Without a doubt, Pope Francis is a dynamic and charismatic leader who is going to make a significant mark on the world’s stage, much like his predecessor Pope John Paul II. I see this Pontiff making a significant mark on history.
Currently, the world badly needs even one public figure who could help revive hope and give people confidence in the future. I’m disappointed, however, when I keep hearing this Pontiff deplore those who are successful and talk about how downtrodden the earth is. He is clearly sending the wrong message for our time. (We already have a prominent leader who has beaten American hope and confidence down to the lowest levels since the Carter Administration)
But when the Pope clearly sided with the environmentalist movement recently, I feel his position needs to be rebutted from someone inside the oil and gas industry, particularly related to his statements about fossil fuels.
It was clear when Francis became Pope that he was going to admirably aid the plight of the poor. His history as an Argentinean bishop speaking on behalf of the less privileged had long been established. I have been surprised, however, as Pontiff, the sheer extreme to which he is advancing that message. This Encyclical, “Laudato Si”, exemplifies just how willing he is to favor contemporary social issues over theology, doctrine and spiritual living.
There have already been many reviews of the 172 page document which includes statements such as:
– The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production.
– Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.
– The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.
– Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water.
– Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery.
– The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.
– There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.
– We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions. But the international community has still not reached adequate agreements about the responsibility for paying the costs of this energy transition.
Even within the last statement about hydrocarbons, there is double-speak. He claims we must replace fossil fuels “without delay”, yet is willing to accept the lesser of two evils (live without fossil fuels being the worse evil) and continue status quo. Pardon me?
Here are some of the problems with what Francis put forth. First, this was likely compiled by Vatican staff who were given the directive to advocate certain viewpoints, and did the best they could piecing together random information about topics which they knew basically nothing. Let’s face it: Rome is a LONG way from West Texas or North Dakota.
Second, the Pontiff didn’t acknowledge one fundamental moral reality about fossil fuels: Without them, the world’s poor would suffer more, not less. Think about all of the societal values that come from fossil fuels that currently benefit the underprivileged. Vaccinations and medications, access to better food supplies, water being pumped or transported into areas that would not otherwise have it, relief from temperature extremes, even in remote areas.
Who would suffer most if we implemented “without delay” this environmental extremist position? Let’s presume a hospital in a remote Sedan village switched to renewable energy “without delay”. Consider all the men, women and children in just that one area who would not receive medical care because there wasn’t enough storage capacity to sustain surgical operations. The poor around the globe would die because the lights were turned out because fossil fuels are evil. That makes no sense, while the rich would still have access to the best of care.
Would we do the poor justice by eliminating fossil fuels? Certainly not.
Meanwhile, in what I perceive as sheer hypocrisy, the Pontiff flies about the world in a Vatican jet, powered 100% by fossil fuels. Francis’ home itself is one of the world’s foremost monuments to accumulated wealth and extravagance. I don’t see any recent news reports about a plea to sell off Vatican treasures and give the money to underprivileged causes.
So let’s demonstrate parity here. Before we start talking about the evil corporations pillaging and exploiting planet earth for the sake of capitalistic greed, why not ground the Vatican jet, open the windows and let the fresh Rome air blow through, put some of the golden treasures on Ebay and tour the world in a horse-drawn carriage.
THEN, let’s talk about taking fossil fuels away from the poor.
I get really tired of these environmentalists, Pope Francis now clearly among them, trashing the very source of the lifestyle the are in no way willing to forego. And to hang this new environmental platform on the backs of the world’s underprivileged, when they would be the most affected, rips my cord.
What we need is to frack more around the world, not less. A Berkeley 2013 report suggests U.S. carbon emissions dropped 12% between 2009-2013, approaching pre-1996 levels. This is because we are producing and using more natural gas, which is the cleanest burning bridge solution available. In the United States, renewable energy (in development for half a century) comprises a scant 3-percent of our nation’s total electricity needs. On top of that, you can’t use renewables to fly or drive (you still have to plug a Tesla in to something that is about 70% powered by coal or natural gas) and you can’t store it.
The Pope should stick to what Pope’s do best – communicating a spiritual message of hope and pointing people to God. Heaven knows, the world needs more of that right now. Let scientists to do what they do, develop future technologies to solve the world’s problems. And allow free-based market capitalism to continue funding massively expensive drilling projects to help insure that next time you jump on an airplane, that you are not relying on a windmill or a solar panel to get you across the ocean.
Opinion by: Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Energy Corporation and author of the recent book, “The Fracking Truth.” He is also the producer of the documentary, “Breaking Free: The Shale Rock Revolution.”