Big oil asks US government to protect it from climate change

Even better, this is all coming from public funds.


Image credits: US Army.

Irony on steroids

We’re currently past the point where we can consider climate change a problem for future generations — it’s happening now, and it’s affecting us all.

Basically, we’re currently at the point where we have to take measures to limit its impact, and things are getting pretty rough. Like many other countries, the US is also taking some steps to protects its coasts; among these projects, one in particular stands out — one project which was greatly lobbied and supported by the fossil fuel industry.

Texas has an ambitious proposal to raise a line of defense against powerful storms and high tides — a 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast. At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about it: the defense line will protect some important infrastructure, a few residential areas and fragile ecosystems. But the real reason behind this project has nothing the do with any of these things — the real reason is to protect Texas’ oil refineries, the state’s “crown jewels” of the petroleum industry. That’s right, the oil industry wants to be shielded from the damage that it itself is causing.

The project would cost around $12 billion and comes right off the back of three smaller projects fast-tracked by the state government. These smaller projects cost $3.9 billion and were aimed specifically at protecting oil facilities. The far-reaching hand of the oil industry is also visible in the reactions of Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz — normally outspoken critics of federal spending, the two senators (big-time supporters of oil companies) have both backed using taxpayer money to build the new infrastructure.

Cruz even called it “a tremendous step forward.”

“The oil and gas industry is getting a free ride,” said Brandt Mannchen, a member of the Sierra Club’s executive committee in Houston. “You don’t hear the industry making a peep about paying for any of this and why should they? There’s all this push like, ‘Please Senator Cornyn, Please Senator Cruz, we need money for this and that.’”

But for all this support for protection against climate change, there’s not much mention of climate change. This is representative of Texas’ general attitude — which is to support the fossil fuel industry at all costs, deny climate change, and even when you take measures to counter it, don’t admit it. A Texas special commission even submitted a report asking $61 billion from Congress to “future proof” the state against future natural disasters, many of which are amplified by climate change, without even mentioning climate change.

Economists have also been critical of this approach. Texas “should be funding things like this itself,” said Chris Edwards, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Texans are proud of their conservatism, but, unfortunately, when decisions get made in Washington, that frugality goes out the door.”

AP has questioned several major oil companies, asking them for comment, but none have replied.

Oil companies knew about climate change since the 70s

The cherry on top of this oily cake is that big oil companies have known that they’re causing climate change for decades — yet they relentlessly funded climate change denial campaigns. But when push comes to shove, they want to be protected from climate change — and not pay any of the costs.

No one is saying Texas doesn’t need environmental defenses. As Esquire points out, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, you could see small towns in shambles, with people living in tents because their roofs and houses were blown away. Texas needs to prepare and protect its people — there’s no denying that. But for the very oil companies responsible for climate change to come asking for help, out of taxpayers’ money, that deserves nothing more than a mordant laugh.

Which means it will probably happen.

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