Oil as the New Tobacco?

There is a cute little opinion piece on the FT positing that the oil industry succumbing to the same fate as the tobacco industry:

If chief executives were brought to Washington merely to be humiliated, investors would not care. But the pressure on BP to suspend dividends to shareholders and put $20bn into an escrow fund for compensation and clean-up before anyone knows what it will cost is ominous.

It has echoes of the 1998 tobacco settlement in which the industry paid $246bn to states following legal action by their attorneys-general. Only 5 per cent of that money was spent on tobacco-related initiatives, with Virginia, for example, investing in higher education, fibreoptic cables and research into energy.

Couple of things:

  • i’ve not really noticed the tobacco industry suffering and fading away to oblivion. Which rather suggests the idea that the US Government was out to protect it’s citizens is misguided. What they actually saw was an opportunity to redistribute a little wealth. Ultimately that redistribution was from the smoking public to other corporations. (Umm! Corporate welfare!)
  • the situation with the oil industry is even more challenging. If companies like BP aren’t given permission to drill deep water wells (and whom exactly is giving that regulatory freedom?!) then the oil supply situation is going to get extremely ragged, extremely quickly. Seeing as governments around the world, but especially the in US, have done close to nothing break societies / industries dependencies on non-renewal resources, it’s hard not to see how the oil companies don’t have them over a barrel (haha).
  • to put things in perspective, each and everyday, the world burns something like 2500 times (stupid rough calculation based on the ever changing flow rate numbers and known world consumption) the oil being released by this well. (Realclimate makes the same point but uses a higher number, based on the older numbers.) In the long term, what is happening in the GoM really is a drop in the ocean… of course it doesn’t feel that way to those directly impacted by it, but that’s just because climate change doesn’t register in daily human timescales.
  • the fields near the Falkland Islands, that are currently being investigated, along with several in the North Sea, are in much deeper water than the current GoM disaster. In the case of the Falklands, it’s something like twice as deep! We’re obviously desperate for oil (see afore mentioned barrel over which we are bent) and there is very little chance that governments are going to tighten regulations at this point.

This is indeed my usual jaundiced view of the world: it’s too late; we’re re-inforcing the bad behaviour; the oceans are being filled with offal and disgust. If by some miracle, someone in the US administration does stumble onto the conclusion that it’s now too dangerous to recover every last drop of oil, there are plenty of less enlightened governments (yes, i know it sounds hard to believe!) out there, that will happily take the risk. When it comes to raping the planet the race to the bottom is well and truly on!

7 thoughts on “Oil as the New Tobacco?

  1. Interesting post over on Boing Boing http://tinyurl.com/22lwx6l

    The crux of which for me was this line:-
    “With a 9% reduction in national daily gasoline consumption, we could eliminate our need for offshore oil. At 22.4 miles per gallon, that’s just 4.2 fewer miles of driving, per person, per day.”

    Whilst I agree with your points wholeheartedly that it all just basically too little too late, has sinister motives behind it all and If the US arent doing it then “less enlightened governments” will, the boing boing article is crazy stuff.
    US citizens drive 4.2 fewer miles a day each and we don’t even need off shore oil anymore!

    I’m confused.

    • hard to know where to start. i suppose with “22.4 miles per gallon”. most european governments are mandating something closer to 40 mpg. if i recall correctly the figures for mpg in the fleet were until most recently *falling* in the states.

      global population is still rising, fuck, it’s still rising in america. any reduction in average vehicle miles travelled is going to get eaten up an increasing number of drivers.

      with an entire society predicated on leglesss lumps of resource consuming motorised lard… yeah. good stuff boing boing, lets all pull together and drive a little less, that’ll do it.

  2. The government has got to invest in public transportation. Seriously. It can be like a New Deal style program (TAA– Trains Across America). Two birds. One stone. You create tens of thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs as well as laying out a green track throughout the country. Pay for it with an oil tax or I don’t know cut back on that military budget. Then you roll out a PR program to make riding the train or streetcar cool and keep that gas tax in place.
    I suppose the idea sounds too much like “European socialism.” It would probably be unpopular in spite of its work stimulus. But as of now, the government is just floundering, little better than BP.

    • that might have worked… oh, 25 years ago, but right now the states is broke, flat ass busted, broke. This year, just to carry on as they are they need to borrow more than all other debtor nations combined and that’s just for starters:


      i completely agree on the military budget, but given that they’ve just (*snort*) found a trillion dollars worth of natural resources, all ready for the raping, in afghanistan, it doesn’t seem likely there there will be any let up. Don’t get me started on the fact that it has cost the public at least that much to secure those resources for private industry… blood and treasure. the people of america are just another resource, and it’s obvious what happens to resourced…

  3. I am not normally as dark as you are but today I must agree that it is looking X-tremely unlikely that the world’s oil addiction can be ‘treated’ in time. Even if Boing Boing had a point, how would one entice legless lumps of lard out of their cars in the first place? You’d likely need a Twinkie or a Pepsi or something, and aren’t those made from petroleum anyhow?

    Oh and talking about the fodder of the masses, I thought Monsanto was the new tobacco?

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