BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has drawn the entire fossil fuel industry into an all-out fight to justify its continued dominance over U.S. energy policy. Now the industry appears to be offering up BP as a sacrifice. A new organization called “Save U.S. Energy Jobs” has just launched with a press release defending the U.S. oil industry’s safety record while twisting the knife into BP.
The release highlights BP’s “continuing incompetence,” its “egregious” record of safety violations, and “the unfortunate divergence in safety and health approaches between BP and the remainder of the industry.” It ends with the money quote: “This is not an industry problem. This is a BP problem.” All well and good, but there’s some curious connections between Save U.S. Energy Jobs and – well, for one thing, the notorious Enron energy market manipulation scandal.
Fossil Fuels are Here to Stay – Sort Of
Before we get onto Enron, let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. Nobody is saying that you can flip a switch and suddenly get rid of fossil fuels. They will continue to play a major role in U.S. energy markets for the foreseeable future, but that role will steadily and rapidly shrink. Look, people once thought whale oil and was it, and that didn’t last long. I’m not saying that fossil fuels will go completely out of use, but they will become a marginal, manageable source. By way of comparison, plenty of people in the U.S. still burn wood and charcoal for fuel, but not in such great amounts that we risk deforestation and other severe environmental hazards (it’s another issue in other countries – but that’s for another post).
Some U.S. Energy Jobs are Better Than Others
The name “Save U.S. Energy Jobs” clearly suggests that the organization is interested in promoting U.S. energy jobs, and it is — as long as that doesn’t involve alternative energy jobs. In fact, the organization is focused squarely on promoting fossil fuels. It is an offshoot from another new group that was formed in 2008, The American Energy Alliance (AEA), which in turn is the “advocacy arm” for the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a climate change denial group. All three groups use the neutral word “energy” in their names, but AEA reveals its true colors by calling greenhouse gas regulation “carbon criminalization.” Meanwhile, IER’s latest contribution to climate action is a new “study” of the climate bill currently working its way through Congress, which purports to show that the bill will “destroy up to 5.1 million jobs.”
The Enron Connection
According to SourceWatch, AEA bills itself as a grassroots organization that was formed to spread the word about IER’s “scholarly research,” which has the particular aim of enabling drilling in U.S. coastal waters. The Enron connection pops up in IER in the form of its president, who (again, according to Sourcewatch) was formerly a Director of Public Relations Policy at Enron. Enron, as you may recall, was the epicenter of engineered energy and financial crises that wreaked havoc and cost jobs, all based on the ability of a single, powerful entity to manipulate markets. A U.S. energy policy that encourages decentralized alternative energy production would help prevent that kind of monopoly power from accumulating again, as another layer of protection along with appropriately regulated markets – but AEA is interested in none of that. Between Save U.S. Energy Jobs, AEA, and IER, solar and other alternative energy is discussed primarily in the context of how it will never scale up to replace fossil fuels, how it can never overcome technological obstacles, and that it can never compete even on a small scale without taxpayer subsidies.
High-Risk Energy Harvesting
Returning now to Save U.S. Energy Jobs, on its home page the organization claims that “By focusing efforts on industry best practices…we can more safely cultivate our vast national resources…” Now, where I come from, to cultivate means to grow. Plain and simple. Cultivating is growing. And that’s the bottom line with fossil fuels. Nothing is made to increase, or added, or grown in any meaningful sense of the word. There is no cultivation going on there, only harvesting. High-risk harvesting. Save U.S. Energy Jobs makes a great case for the U.S. offshore oil industry’s safety record, but only as far as OSHA work safety rules go. Nothing about the industry’s 10,000 miles of canals for pipelines in coastal Louisiana, which have contributed to a wetlands degradation problem, which in turn exposed the region to greater risk of damage from hurricanes. That’s only one small part of the devastation that fossil fuel harvesting has created across the country. If Save U.S. Jobs, AEA, and IER are really in the business of mitigating risks and saving jobs, they can just keep going on from BP and start shoveling in the entire onshore oil industry (pdf alert), the coal industry, and the natural gas industry, too.
Image: Ocean wave by Clearly Ambiguous on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.