Monday, 23 February 2015
Are Oil Companies Funding 'Climate-Misinformation'?
Anyone who believes the oil companies would spend money on protecting their existence by "deliberately speading misinformation" is over generalising a special case and obviously doesn't understand how businesses and capitalism create effiencies by using their own self-interest. If you go back to Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" you'll find he cautions that businesses need to be reined back from time to time. For radio discussion with academics see
I suggest that tobacco is a special case. The manufacturers didn't have a legal alternative to tobacco. However, when I look at the research by anti-smoking activists, it's just as appallingly bad as the tobacco companies research (particularly about secondary smoke). As more and more statisticians are saying these days, by framing the question appropriately, you can always get the statistical answer you want – and then smooth over the fact that statistics don't prove causation.
Compare to the food processing companies when we were all told by governments to stop eating saturated fats. They just upped their research into how to make margarine taste like butter and increased production of it, while reducing their exposure to butter and milk. They were agnostic to the science, merely making sure that their company stayed alive.
The fact that we're now told that the saturated fat research was of poor quality and saturated fat is not dangerous after all makes me appreciate that the Precautionary Principle should follow medicine and include "First do no harm". This wasn't followed by the anti-butter activists – harmful trans-fats were used in margarine until recently (UK) .
In Europe, all the energy companies have been spending money on research into renewables at least since the 70s and 80s. They wanted to be in on the latest technology. I remember working for BMW where they had BP as their research partner on hybrid cars. I seem to remember that Shell were working with Ford. Hydrogen fuel was perceived as the way forwards in Europe. While in North America with it's large amount of farming land, growing corn for ethanol was the way to go. I'm sure they're also spending on research into alternatives for plastics /food /materials manufacturing and power-stations.
So I don't believe the conspiracy theory for anything except tobacco. There's always been a prediction that coal, oil, etc will become uneconomic and the company's duty is to make sure that their company will survive - not necessarily still with oil technology.
Like tobacco, organisations against cheap energy (Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Club of Rome, etc) don't have any alternative to survive apart from stoking up conspiracy theories. They've improved so much over the years …