Last July I took Big Oil to task in a blog entitled Marathon Men, arguing that companies like Marathon Oil are hastening the demise of our planet.  Here’s an excerpt:


Marathon makes money by extracting, refining and selling fossil fuel. The greater its sales, the more our climate deteriorates. We all know this the model can’t last. Consider last week’s 110-degree-plus temperatures at my sister Gracie’s home in the Cascades.That’s about 40 degrees hotter than normal. Even if the flat-earthers of the Republican Party don’t get it, the nation as a whole does — we must stop burning fossil fuels at the current rate to protect the environment. 

            — The Quixotic Deacon



We must stop or drastically curtail the burning of fossil fuels, a process that is destroying “this fragile earth, our island home” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 370), and the surest way is to stop extracting them from the earth in the first place. Every climate scientist has been saying this for years. We can’t expect the free market, that mythical beast we worship with all our capitalist hearts, to stop burning coal, oil, and natural gas as long as we create more and more of it. 


You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner in Economics to understand this: The more fossil fuels we extract, the more their prices drop, the more they gain a competitive advantage over alternate energy sources like solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             There is something almost sinister about the world’s oil and gas companies spending hundreds of billions per year to find more oil and gas. They are setting the stage for worsening climate disasters that ultimately could turn Earth into an inhabitable wasteland.

Big Oil doesn’t get all the blame. Politicians who say one thing but do another abet the fossil fuel industry. If you were paying attention to the news during the middle of November, you might have been surprised to hear that our government, led by a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, auctioned off a vast portion of the Gulf of Mexico for more oil and gas leases, giving  fossil fuel companies free rein to keep on exploring.


This is dismaying for several reasons..


  • The timing: The auction took place just after the COP26 Summit in Glasgow. We had just pledged, as a country, to do our part to solve the climate crisis. A lawyer for the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity commented, “It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous, hypocritical action in the aftermath of the climate summit.”
  • The size of the leases: The auction was the largest sale ever of oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf. The area opened up for drilling is twice the size of the state of Florida. Almost 600 million tons  of planet-warming gases will be emitted over the next four decades as drilling proceeds under the new leases, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. That is more than the annual emissions from the United Kingdom.
  • What it says about the Biden administration: Despite stances taken during the presidential campaign, there is little to prove that the Biden administration is any different from the previous one in terms of climate policy. Rhetoric aside, the US government under Biden has issued 339 permits for drilling on federal land per month compared to 316 per month under Trump (Source: US Bureau of Land Management).


The Biden administration maintains that a ruling by a federal judge in Louisiana forced it to go ahead with the new auction. However, legal experts maintain that the judgment does not prevent the administration from stopping, delaying, or scaling back a lease sale. They’d probably be sued by oil and gas companies for doing so, but so what? Go to court and make a case against more drilling. In my view, it’s a risk well worth taking.


If you are interested in reading the reactions of environmental activists to the auction, read the Sierra Club’s news release on the subject.


Here in Louisiana, one hears the other side’s arguments for more drilling. Keep in mind that the other side ignores the fact that new leases will increase global warming. They simply don’t deal with that pesky little problem. Instead they say that Gulf drilling is better for the environment than drilling in other places. They say it will sustain and/or create jobs in south Louisiana. They point to the fact that a portion of taxes generated by oil and gas are earmarked for coastal restoration. And they point to the  judge’s decision that the auction had to be held.


Of course, if climate change is a hoax as claimed by our former president, then arguments in favor of the auction would be persuasive. But the entire world knows the earth is warming catastrophically and that we must stop extracting oil and gas NOW. Any arguments for more drilling anywhere are specious.


Yet the Biden administration caved at the first big confrontation with the Drill, Baby, Drill crowd. The repercussions will be borne by my descendants and yours. So much for electing an environmentally sensitive president. So much for taking climate change seriously as a life or death issue. A big win for the oil and gas behemoths and their shareholders. Hurrah for capitalism.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


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About Buck Close

Deacon Buck Close serves on the staff of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, RI. He was born in South Carolina, graduated from Tulane University in 1972 with a BA in Economics and Latin American Studies.

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