transport. High demand combined with transportation constraints creates booming logistical opportunities -- hence all the pipeline and rail projects. 

December 19, 2013    View Comment    

On How Bitumen Gets to Market

"The facts are that they invited you to Alberta and not Al McKibben, and you're parroting the Canadian government's line that opponents are ill-informed and naive."

Don't let misinformation get in the way of making your point. They invite environmental organizations all the time. I was only one of maybe half a dozen journalists on the trip. And last year, Scientific American's David Biello was a guest, and he also wrote a series of informative articles on the oil sands. I can understand why some might feel that bringing this information to readers is threatening, but my feeling is that it's better to be informed.

As far as "parroting the government line" -- I have been arguing for a couple of years -- and showing why -- opponents are ill-informed. It has zero to do with the Canadian government's position on the matter. Take a read through the link I provided where I show the relative impact of oil sands versus the world's coal. It's just a gross misallocation of resources given the relative threats. Oil sands -- under any realistic scenario -- won't make a thimble full of difference. Coal makes all the difference. Chinese coal to be specific, which once again set a record for use last year. The Chinese are adding a Keystone XL equivalent with every coal plant they build, and there are 1200 new coal plants in various stages in developing countries (3/4ths in India and China).  

"it's reasonable under any standard to suggest a conflict of interest exists when a journalist is compensated by a source."

I think it would reflect better on you to simply argue the facts, instead of trying to leave the implication that I am wrong because the Canadian government expenses (which I wouldn't call "compensation"). Most of the feedback I have gotten is that my articles were quite balanced. If you haven't read them all, maybe you might come to a somewhat different conclusion regarding your propaganda claims. 

"I would argue that you don't understand the drivers which motivate people to stand in freezing lines with banners at the White House."

Of course I do. They want to make a difference. It is also what motivates me to do what I do. It's why I have been living out of a hotel for the last 3 months to work on a project that will actually make a difference. But I would argue that the average person standing in those lines doesn't have a good grasp of the problem. They are focused on a patient's hangnail, and thinking that's going to make a big impact, while a brain tumor is killing them.

"It's working."

The growth in oil sands production argues otherwise; that the oil is still getting to market precisely because of that huge differential. That's my point. That is the driver for all of these workarounds, and as long as it persists the workarounds will keep popping up.

December 18, 2013    View Comment    

On How Bitumen Gets to Market

"they financed your Canadian propaganda vacation"

Bob, if you have something more substantive than ad hominems I would be happy to discuss. I am reporting facts, not an opinion piece. If you want to take exception to the facts, please do so. If you want to argue that "opposition to Keystone XL is working", then the proof lies in whether oil sands development actually slows, wouldn't you say? The fact that so many workarounds keep springing up is just an indicator that opponents don't really understand the drivers that end up putting this oil on the world market. Keystone XL is symbolic, but as I have argued it's like spending applying sunscreen to a drowning man.

As far as Keystone itself, it doesn't matter to me whether it is approved. I am not arguing for or against it. I am just pointing out that most people protesting it have little idea of all the alternatives (proposed and actually being built right now), and the drivers behind them. It all comes down to price differentials, not protests. Read my last paragraph again, and let's revisit this in 5 years and see how it plays out. 

"The idea that KXL alone could stop tar sands oil from getting to market is a manufactured cause of the industry itself - the real focus of activism is making the process prohibitively expensive"

There is an extraordinary amount of naivety wrapped up in that comment. As an analogy, see the war on drugs for how well that path works. Your best hope for preventing it from getting to market lies in destroying demand. If the global price of oil falls to $70, oil sands development will slow. If it goes to $150, you will see them putting the oil in trucks if they have to and moving it out. It all depends on the differentials. Look at what happened to Bakken crude when the differentials were high. Warren Buffett built a pipeline on rails.

December 18, 2013    View Comment