I have found myself a few times stepping to the defence of big oil, and I think I should make my position clear.

Firstly, big oil isn't that big altogether. They hold 12% of the proven reserves. A bigger problem is big government oil (National oil companies - NOCs) than big private oil.

Secondly, I have a belief that natural resources should be taxed heavily. Norway has a 78% excess profit hydrocarbon extraction tax and I think that is the best solution to ensure equitable sharing between those taking risks (the owners of companies) and the owners of resources (population of countries). Around 80% of all extraction is also done by the Norwegian NOC, which is owned around 80% by the country. I really don't see why Norway needs to own 80% when owning 50+n% is sufficient for national control.

Thirdly, in a presentation I was told that big oil hands in about as many patents as the much larger NOCs do. I don't know if it is entirely correct, but they are definately on the forefront of technology. I take that as evidence that NOCs somehow are innately less innovative. Since the only major difference being ownership, I believe this must play a part.

Fourth, I do not want to be criticised as claming that big oil is innately just or good, I am merely attempting to state that on balance, the good outweighs the harm. I know of the disasters and the improper political connections, I am attempting to correct for that. It's why I'm for strict regulation, but not an outright ban until we have sufficiently advanced replacement tech. And I find that nuclear is the way to go, all the others just rely on nuclear at a distance - the radiation of the sun.

Lastly, oil companies are not the cause of oil. It's our desire for products that improve our lifes which cause oil, big oil is a mere conduit. I find it dishonest when people criticise big oil from a product which contains lots of it. If so engaged, cut your own consumption first before telling anyone to curtail theirs.


It's not really an exhaustive defense of position, just some of the observations that tipe the scale for me.


Views: 15

Comment by Sal Riggio on May 1, 2011 at 10:09am
Let's see: destroying the environment; making the largest profits in the hostory of the world at the expense of the working class; conspirators in keeping alternative energy, transportation and any other progress that will threaten their bottom line....what's not to love?
Comment by Arcus on May 1, 2011 at 10:31am

"destroying the environment"

Clearly not intentional, accidents do happen and the industry has a low accident rate when you look at the scale of it. There are also serious incidents in agri or pharma, are you also calling for it's dismantlig, or do you prefer strict regulation? Unless you think the industry is to blame for your driving or electricity use, they cannot immediately be blamed for tail pipe emissions.

"making the largest profits in the hostory of the world at the expense of the working class"

That's two arguments. First is that making "the largest profits in the history" must innately be a bad thing. I don't agree, I don't subscribe to the extremes of equity thought. I want most of what's rightfully mind, but I'm ok with sharing around half or so. Secon part is: "at the expense of the working class". Yes indeed, all those starving oil worker. Or is it business in general you are objecting to? Orperhaps the major companies in the industry, the state run competition?

"conspirators in keeping alternative energy"

I see this quite often and I wonder if it's based on actual fact or just some scattered evidence from the 70ies. Presumably $600m to Craig Venter/Synthetic Genomics for research into biofuels would not convince you otherwise? If you are asserting that big oil must fund research into alternative energies I assert that they don't. Should Microsoft be financing development of keyboards? That's your argument.

"transportation and any other progress that will threaten their bottom line"

Transportation, presumably private, is run by car companies. That emission standards have generally been demanded from those who produce the engine, and not those who give it it's fuel, could either be big oil conspiring or just that it's easier to clean up an engine which only uses 20% of the energy potential in the fuel.

Of course they will want to protect their bottom line. They are legal entities like you and I. Profit is their food and water. I don't tend to go around killing others for food, neither do companies. Sometimes companies die in accidents, often caused by stupid actions (Enron), sometimes by old age and just running dry of ideas (check out the 100 largest companies 100 years ago and today, not too many remain). Some even get marrier and divorced.

In addition, big oil is not exactly cherished as the most precious institutions of our societies. It's under constant scruteny from media, government, outside and inside regulators, etc. The conspiracies you offer would mean that they are exceedingly well equipped to hold a number of large secrets for a long time or suppressing the truth millions wish to destroy it with. Or they just don't have all that many big secrets anylonger.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 1, 2011 at 12:08pm
I've got to agree with you on most counts. For the most part, when people say 'big oil' they really aren't referring to anyone in particular unless a specific company has recently been in the news for a spill or their lobbying efforts. When shenanigans occur in 'their' relationships with government I don't see it as a 'big oil' issue - we just really need to figure out better systems for keeping politicians from being such whores. When people complain about the price of petrol I like to point out that petrol delivers lower prices for energy than Pepsi. My views on oil in general revolve around the fact that almost no one realizes just how much cheap energy it has provided or how fleeting that cheap source truly is. The move away from petroleum is going to increase energy prices no matter how we go about it and our lifestyles are going to change whether we like it or not. The math of the matter is unyielding and dictates that we can't continue increasing energy use/person while also increasing the number of people without some radically new developments.
Comment by Walter Maki on May 1, 2011 at 12:24pm
Good points Arcus and Heather. We have become spoiled the dependence on oil which is a finite resource, so less that's available the price rises. I remember all the neat technology and it's potential from the Popular Science Magazines I read as as child. I feel we have become complacent and are about 20 years behind on what we could be using to lessen this fossil fuel addiction. Change will not be cheap, but come on we need to do it while it's still a choice and not and ultimatum.
Comment by Arcus on May 1, 2011 at 12:41pm

I think this Green fearmongering is a bit risky to automatically buy into too.

"Because science can't find any solutions to a problem today means that they will not find any solutions to the problem ever. Therefore we must assume status quo leads to doom and take drastic measures."

I hope you see where environmental extremism (eco terrorism) get's their argument from. I don't think they are 100% correct, otherwise any mean would justify their end. It's my argument against drastic change, I want smart change.

3 undergrad classes of environ econ and I just don't see a lot of good eco policy. We save some bald eagles at the expense of a dozen species of slugs any day, completely ignoring econ 101 because eagles are pretty, slugs not at much. And i fucking hate (sorry, argh!) romanticism in politics. It's fixing problems by holding babies to the camera, like a neo-con health care fix. 

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 1, 2011 at 1:55pm
Comment by Arcus on May 1, 2011 at 2:49pm

Brilliant! :)

Comment by Sal Riggio on May 2, 2011 at 12:31am
BP was not an accident- it was neglectful greed and stupidity!  An accident is something that could not be prevented, a ":chance" event- this could have been prevented.
Comment by Arcus on May 2, 2011 at 1:18am

•S: (n) accident (an unfortunate mishap; especially one causing damage or injury)

Unless you want to have a discussion on whether gross misconduct is somehow an implicit will and not just a chain of accidents, then I don't think you are being perfectly honest. Then there's a irrational fear/anger which underpins your view of the industry, not the facts at hand.

"not an accident" means it will be an antonym (well, could be a synonym or something completely different, but that's not really all that interesting) to accident:

intent, intention, necessity, plan, provision

And that's just plain silly to claim that BP wanted, in any way, to cause an oil spill. Saddam did just that, that's probably why you want to demonize Amoco in the same way.

Oh, sorry, misspoke, British Petroleum, not Amoco, names which had long since left the debate. Good thing there's not an incling of fear of others in the debate. And dastardly Swedes which makes poor translations and a Brit which once took a day off sailing instead of personally overseeing every minutia for the nth week running.

The oil spill was an accident by any definition, caused by the supermajor which clearly took safety the least serious by any measure for the longest time. No secret plots need to be employed, let Occam work for you.

Comment by Sal Riggio on May 2, 2011 at 11:10am
Well, we can agree to disagree.  The BP accident was like the mining accidents that happen too often.  They are called "accidents" and sure nobody WANTED it to happen, but they happen because these companies are much more interested in their profit than in their people.  This is a common theme throughout the history of our industrial society. It goes back to the fire trap sweat shops, child labor, etc, etc.  I have a relative who is fireman, and the city he works for did not want to spend a lot of money on equipment. Well, as he fought a fire, his uniform literally melted on him causing serious burns on his shoulders and neck.  Was this an "accident"? This is the way the working class is exploited, and if you don't think it is true about BIG OIL, you need to take off the rose colored glasses!


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