The Exxon Tiger Rampant

The Exxon Tiger Rampant, Bad Crow Review, Weldon Berger

Links are at the end, doing linky stuff.


“confidence is high in the oil and gas world”


And why not? Record profits, massive new drilling projects in delicate environs, a presidential pronouncement validating decades more of fossil fuel burning and did we mention fabulous profits? Why yes: yes we did. For practical purposes, fossil fuel companies have their foot on the necks of humanity. We can’t breathe.

Reminds me of Dick Cheney’s Dick Cheney, David Addington, talking about the limits of executive authority:

“We’re going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop.” 1

One of the New York Times’s environmental reporters, Lisa Friedman, sent out a newsletter yesterday addressing the factors behind what she described as that newfound confidence. 2 

The boldface newsletter subject line?

Big Oil Gets Its Mojo Back.”

“Mojo” carries a flavor of the supernatural, but there’s no magic involved with resurgent oil and gas company triumphalism, which arises now from money, power, and the wholesale unwillingness or incapacity of governments, some of which are owned by resource extraction companies, to go cold, or at least lukewarm, turkey on the fossil juice.

No mojo, jojo.

Now, after raking in record profits, several oil giants seem to be backtracking on promises they had made to reduce their contributions to global warming.

Exxon, for example, has dropped a project to produce environmentally friendly fuels from algae, one of the company’s most publicized climate efforts. Shell pumped the brakes on its renewable energy spending, saying its investments in wind, solar and biofuels will stay flat after hitting a high in 2022.

And BP, which announced three years ago that it would transform, stop looking for oil and gas in new areas and slash fossil fuel production, has watered down its ambitions. Last month, the company revised its plan to cut production by 40 percent by 2030, setting a new target of 25 percent. The company’s share price surged on the news.

It wasn’t that long ago we had an oilman running the state department (into the ground), 3 

and not long before that that we had a fracking evangelist running the state department 4 

for a president who came into office declaring his the environmental presidency and left it bragging about making the U.S. the number one oil producer in the world after nearly doubling U.S. production. 5

And of course the current president made combatting climate change by reducing fossil fuel production a big part of his campaign, declaring that global warming is the most urgent problem the world faces. 6

But we’re not going to meet any of the goals Biden laid out, and one could not get a better understanding of why that is, and who’s in charge, than from what John Kerry told Friedman.

I also sat down with John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy for climate change. Kerry said he saw some encouraging signals from companies, including the interest in carbon capture and hydrogen, but he said the industry as a whole was not making a serious enough effort to cut emissions and move away from fossil fuel development.

“There is a need to make this transition as rapidly as we can,” Kerry said. “I think there’s a big question mark about what they’re really prepared to do.”

Yr. editor does not think there’s a big question mark about what oil and gas companies are prepared to do in the fight against global warming. They’re in charge, they’re on the wrong side of it, and they’re winning.


“If everything is systemic, how can any of us be held to blame?”


The last time we met, yr. editor was talking about a Matthew Desmond New York Times essay arguing that poverty was a moral issue not on the part of people who experience it, which is to say not the product of character flaws, but on the people who enable it in ways large and small. 7

In Desmond’s estimation that includes policy makers, but also the NIMBY crowd—“Perhaps we are not so polarized after all,” he writes. “Maybe above a certain income level, we are all segregationists”—who don’t want poor people living in their vicinity, rich people who don’t want to pay their owed taxes, and the people who buy goods and services provided by people living in poverty, meaning everybody not earning a living wage.

The essay was an encapsulation of Desmond’s new book, Poverty, By America, which is reviewed by Alec MacGinnis in The Times.8

What made his previous book, “Evicted,” such a powerful depiction of low-income housing in American cities was, in great part, his decision to show how tenants in Milwaukee were struggling not only as a result of larger forces but as a result of specific acts of exploitation by those a rung or two up the economic ladder — the landlords, trailer park owners and payday lenders who were profiting from others’ desperation. In Desmond’s Milwaukee, there were good guys and bad guys and gradations in between, which lent “Evicted,” originally an academic dissertation, a compelling novelistic drive.

The insistence on personal agency is even more explicit in Desmond’s new book. “Poverty, by America” is a compact jeremiad on the persistence of extreme want in a nation of extraordinary wealth, a distillation into argument form of the message embedded within the narrative of “Evicted.” And the central claim of that argument is that the endurance of poverty in the United States is the product not only of larger shifts such as deindustrialization and family dissolution, but of choices and actions by more fortunate Americans. Poverty persists partly because many of us have, with varying degrees of self-awareness, decided that we benefit from its perpetuation. “It’s a useful exercise, evaluating the merits of different explanations for poverty, like those having to do with immigration or the family,” Desmond writes. “But I’ve found that doing so always leads me back to the taproot, the central feature from which all other rootlets spring, which in our case is the simple truth that poverty is an injury, a taking. Tens of millions of Americans do not end up poor by a mistake of history or personal conduct. Poverty persists because some wish and will it to.”

With 150 million people living under or near the wholly inadequate financial definition of poverty in this country, one has to consider that people who find themselves in that class are forced to buy those goods and services made affordable by corporate and personal greed, and personal immiseration. People who can’t afford to buy something with a union label attached outnumber people who can, and vastly outnumber people who actually care about doing so.

The review ends with Desmond quoting Orwell:

“We could do with a little less talk of ‘capitalist’ and ‘proletarian’ and a little more about the robbers and robbed.”

A little less is fine in these precincts, but one can’t ignore the roots of, for instance, successful public housing traditions in places like Austria, where post-WW I socialists built large, mixed-income housing projects which still exist today, and which are supported by subsidies for families with incomes up to $92,000. 9

The Austrian exemplar is described in an essay by Dan Darrah in Jacobin. Vienna’s housing success story is built on government intervention—rent controls, housing subsidies, and the massive post-war development projects—and has resulted, says Darrah, in 60% of the city’s residents living in government supported, non-market housing.

Rent control is now a rarity in the U.S., thanks to laws benefiting the private owners of rent-controlled properties, but for a time it wasn’t. Now, 25 states have outlawed rent control altogether, and those developer-propelled loopholes substantially undermine the rent-controlled housing supply, as detailed in a review of rent-control studies by Clark Merrefield in The Journalist’s Resource. 10

At present, “[p]eople working minimum wage jobs full-time cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country, the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report finds. In 93% of U.S. counties, the same workers can’t afford a modest one-bedroom.” 11

(Ironically, the Housing Coalition is subsidized in part by JP Morgan Chase, a top lender to property developers who contribute to the housing problems in the U.S.) 12

All of which is to say that while Desmond is on the money with his observations about NIMBY-ism, the lack of publicly owned mixed-income housing is purely a matter of policy driven by private developers and their supporters at every level of government. That’s capitalism (and corruption), and housing accessibility in places like Vienna is driven by socialism.

Ah well.


Music makes the world go round


PJ Harvey’s album is based on the demolition of a public housing project. She’s great, always has been. The Sneaker Pimps have undergone some large changes since the album featured here—they dumped their vocalist, who anchored the album—but one thing which hasn’t changed is a low-key great drummer. The Cardigans are a wonderful Swedish band, not very active now, fronted by Nina Persson, whose very sweet vocals often contrast with the group’s sometimes cynical or bitter lyrics.

They’re all good, is what I’m saying.

The Cardigans, “Life;” 13

Sneaker Pimps, “Becoming X;” 14

PJ Harvey, “The Hope Six Demolition Project.” 15


And that, Comrades, is all there is.


Take care, be well.

1The ACLU’s contemporaneous report on Cheney’s Cheney

2 NYT’s Friedman on fossil fuel rampant

3 The New Yorker on ExxonMobil’s tenure at the state department

4 Mother Jones on Clinton’s fracking sales effort

5 Associated Press on Obama’s own oil triumphalism

6 CNBC on Biden’s global warming campaign stance

7 Bad Crow Review on the poverty thing

8 Poverty, By America reviewed

9 We Need Public Housing, Not Affordable Housing

10 The Journalist’s Resource on rent control

11 CNBC on the Housing Coalition report

12 National Low Income Housing Coalition website

13 The Cardigans live, Step On Me

14 Sneaker Pimps, 6 Underground

15 The great PJ Harvey, The Community of Hope