Hail Hail the Fossil King

25 12 2016

And so it is Christmas.  A time of celebration and rejoicing.

A big, nasty blob of rain with embedded thunderstorms (!) now approaches my Twin Cities home. I can imagine no better time than right now to celebrate the legacy and future contributions to the destruction of winter as we knew it by a powerful “player”, “dealmaker” and “tough guy”who has done more than most to bring us to where we are right now.

I speak, of course, of our soon-to-be Secretary of State, ExxonMobil’s mogul supreme, Rex Tillerson.

Those descriptions in quotes, naturally, are the accolades that our volatile, petulant and self-dealing president-elect, Donald Trump, routinely heaps on his Cabinet nominees. Those are the essential job qualifications for Cabinet appointees. Those, plus the willingness to bow, scrape and kowtow to the Donald.  And explain away his wildly intemperate tweets. And then there is probably the most critical qualification – hostility to the mission of the department you are called to lead. Whether Tillerson meets that crucial requirement remains to be seen.  And if you think about it, he is probably the rare exception. State in Tillerson’s hands will rather be something valuable – a platform from which to be an even bigger “player” and “dealmaker.” For the United States? Maybe. For ExxonMobil? Hell yes. But I digress.

My beloved Minnesota is but one location on the globe. And what really matters is the overall change to the climate we have been unwittingly “engineering” with our over 100 million tons of CO2 emissions per day. But winter has utterly changed in these parts. Wintertime rain events in the state were formerly rare.  Now, they occur regularly.  Even when I first moved here in the mid-80s, winter was a reliable season. The snows would arrive somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving, and, give or take a few thaws, not recede until mid-March.

Now, I characterize our winter differently. It’s five months of March-like freeze and thaw, interrupted by occasional outbreaks of what used to be winter.  (And perhaps a summerlike thunderstorm on Xmas!)

I will save you further details in this post, but will say this – it ain’t just Minnesota, folks. As of this winter, temperatures at the North Pole have been spiking to a freakish 40 to 50 degrees above long-term averages – flirting with the melting temperature of 32 degrees. In winter.  If that’s not man-made climate disruption, nothing is.

But back to Tillerson’s contributions. He has spent his entire career (since 1975) with oil giant ExxonMobil. Starting as an engineer, he steadily climbed the ranks until his appointment as Chairman and CEO in 2006.  This is important information. It was not long after his arrival at the firm that the top execs of that era funded world-class scientific research on the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.  Those scientists told them the inconvenient truth – that man-made greenhouse gases were indeed warming the planet and destabilizing the climate, and the problem would get much worse if business as usual proceeded.  And what did those execs do?  We know now that they not only suppressed the truth, but used those very findings to craft and fund a masterful, devious anti-science propaganda campaign.  And despite a few funding shifts and public denials, that program continues to this day.

rex-tillerson

Does Tillerson get the blame for the creation of this shameful- planet endangering, 40-year campaign?  Of course not. But note that it has continued, with a few adjustments, on his watch. That’s 10 years if you were counting. And here is what is really interesting. Unlike the corporate lackeys in Congress whom I call Hired Liars – most prominently Senator James Inhofe and Representative Lamar Smith – Tillerson is wily enough to admit that man-made climate change is indeed a problem, and poses risks – though he does cavalierly dismiss them. Even more interesting is that he makes this admission while his massive oil company continues to sponsor lies and disinformation. So you have to ask, “What gives?”

ExxonMobil had a tremendous opportunity around 1980. They held the well-researched truth in hand. They might have announced the truth, and embarked on a strategic initiative to lead the world toward rapid transformation of the energy infrastructure, dramatically increasing the use of renewables – solar, wind, geothermal, wave, etc. They chose a radically different path instead.  And I think we know what Rex Tillerson will continue to do “instead,” despite his acknowledgment of the risks of man-made global warming.

How do we know this?  He is an oil man through and through.  While he admits the reality of man-made climate disruption, he dismissively labels it “an engineering problem, with an engineering solution.” That, my friends, is hubris on a monumental scale.  Clearly, mitigation – higher sea walls for coastal cities, moving key infrastructure to higher ground, building flood handling systems for increased torrential rain events – is part of the solution.  And other “engineering solutions,” of the geoengineering variety, are regularly discussed – but are dangerous soot-in-the-sky ideas at best. (Aside from as-yet undiscovered ways to suck CO2 from the atmosphere, I think they are crazy, and Michael Lemonick agrees.)

Tillerson and his club clearly intend to keep developing and burning fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate.  And if you analyze his remarks, you see that he even uses a “humanitarian” angle. That is, it would be unfair, even inhumane, to deny developing countries the “low-cost” comforts of a fossil-fuel economy. Such a humanitarian, he is. You can read all about the nuances in his stance in a new article by Elliott Negin.  He suggests that Tillerson’s apparent grudging respect for science might itself be a con, a distraction to divert our attention from the real goal – find ever more fossil fuels, and burn them up, producing massive profits, damn the long-term consequences (and life on the planet for that matter) to hell. And if it is just a public-relations sham, isn’t that all the more reason to include him in the administration of our incoming president, who may prove to be the most consequential con artist of all time?

I believe a titan like Rex Tillerson merits an honorary title – something befitting his impact on the planet, today and far into the future.  I propose this – Petrosaurus Rex. The lord of the fossil-fuel dinosaurs.  And may he, or his work at least, soon suffer the same fate as the giant flesh-eating dinosaur that inspired that name.

Extinction is the well-deserved end of those who refuse to evolve.

Rejection by the Senate would be a mighty good start.

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One response

25 12 2016
Tess Galati

OMG you nailed it again Mike. Minnesota is becoming Oregon, and Oregon will become Pacific Ocean. But never mind. Let’s just drive out in our gas guzzler and see New Orleans while we still can.

I haven’t had the heart even to light a votive candle this Christmas. Just can’t get my mind off the bumpy ride ahead.

Wishing you the best… Tess

Tess Galati 651.210.6799

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