Yesterday, July 30th, the intersection around by Bay and King in downtown Toronto was blockaded by the anti-hydrocarbon group know as Extinction Rebellion. While they are a relatively new group in Canada, they have been prominently displayed in the U.K.’s media by their theatrical antics and protests.
These demonstrations maintain the usual round of fossil-fuel bashing, sign-waving with tongue in cheek slogans and decrying for a “system” change where revolutionary oil and gas discoveries are nothing, but fantasies espoused by only the most fringe elements of society would conjure up such a product.
There are environmental issues like climate change that need addressing, however, plotting and promoting the downfall of a product that has changed society for the better is not the way to go about change. Especially when these very same people are using and consuming vast quantities of products made from hydrocarbons, such as the vinyl signs used to promote their agenda.
Don’t worry though, as far as they are concerned, they do not even acknowledge the hypocrisy of their actions. As noted in this article, there is no hypocrisy for Extinction Rebellion. Despite their vehement stance against the oil and gas industry, they do not feel that personal responsibility matters in terms of their consumption. They feel that individual actions should not be considered hypocritical because the “system” determines those activities and they are looking to overthrow or change the system.
Despite recent claims, there also is not a massive ecological crisis where millions of species are slated for extinction. The IUCN estimates that fewer than 28,000 species are threatened with extinction today. While alarming, it is not to the scale which these groups propose. For context, there are over 1.9 million identified species so far, a portion of the estimated 13-14 million species believed to exist. There have also only been 869 identified extinctions as per the IUCN since the 1500s.
They see the extreme usefulness of these products as they use gasoline consuming vehicles to arrive at their protests. Use plastic sunglasses made from polymers derived from petroleum to cover their eyes. They film their demonstrations with cellphones that were shipped from Asia by boat or flown by air. The ink on their signs even uses petroleum distillates like Naphtha to act as a solvent to hold their pigment.
Hydrocarbons have created a world where groups like Extinction Rebellion can showcase their views en masse through social media. They have helped spur a world where these demonstrators can travel great distances to decry oil companies, even though there is a good chance that those companies’ oil probably allowed them to get outside their headquarters.
Regardless of the alarmism arising from these groups to “keep it in the ground”, they ignore the fact that in Canada, sulphur oxides have decreased dramatically since the 1990s. Carbon Monoxide has also dropped drastically since 1974.
Meanwhile, in sub-Saharan Africa, marginal populations have access to reliable electricity. The total primary energy supply in Africa is overwhelmingly comprised of firewood, coal, and charcoal that makeup over 46% of their supply.
Imagine an Africa where the air quality is not eroded by smoke from these emissions’ intensive energy sources? Numerous indications of increased energy use have shown improved quality of life and lowered many morbidities such as infant mortality.
Whether they like this “system” or not, it has created the conditions that allow them to exercise their right to freedom of speech and to demonize oil and gas. So next time someone tells you that oil and gas are destroying the planet, or that oil and gas are evil, tell them to thank Canadian Natural Resources or Imperial Oil for the ink on their banner.