The “Make Big Oil Pay” hypocrisy
by Alison Despathy
“We learned in kindergarten… If you make a mess, you clean it up”- Make Big Oil Pay campaign
Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), and Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) have joined forces to create the Make Big Oil Pay campaign. Intended to build support for state legislation that demands a lawsuit to achieve a Climate Superfund, according to the Make Big Oil Pay website, this legislation would
–Require the largest fossil fuel companies to pay for the damages they’ve caused in VT
–Raise 2.5 billion dollars over 25 years
–Utilize the money to repair infrastructure, mitigate climate health impacts, and make climate solutions more affordable for Vermonters.
Last week, I attended a Make Big Oil Pay campaign at the Athenaeum Library in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Surrounded by stacks of books filled with wisdom, critical thinking, rich history, and passion, the campaign was completely out of place.
There is no other way to sum it up. This propaganda campaign is appalling and speaks volumes about their agenda to force their thoughts on others and prey upon fear. The “make big oil pay” presentation severely lacked any substance reflecting the complexity of actual environmental and energy issues. Instead the use of propaganda including intense, gripping music and recent flood pictures dominated their narrative.
When you understand propaganda and its role in swaying opinions, the playbook is crystal clear–sound bytes, fear mongering and curated narratives. This exact model was used for the Keep Vermont Cool, S.5 -Affordable Heat Act campaign sponsored by VPIRG last year. It goes a little something like this.
Step 1- Create a campaign, take it on tour, amp up the hype with exaggerated dumbed-down messages, cherry picked data and zero nuance –viola–you have legislation growing in your special interest incubator.
Step 2– Carefully mix with all the climate champions who you have helped place in the Vermont statehouse, and you cannot fail, literally you cannot fail. These VPIRG trained legislators are essentially bound to the whims of VPIRG. Special interest politics in Vermont at its finest. A synthetic “movement” by the people generated by a highly coordinated and funded “non-profit.” It is actually a masterful recipe for running the show at the statehouse. Sadly it does not serve the environment or the people of Vermont.
But we know this is the plan to justify and guarantee the legislation. VPIRG will whip up the campaign and ensure it looks legit and is the “will of the people.” The theatrics are all in play, and yes some will be roped in and fall for the facade. Despite their claims, VPIRG is NOT the voice of Vermont. Most Vermonters would have never supported S.5. People don’t vote to burden themselves with greater fees, limited options, coercion and environmental and social injustice.
Regarding the campaign, honestly, who doesn’t want money from rich people? But that is not even the point.
As a spectator at the event, I shared three comments. None received real answers, other than ‘we will take that back to our leaders.’ Several young adults ran the meeting. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them, wondering if they knew their youth and passion were manipulated and taken advantage of by those really in charge.
COMMENT 1- All of us have used tons of fossil fuels to travel, heat our homes and run businesses; we purchase products everyday made via fossil fuels. Aren’t we all responsible for the world’s dependence on fossil fuels? Can we own the fact that for better or worse, our economy, lifestyle, technological advancements are built upon fossil fuels. We have all taken part in this abundance of relatively cheap natural energy that allows us to cross states, continents, grow businesses and power practically all aspects of our lives. Chaos and rioting would ensue if the fossil fuel industry ceased operations. Making them pay, while simultaneously being dependent on their products is ignorant, hypocritical and doesn’t add up on any level except the oblivious, money-hungry, greed level.
Semiconductors or microchips are a prime example. These are found everywhere today in our phones, computers, appliances, smart meters, lighting (LEDs), heat pumps, cars, solar panels, wind turbines and life saving medical devices. Rapidly developing Internet of Things Self Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) are all dependent on semiconductors. As one of the greatest consumers of fossil fuel energy, a typical semiconductor fabrication plant uses 100 megawatt-hours of power each hour, more power than automotive and oil refineries require. This equates to the equivalent annual power consumed by 50,000 homes.
And this is just semiconductors, this doesn’t even touch the amount of fossil fuels consumed by supercomputers, crypto mining, and Artificial Intelligence. Maybe the campaign should be changed to Make Everyone Pay. After the Unaffordable Heat Act, this seems to be the trajectory.
This coercive shift to renewable energy, and all of the accompanying SMART technology and electronics demands vast amounts of both water and fossil fuel energy. Harmful chemicals and gasses such as perfluorocarbons (PFCs) are also used. This flies in the face of living lightly on the land and reducing energy consumption and pollution, yet this is promoted as the way of the future by renewable energy advocates who supposedly care about the environment and energy consumption.
For those who play the bogus carbon game, Greenpeace also reported that, “Semiconductor manufacturing, a key step in the tech supply chain, is projected to emit 86 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) globally by 2030, more than Portugal’s total emissions in 2021.” Should everyone who uses semiconductors also pay into the Climate Superfund? This is the mentality we are contending with.
COMMENT 2- VPIRG is a staunch, actually obsessive supporter of renewable energy. VPIRG’s board is dominated by the renewable energy industry. How does VPIRG justify their support of this campaign and Superfund legislation given that the entire renewable energy industry is dependent on fossil fuels for its existence? From making solar panels, wind turbines, semiconductors, recycling solar panels (when it even happens), mining copper, lithium, and cobalt — all of it requires heavy fossil fuel inputs and is wrought with environmental and social injustice.
Most solar panels are made in China with the use of fossil fuels, slave labor and horrific human rights abuses, Driving electric vehicles with minerals mined through obscene amounts of fossil fuels and water, land devastation and child labor is the current reality. Biofuels are primarily made from genetically modified crops dependent on chemicals that are poisoning water, lands and people. Rampant deforestation is justified to make way for biofuel crops. Entire ecosystems, indigenous lands, and biodiversity are in peril, ironically due to the renewable energy industry.
This industry is very simply another empire built upon the exploitation of people and the earth; gold, rubber, cotton, tea, tobacco, ivory, oil, copper, and now renewable energy, Shockingly it is supported at all costs by VPIRG, VNRC, VCV and many who claim to be “saving the environment” This is pure hypocrisy. Should all of these players also contribute to the Climate Superfund?
While discussing New York’s proposed Superfund Act and the “Polluter Pays” Principle, the Institute For Policy Integrity stated that, “Payments would be used to build green infrastructure to help the state adapt to climate change.”
If this Climate Superfund becomes a reality, VPIRG’s renewable energy board members would gain access to copious amounts of funding regardless of the fact that their products and services are all dependent on fossil fuels. What is the real intention behind this Climate Superfund, who does it really serve?
This is how monopolies are built. Create legislation that greatly favors your industry and taxes and handicaps any competition—S.5- the Unaffordable Heat Act does exactly this. Next, ensure funding is readily available; the Superfund legislation as well as the Inflation Reductions Act fit here perfectly. In essence, squash the competition, get subsidized, force your products on people and make them pay for it, is the real campaign.
COMMENT 3– If the Superfund legislation passes and the lawsuit is successful in securing funding for Vermont, will VPIRG, VNRC and VCV no longer support S.5, the Unaffordable Heat Act which places the burden of the “climate crisis” and the energy transition onto the backs of Vermonters? Will they step away from this destructive legislation which brings added costs for heating fuel, no actual benefit to Vermonters and forces the entire thermal sector into the fraudulent carbon game? This is the real conversation that the campaign failed to address because this would interfere with their ultimate goal of full renewable energy dominance in Vermont regardless of cost, risks and reality.
As a self proclaimed champion of the environment, VPIRG and the many climate champion legislators continue to ignore basic tenets of ecology. Habitat destruction, poisoning the earth, killing wildlife via renewable energy products and infrastructure is antithetical to true environmentalism, conservation and stewardship. Actual resilience in an ecosystem is built upon biodiversity and efficiency. Without this, a system is easily crippled by external stressors and exploited by predators. This is analogous to severely limiting Vermont’s heating sector to electrification. This level of dependence and lack of diversity brings risk and builds monopoly at the expense of the people.
Maybe VPIRG began with solid intentions to positively influence Vermont policy, sadly it has morphed into a narrow-minded, destructive entity that has lost itself in zealotry, special interest influence and dumbed down propaganda. Maybe this is the norm? A worthy organization with ethical goals is born and is then infiltrated by those hoping to capitalize on the established trust and reputation? Sadly, this appears to be the case. The Nature Conservancy is swinging bogus carbon credits, the Sierra Club supports fracked fossil gas and biomass expansion in Vermont and none have stepped up for the mass killing of North Atlantic Right Whales due to the offshore wind industry. Special interest has clearly hijacked the climate narrative and they are killing authentic environmentalism. The Make Big Oil Pay Campaign is nothing more than hypocritical greed.
The author is a clinical nutritionist in St. Johnsbury.