The oil industry fights back by Susan Grimsdell

The oil industry’s in trouble.  Consumption of fossil fuels is dropping because of travel bans all over the world and because of public recognition that climate change is a reality.  The writing’s on the wall for oil-based fuels.

The counter attack

New plastic bottles as far as the eye can see

The industry isn’t defeated however.  They’ve seen a brilliant solution to their plunging revenue – plastic.  They are building 350 new plastics plants in Appalachia, a very poor area that has lost its main industry – coal.  These plants turn fracked natural gas into plastic bottles, bags, straws, cups, all the stuff the rest of society is doing its best not to use any more.

The industry is also lobbying poor countries such as Kenya to reverse their ban on the use of plastic bags and also to stop banning the importing of plastic garbage for recycling.  Third world countries are suffering economically from Covid, so they are very vulnerable to shiny new offers from Big Oil.

Promoting plastic

Plastic waste awaiting recycling

The industry is exerting pressure even on countries like Mexico and Canada to lift regulations that make it harder for the plastic industry to grow and prosper. In short, big oil is doing everything it possibly can to promote the manufacture, and use of plastic.  We all know where most of it ends up.

I’m picturing these top oil executives at social occasions, with people having a good time, when the conversation turns to the devastating effects of plastic.  When people share stories of beaches littered and unsightly, describe personal experiences of how they avoid using plastic bags, report what they’ve read about the amount of plastic trash found in even the most remote areas of the earth.

Microplastics from the gut of a fish

What do our oil executives say when someone turns to them with the usual question, “What do you do?”  “Oh, I make plastic and do my best to get people to use it including bribery and corruption if that’s what works.”  Are they embarrassed?  Or does the money count for everything and does the fact that their choice of occupation is one that contributes to the pollution of the planet not matter at all?  Perhaps they live in a plastic bubble, immune from criticism, immune from guilt and self-doubt.   I’m sure that an income into the hundreds of thousands a year helps a lot with that.

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