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Trevor Hancock: Fossil-fuel industry doubling down, pushing for growth

In the U.S., the Biden administration approved nearly 10,000 oil and gas drilling permits on public lands in its first three years, while Donald Trump is moronically pledging to “drill baby, drill”
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In the U.K., Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, has pledged to “max out” the U.K.’s oil and gas reserves. IAN FORSYTH, POOL PHOTO VIA AP

Last week, I documented the massive impact of the fossil-fuel industry on people and the planet, an impact the industry generally ignores or downplays in its rush to make money and maintain its power, earning it the title of “the new tobacco.”

But astonishingly, in light of the clear and strong evidence of the environmental and health impacts of fossil fuels, the industry and its private sector and ­government supporters are, in many cases, doubling down on the harm it does by pushing for growth in fossil-fuel production and use.

The 2023 Production Gap Report from a group of leading environmental organizations, ­including the UN Environment Programme and Canada’s ­International Institute for Sustainable Development, noted ­“government plans and projections would lead to an increase in global coal production until 2030, and in global oil and gas production until at least 2050.”

Overall, they report: “Governments, in aggregate, still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with ­limiting warming to 1.5°C.”

Canada is one of the 20 petrostates highlighted in the report that plan expansion of fossil-fuel extraction.

Private-sector support comes in the form of ­investments from banks, pension and investment funds.

The 2023 Banking on Climate Chaos report found $669 billion in fossil-fuel financing from the world’s 60 largest banks in 2022 alone and $5.5 trillion US in the seven years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

Since these levels “are fundamentally incompatible with a safe climate,” the report says, the banks are “choosing profits over a livable future.”

Troublingly, the report finds, “the Royal Bank of Canada ranks #1 as the worst financier of fossil fuels. RBC provided fossil-fuel companies $41 billion in 2022, an increase over its 2021 financing, making for a total of $252.5 billion since 2016.”

Governments are also major supporters of the ­industry. In the U.S., the Biden administration approved nearly 10,000 oil and gas drilling permits on public lands in its first three years, while Donald Trump is moronically pledging to “drill baby, drill.”

Meanwhile, in the U.K., Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to “max out” the U.K.’s oil and gas reserves.

The Canada Energy Regulator’s 2023 Energy ­Outlook report projects that under current measures Canada’s oil production would increase 25 per cent by 2035 and then remain roughly constant to 2050, while gas ­production rises steadily to be 24 per cent above 2022 levels by 2050.

The federal and provincial governments continue to support the industry by expanding pipelines, and approving new offshore oil projects and LNG export terminals, while Pierre Poilievre idiotically pledges to “axe the [carbon] tax” and undermine climate policy, cheered on by the Alberta and Saskatchewan ­governments.

This government support, we are supposed to believe, has nothing to do with the millions of ­dollars the fossil fuel industry spends on lobbying and ­advertising — of course not!

The scale of lobbying undertaken by the fossil-fuel industry to support their ongoing production tells its own tale — although it also hints at the weakness of their case and the growing challenge they face in ­making it.

The Guardian reported that almost 2,500 fossil-fuel lobbyists were accredited to the COP28 meeting in Dubai in December, more than all but two countries (Brazil and the UAE) — yet even so, for the first time in almost 30 years, the COP final statement dared to include the term “fossil fuels.”

In Canada, a recent analysis of lobbying by ­Environmental Defence found the industry lobbied the federal government over 1,000 times in the first 10 months of 2023

Meanwhile, here in B.C., Dogwood reports that oil and gas lobbyists had more than 1,000 meetings with the B.C. government in the first nine months of 2023.

According to Dogwood, Shell alone “has 20 ­registered lobbyists in Victoria whose job it is to ­convince decision-makers to greenlight Ksi Lisims”, which is a proposed new LNG plant that will need a new pipeline and produce 12 million tonnes of LNG a year.

It seems clear that if expanding fossil-fuel industry profits mean inflicting harm on people and the planet, then the industry and its private sector and ­government supporters are just fine with that!

thancock@uvic.ca

Dr. Trevor Hancock is a retired professor and senior scholar at the University of Victoria’s School of Public Health and Social Policy.

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