I like the plan, let’s get going

I think it would be a fine idea to shut down amoral, exploitive companies, like the oil and gas industry, and while we’re at it, the tobacco companies, and we should do it soon before they metastasize any more. The question is…how? Tumbrels and guillotines are so passé, and they aren’t at all effective against abstract legal entities. We also can’t just, say, blow up their pipelines and processing plants, because that doesn’t provide for a gentle, gradual transition that won’t kill people — and as someone looking at an onrushing Minnesota winter, I can assure you that just shutting off the gas will kill lots of us. Another problem is that these companies are using their ill-gotten profits to diversify, buying up other companies that will keep them fat and happy even if we do demolish the petroleum industry, so it’ll be hard to satisfy the lust for vengeance.

OK, tumbrels and guillotines it is, then!

No, wait, here’s an article that makes some productive suggestions about shutting down the petro fuel industry. Shucks, I guess we could try this first.

Pro-abolition groups say this process would entail putting elected officials – not corporate executives – in charge of fossil fuel assets. The US government would slowly stop drilling or buying leases as it prioritizes lowering emissions and investing in clean energy. Nationalized ownership would allow the US to leave oil and gas reserves in the ground while simultaneously shrinking the fossil fuel company’s grip on the nation.

Such public intervention would also prevent oil companies from simply shutting down operations, laying off their workers and leaving behind devastated towns and counties, as coal companies have done, Skandier said. “We need to consider that a lot of these communities are highly dependent on fossil fuel revenues, so we need to plan how we’re going to build community wealth and diversify their economies to make sure they’re not only economically stable but resilient to climate impacts in the future.”

The US could take the land or reserves currently owned by the fossil fuel industry via eminent domain, the legal right governments have to seize land or infrastructure for the public interest. The federal government has done this before to create national parks and even to convert a private energy company in Tennessee into the now publicly owned Tennessee Valley Authority during the Great Depression.

All in favor, say “AYE”.

The article admits that it won’t be easy and there will be pitfalls.

Any movement to break up big oil, however, will inevitably face enormous headwinds. The industry benefits from being deeply ingrained within American society, and it’s expected that oil and gas interests would push back hard in courts. Nationalizing profitable industries would also take an unprecedented amount of political will, which has yet to materialize.

Law expert Sean Hecht warns that breaking up energy companies may lead to unintended ripple effects. History suggests that simply erasing a company’s existence may make it easier for them to ignore their financial responsibilities when they’ve caused harm.

Hecht, the co-executive director of UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, saw this firsthand in Los Angeles, where he lives. When the Department of Justice shut down Exide Technologies in 2015 for illegally poisoning neighborhoods with lead for decades, the company filed for bankruptcy and left taxpayers to foot the cleanup bill.

This is going to hurt, and there are a lot of lawyers who will savagely fight back. Of course there will be unexpected and deleterious side effects — but will they be worse than rising seas, out-of-control wildfires, gooey black muck in our water supplies, or vast tracts of land rendered uninhabitable by lethal summer temperatures? I think not.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Sounds like a precursor of a plan, blow all petrochemical sources now!
    Also, Google “petrochemical common drug precursors” in Google Scholar.
    Tell the hundreds of millions dead how wonderful their sacrifice was for humanity.
    But, at least plastics got done away with.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    Sounds like a great idea! Let’s get the mother-may-I from the literate, capitalist, rednecks who make up the majority of voters voters in this shithole country.

    Oh, they said “no.” Oh well, democracy has spoken, enjoy climate Armageddon folks!

  3. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Hey. At least The Guardian is actually promoting socialist alternatives.

  4. garnetstar says

    While it would indeed be amazingly difficult, and have some negative consequences, the positive ones would be beyond belief.

    Because, under public control, not only could all the above-mentioned things happen, they could start a real program into using carbon dioxide as a starting material for the chemical industry. Now they just yank the carbon out of the ground, but the ways to use carbon dioxide instead (to make soaps, detergents, ink, fuels, all the materials of modern life) are well known, and just need tweaking to be profitable. The oil companies never would spend the $$ to do that, but publically-controlled ones would.

    Remember when solar was “too expensive” and when federal investment helped it get going? We could run the entire materials industry on carbon dioxide, and the cost of just sucking it out of the air is a lot less than drilling or fracking or whatever they do now. This would not only not put more carbon into the atmosphere, it would actually lessen the amount of it currently present.

    So, get out there and do it, I say.

  5. garnetstar says

    “Fixing” carbon dioxide (that’s what we in the biz call making the carbon into useful materials) works well, but is energetically expensive, and at the time they figured out the process (the 1950’s), there were no low-cost solutions.

    Use solar to supply energy, the end.

  6. mmason0071 says

    That was funny. We are a lot closer to letting the corporations destroy the government than the other way around. Just look at PZ’s other post today about AT&T bankrolling OAN.

  7. consciousness razor says

    We would have to nationalize Congress first. It can’t be privately owned and operated anymore. Then, we can move on to nationalizing many other things.

    State governments would of course just be a public thing, not a national one … still the same basic principle though. While we’re at it, California and Texas should both be split into a few smaller pieces. Also, add Puerto Rico. Add maybe 300-500 more seats in the House. But that’s just the beginning. Lots to do.

  8. consciousness razor says

    Nah. Don’t forget that they will each be smaller. divide et impera

  9. anxionnat says

    As far as the oil/gas companies getting off the hook and leaving their messes for taxpayers to pay for cleanup: they and their ilk already do that. Every time there’s an oil spill (as in Huntington Beach, Calif right now), take a guess who pays for all or most of the cleanup. Mountaintop removal, committed by the coal companies, ditto. Abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Rez in the southwest. That’s just the top three that spring to mind. Not only that, the other costs which these companies have externalized–like killing and disabling people–are never, ever paid by the companies who are responsible. Try to hold them accountable and they sue you (or your lawyers) and you go to jail or otherwise get the short end of the stick. That’s why these things are called “externalities” in economist-speak–the costs are paid off by somebody/ies external to the company that caused the mess. I think it’s kind of like ripping off a bandaid: sue their asses into bankruptcy, and shut the suckers down, and do it now. The longer we leave them to f&ck around, the worse things get. Bottom line: they caused it, so they get to pay for it. That includes environmental cleanup, medical care for people they hurt, funding the basic research we need to find out how to make the transition to clean energy and–most important–funding a just transition with the profits they’ve raked in. If we don’t do that now, well, the more they get to f&ck around, the worse it will be.

  10. says

    Farcebook doesn’t like tumbrils. When I responded to a post about anti-vax Neo-Nazis urinating on a war memorial by posting a GIF of a guillotine and offering to grease the wheels on the tumbril, I was banned because I was promoting violence. I mean anyone would think I was proposing beheading Mark Zuckerberg. Come to think of it…

  11. call me mark says

    @garydargan I had a similar experience when I posted a picture of Benito Mussolini’s body hanging from its scaffold. Apparently pictures of dead fascists go against FB’s “community values”.

  12. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @14/15: The fashies know that too. They’ll bait you into saying or posting something that they know violates community standards and then report you or let the bots do it, all the while shrieking about freedom of speech if it happens to them.