Oil & gas lobbying group launches ridiculous Fossil Fuel Free Challenge

oil rig Colorado
CC BY 2.0 Maarten Heerlien

You're either with us or against us, according to the Western Energy Alliance's social media campaign.

The Western Energy Alliance (a misnomer, as the only energy industries it lobbies for are oil and natural gas) would like us to believe that the future of energy is black and white, and that either you side with all of those pesky activists and environmentalists who want us to go back to the dark ages by giving up all fossil fuels and depriving everyone of health and happiness, or you side with the oil and gas companies and want the evil guv'ment to lift all of the profit-robbing regulations from the industry.

"Eliminate fossil fuels! We hear it all the time. Sounds easy, right? Then pledge to live fossil fuel free for a week and see what it’s really like."

The group just launched a ridiculous social media campaign, called the Fossil Fuel Free Challenge, in which it gives participants two choices, both of which are disingenuous and short-sighted, and then backs up both choices with hyperbole and dishonest characterizations.

"Fossil fuels permeate our lives. Our campaign provides us the opportunity to show those who oppose responsible oil and natural gas development that they would be poorer, sicker, less educated, colder in winter, and hotter in summer while generally leading a dull and deprived life. But for anyone who thinks life is better without fossil fuels, then we challenge you to go one week without them.” - Tim Wigley, president of Western Energy Alliance

Of course you don't want to be sick, poor, dumb, and leading a dull and deprived life, which is what you would obviously get if all of the environmentalists, activists, and policymakers at the EPA and the Department of the Interior continue to stack the deck "against fossil fuel production with numerous new regulations."

If you click on "Yes, I'm up to the challenge," you are challenged to go for a full week without "any product made from, delivered using or operating on oil, natural gas or their associated products" and are reminded that "Even electricity, plastics, rubber and synthetic fibers are to be avoided" Finally, we're admonished to try to "Live the life environmentalists promote through protests and social media activism," and urged to share "how you live fossil fuel free" via social media.

If you click on "No, life's pretty good with fossil fuels," you're told that fossil fuels "allow us to be healthier and lead more productive lives," and then asked to sign up for the Alliance's mailing list. That's it. There is no middle ground here, and there is no mention of what kind of "environmentally responsible" practices Alliance members employ in their pursuit of oil and gas.

I spent a good amount of time looking through the Alliance's website, and it's a great source of objective information about the future of energy full of highly biased stories about the poor oppressed oil and gas producers, who have only managed to receive 60% of all federal financial energy support since 1950 (compared to wind and solar's 9%), and whose shareholders are profiting today by betting that tomorrow's climate change and air and water pollution issues are simply a big green lie.

This is the same industry that hires people like this guy, who tells oil and gas companies that it's "an endless war" and that they "can either win ugly or lose pretty,” so this pseudo-challenge should come as no surprise. Instead of pivoting their businesses into clean sustainable energy production, they'd rather frame the energy conversation in a way that makes it seem as if environmentalists and the government are dangerous to our health and happiness.

“There’s a growing group of people who want to completely eliminate fossil fuel consumption as their way of protecting the environment. This year we’ve seen this in the form of divestment rallies, kayak protests and activists dangling from bridges. Meanwhile the government is implementing unprecedented new regulations to squeeze out production.” - Wigley

Speaking as a strong supporter of clean and renewable energy, and as a practical person, I actually do like fossil fuels, as they've been relatively cheap, and widely available, and incredibly convenient. What I don't like are the externalities of fossil fuel consumption, such as the degradation of air and water quality, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the sweetheart deals our nation gives to the companies who lease public lands to make huge profits from petroleum extraction. I don't like the fact that we've essentially subsidized pollution and provided huge loopholes for taxes and corporate responsibilities. I don't like the fact that they use unfounded fear (of loss of jobs or economic growth) as a way to maintain the status quo, and I don't like the lack of energy and fuel choices that our historical focus on the lowest hanging fruit has constrained us to.

As fellow writer Sami put it:

"The fact is, our entire system was built on fossil fuels. And those fuels have brought us considerable benefits. That's why the system is set up to structurally favor fossil fuels and discourage alternatives.

But new solutions are emerging. And the costs of maintaining the status quo are becoming ever more apparent. A transition to a low carbon economy is not only possible, but increasingly plausible."

I don't think this Fossil Fuel Free Challenge will have any takers, simply because it's such a ridiculous either/or position, with no wiggle room for people who might take them up on a challenge of using as little fossil fuels as possible, but if you'd like to get creative and have a little fun with this, they're looking for posts tagged with #FossilFuelFree on social media. The campaign runs from Monday, September 28th through Friday, October 2nd.

Oil & gas lobbying group launches ridiculous Fossil Fuel Free Challenge
You're either with us or against us, according to the Western Energy Alliance's social media campaign.

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