Global Virtue Signalling

A thought experiment. Imagine a big red button on your desk or table. It is prominently labeled ‘STOP’. If you press it, all fossil fuel extraction will cease within 24 hours, everywhere on earth.

Did you press it?

I’ve no idea how much energy inventory is held – oil, gas and coal. Let’s say 90 days. So in 91 days there will be no diesel trains or buses, no emergency vehicles, no construction (no fuel for generators to power cranes, pile drivers, diggers, excavators etc etc) so no more electric charging points, or at least very few, since all the trenches for the cables have to be dug by hand and the equipment brought on site by horse and cart. Pretty soon, if you love in a city, no more food (no fuel for tractors or delivery systems).

We’ll still have electricity at home, just a lot less of it. I understand that the UK generates about 50% of its electricity from renewables. However, by the time we prioritise hospitals, schools, electric trains and tube systems, existing recharging points, lifts in high-rise buildings and other essentials, I assume domestic supply will be severely limited if not ceased completely.

And of course, no more imports – no planes or ships to bring anything. So no more computers, phones, TVs, rice or a million and one other things we rather enjoy.

But, of course, you didn’t press the button. What we want is a button that enforces a managed, but quick as possible transfer from a carbon-based to a substantively carbon-free economy. With residual carbon use offset efficiently. I have no idea how long this will take, but 30 years seems incredibly ambitious, especially as we’ll be paying a substantial portion of the cost of converting the developing world in parallel. There is no point in the UK doing it alone, so advanced economies will have to pay for poorer countries to manage the change.

So, someone please explain to me why we should demonise oil companies? We demand petrol, diesel and gas and then turn around and propose boycotts, disinvestment, public shaming of the companies who satisfy that demand. By all means pass laws and regulations to make car driving punitively expensive, or just ban it. Ban flying for leisure (by definition non-essential). Raise VAT on throwaway fashion items to 500%. Do whatever we think appropriate and effective in reducing demand for carbon fuels. And accept the political heat that goes with these policies. At least be honest. The solution is to reduce demand, by accepting personal responsibility, by accepting regulation and legislation to mandate certain behaviours

If Mark Rylance ever flies again in his LIFE, he is a complete hypocrite. he walks away from the RSC in a very public huff to protest its association with BP. If he uses gas cooking, drives or is a passenger in a non-electric car, takes a diesel fuelled train or bus, he is a hypocrite. ‘Give me carbon fuelled luxuries, but let me seek applause and a halo by castigating the people who provide them.’

Give me a break.

An ex-colleague pointed out that oil companies have done terrible things – see Nigeria, Gulf of Mexico, Alaska et al. They have, and they should be held to account and punished. Directors should go to prison. These are failures of corporate governance and should be policed accordingly. We shouldn’t confuse the problems of poorly-regulated capitalism with dealing with man-made climate change.

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