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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Big Oil Companies Are Bullies Who ‘Want to Be Seen as Good Guys’

When I started these hearings and said we wanted to get Big Oil in there to testify, I didn’t want to do a gotcha hearing. My honest hope was that you would have these executives come in and say, “Look, we made mistakes in the past, here is what we’re doing now, and we’re open to ideas about what that will look like going forward.” And you could imagine a visionary C.E.O. of one of these companies saying, “Look, we have to diversify our energy sources. We’ve got to really make investments in clean technology. We really have to take the Paris accord seriously.”

But that’s not what you have in the culture of these companies.

Now, you have that in some places, in other areas of the economy, where people are talking about clean industry on steel and on aluminum production, in transportation and in technology.

It’s also the case that for some of those industries — like tech, where electricity is a very big part of the carbon footprint, which can be decarbonized quickly — the transition is much cheaper. In some others, like clean steel and aluminum, nobody is expecting a rapid transition, which means the rubber hasn’t yet really hit the road.

I’m not saying that they’re all perfect. But what I would say about Big Oil is that they have not made in any way substantively a transition in diversifying. But at the same time, they’re telling the public that they are. That’s the most jarring part of this — they want to be seen as good guys.

And I still would much rather that they become part of the solution than that, because my interest is in solving climate change. If we could get them to shift — that’s really the goal. But I’ve got to tell you, after more than a year and millions of pages of documents and six or seven hours of testimony, I am not hopeful of that in the short term.

I don’t know that I even see many places where an oil or gas company would have a business advantage, given the size and relative maturity of the renewable companies.

Well, there’s certainly work they could do, right? To close up wells leaking oil and methane, for instance.

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