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Never Stop Exploiting?
Revisiting the so-called "Outdoor Industry vs Oil and Gas Industry" Debacle
The cause of the disconnection is how most people think of themselves in these outdoor spaces, what they’re doing, what they believe being in these places does for them, and how much better these places may be than the spaces they occupy on a daily basis. The outdoor industrial complex has created a collective illusion about what happens when your car door is shut and locked and you start walking that hiking trail with your adventure costume on. Suddenly, you’re on a human-powered “adventure”, not using petroleum - you’re finally with Nature.
Wes Flynn, author of Fleeting West often writes about the changes to the Mountain West region of the United States along with the varying issues the region faces due to the romantization and overexploitation of its outdoors. He seldom touches on energy directly but seem to have a decent understanding of it.
His latest, “Hiking is a Petroleum Sport,” is a sizzling masterpiece.
WF argues that it’s not only the roads one drives on or the vehicle one drives that’s derived from petroleum (and natural gas) but also the work to build the trailheads, ski areas, etc, and all the equipment one uses are sourced from petroleum.
WF touches on a interesting theme for sure but perhaps a few years too late to the game. Interestingly enough, this precise topic was a temporary Current Thing just a few years ago but seems to have been memory holed.
“The recreational activities they encourage are all ones that require hydrocarbons to make the products, to provide the means to get to whatever activity folks want to perform. It’s just so intertwined with everything that we do.”
-Innovex Downhole Solutions CEO Adam Anderson
A few years ago Houston-based Innovex Downhole Solutions reached out to outdoor clothing and equipment company The North Face for a custom order. Innovex wanted to gift their employees each a North Face jacket embroidered with the company logo. North Face (supposedly)1 denied the order citing reason was essentially: “you’re a dirty Gaia-hating oil company.” In response, Innovex’s CEO Adam Anderson wrote a four-page letter to Steve Rendle, the CEO of VF Corporation, North Face’s parent company who were recently wooed by Colorado’s politicians and bureaucrats via subsidies provided by that state’s taxpayers.
He posted this four-word letter on the the Facebook/Twitter for Super Serious Professional People™ : Linked In. Where it was seen by the who’s who in each respective industry.
The four-page letter was filled with, sorry to quote from an unfortunate source “inconvenient truths,” about the contributions of oil and gas industry to human flourishing. For example the access to cheap and abundant, energy-dense forms of energy increased the lifespan of the human population. Among other things the fact that the (at the time) new Pfizer-branded COVID-19 vaccines (which VF forced their employees to get or face termination) required a storage temps far below the conventional vaccines and such could only be provided by cheap an abundant energy-dense sources such as those provided by oil and gas.
Anderson brought up several other brain-stopping bugaboos to such as the general issue of energy poverty (covered immensely well bytoo) which Green Elites both contribute to via their ideology in the US and all over the world. Anderson even covers the notorious energy downfall of Germany well before2 the current events post Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Anderson too does acknowledge the role of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and the general human impact on the planet’s climate but states he does not agree with the typical “climate catastrophist” position of only focusing on the negative effects of the energy sources and not on the benefits - a pointalso strives to communicate in his work. (Epstein also suggests that those who want to take a position in defense of fossil fuels not “argue to zero”/“concede the moral goal”3 to their opposition)
He closes his letter with another inconvenient truth about how the fraccing revolution in the US has led an abundance of natural gas leading in part to the retirement of coal-burning power plants for electricity generation. While natural gas is still a fossil fuel that emits CO2, its emissions are far cleaner than that of most coal generation.
Later, Chris Wright, the CEO of another energy company, Liberty Oilfield Services jumped into the debacle “targeting”4 North Face’s “alleged hypocrisy” as the British Corporate Press outlet The Independent claims.
Liberty is based just down the road from VF Corporation in Denver. Wright’s effort went a bit further than a simple four page letter as he instead rented several billboards in the area where they would likely face many of Denver’s recently gentrified neighborhoods featuring Successor Ideology Electeds, in other words, home to the customer base of people who likely have no idea where things come from or how they work and with little to any level of critical thinking jump onto whatever cause REI or Protect Our Winters instructs them to do.
While the intent from both oil and gas leaders was to spur a conversation (their words more or less) these efforts seem to have done just the opposite.
Well for one, facts seem to fly straight over the heads of the Green Elite and many (sadly) in the outdoor industry, Fleeting West devotes a great deal of digital ink making sense of these delusions. Much how the Green Elite have most of the Corporate Press to cover for them so too does the Outdoor Industry.
Saifedean Ammous, explains it well in his book The Fiat Standard too. (apologies for the long quote)
“Any person with a familiarity with the engineering realities of modern life will realize that the policies and demands of fiat people when it comes to energy are as reasonable as the child who wants to go to Disneyland but throws tantrums refusing to get into the car taking him to Disneyland because he doesn’t want to get into the car; he just wants to get into Disneyland. It is difficult to communicate to a child in a tantrum that the car is his only realistic option for getting to Disneyland and that the only possible alternative is walking for days and not some magical teleportation device. This is exactly the plight of trying to explain to fiat people that hydrocarbons are the only reason most of our modern life is possible, that working alternatives cannot be conjured by fiat, and that the only realistic alternative is grinding poverty and a precarious existence, not some absurd Star Trek world where all that we want materializes with the flick of a switch without any combustion taking place. Just like the child who wants to be teleported to Disneyland should present their teleportation device before throwing a tantrum, it is time “it is time for fiat fuel enthusiasts to first show the rest of us how they can survive on fiat fuels before demanding we give up the hydrocarbons that are essential for our survival.”
- from The Fiat Standard by Saifedean Ammous
Second, the Corporate Press and related publications (nobody tops Gizmodo for their toilet paper take) write with a bias primarily towards the energy illiterate and often anti-human progress positions. Anybody with the Fossil Fuel industry may as well be a tobacco salesman or an arms dealer.
Take the example of Outside (er, Outhouse) Magazine- a previously great publication known for its long form adventure writing but has recently turned into something more akin to Cosmo for the outdoors. Outside’s primary source of funding these days , as is the story from most magazines, is from advertising, not subscriptions. The advertising is often by companies who require their customers to buy gear over and over again even if it’s not reached the end of its usable life. (Ski Magazine, which spoiler alert, we also criticize later, has a similar business model) Naturally expensive glitzy outdoors gear is a major cash cow (look at REI) as both fashion statements in concrete jungles and for bona-fide use in outdoor activities.
The author of the Outside piece writes, in the Outside Business Journal (so we know it’s super serious!) a piece called “A Closer Look at the PR Feud Between Liberty Oilfield and the North Face.”
Again, the verb, “attacked” is used which paints North Face as a victim when in all reality they likely keep Outside afloat via advertisements. Outside, to their credit actually interviewed Wright noting that he was also an enthusiast of the outdoors. (Fun fact: Lots of oil and gas people actually are!)
It’s also here where find out that North Face actually made several thousand jackets for his company which is what really got him upset when he heard of North Face’s apparent decision to turn down an order from Innovex.
They even post his “Thank You, North Face” video and a long quote where he gets to the meat and potatoes of his point.
“…My single biggest concern is that this is a misunderstanding of energy, which is what makes the world go round. That’s always been the case, and I don’t fault people so much for it. But we have a dangerous combination today of people who are ignorant about energy but also passionate about oil and gas being evil.”
-Wright , partial quote from Outside article.
Wright’s point, seems to have gone right over the head of author of the Outside piece though. Perhapscan type it a bit slower for him? Or maybe it didn’t and the author made up his mind to ignore any sliver of objectivity - after all it wasn’t Wright cutting the advertisement checks.
The author, Eric Smith goes as far as saying:
“Whether Wright’s assertions about the oil and gas industry hold up under close inspection is grounds for serious debate, of course. Several passionate arguments have been made challenging Liberty’s provocative marketing campaign, including one from our sister publication, Ski magazine, that called Wright’s criticism of The North Face an “asinine talking point” intended as little more than a PR stunt.”
This is rich coming from an industry whose advertising is primarily composed of “for the environment” virtue signalling ads. But hey, we see they don’t quite get the whole hypocrisy thing.
The debate on what he does not say. But here the author seems to be hyper-focused on the billboards from Wright, not the point he was trying to make. This was in spite of the fact the actually interviewed the guy5.
The rest of the piece is mostly a doozy and spends way too much time trying to dance around the original issue.
The great irony of the outdoor gear industry is that their entire ethos is centered on imagery of wild places, getting away from your consumer lifestyle, being kinder to the planet, and to get out of your car and house — yet every single dimension of the sport they’re advertising, every single piece of their products, and the process of getting people from their houses to the trail, is either 100% made with a petroleum product or is 100% dependent on one to be manufactured and delivered.
The previously mentioned Ski Magazine piece however makes it looks relatively sane. In “The Oil Industry Attacked The North Face, But Its Argument is All Wrong” (notice again the typical trick of asserting it was the entire oil industry and the use of the verb “attacked”) the author starts with a sub headline full of circular logic and deflection: “Yes, we all use fossil fuels. But we don’t want to. Here’s what really matters.”
The author then insists that pointing out current uses of oil and gas by people who either criticize the fossil fuel industry and/or advocate for alternatives to fossil fuels are hypocrites is apparently a “classic oil and gas defense meant to discredit the messenger.” This coming from someone who already in just the sub-headline of their piece pulled a masterful “bait and switch,” by telling his readers it’s not the use of the fossil fuels that matter.
So what does matter to this author? What exactly is his get-out-of-jail-free card? For starters he acknowledges the use of fossil fuels but believes that’s the problem but demands that unless someone lives a life completely free of fossil fuels, then they can not complain. That’s not the point either of the folks with the oil and gas companies were trying to make but asoften says, it's difficult to argue with a demoralized person. He then tries to explain the whole issue again (“It’s honestly dumb to even explain this, but here we are."6) which was arguably completely not necessary but like the Outhouse piece, apparently these Elects just like to hear themselves type on their oil-based keyboards? He also asserts the video put out by Wright was "poorly made" and demands that The North Face be thankful.
Now if the author is going to argue this video isn’t as sick as a typical Warren Miller ski flick, we’d agree because it’s not. But then again it’s a simple three minute video and Wright likely, to be blunt, had productive shit to do - like run his company. The author of this piece, with all do respect, appears to have zero experience actually building real things.
That’s precisely the main difference between most in the oil and gas industry - or more broadly - industries where people actually have to do work moving and creating things versus the hobbyist corporate journalism industry and other industries that take place in bubbles of delusion.
The author throughout the rest of the piece engages in exaggerating, catastrophism and pure Cluster B-style projection. He asserts the event was cast as “owning-the-libs success story, and many commenters shouted a collective “hell yeah!” because, you know, who doesn’t love seeing the puffed chests of oil and gas trillionaires who kill the planet and ruin the air you breathe, which, by the way, kills 8.7 million people a year and costs the public $820 billion in healthcare?” He then asserts the oil and gas industry is dying, and that they’re the ones who have the most to lose, hence the desire of continuing to deceive the public. Also living rent-free in his head it seems is the idea that BP came up with the concept of a carbon footprint (poisoning the well) to blame the issue in individuals. As if the demand from individuals somehow is disconnected from the demand to create those products from those companies. Also quoted is someone who insists that “clean energy and electric vehicles” would solve the problem.
In the typical woke/progressive fashion, he closes with an empty statement that simultaneously calls for action yet doesn’t specify exactly what said action is.
“Whether you’re a jacket manufacturer or a skier who cares about climate change and protecting our winters, it’s not enough to show how green you are. What actually matters is using your voice, your vote, and your wallet to disrupt and demand the systemic change necessary to actually do something about it.”
Not only did the entire point of thee evil Oil and Gas video seem to go over his head but he managed to fail immensely at trying to hijack the narrative to make it about his delusions.
Saifedean Ammous, again to quote.
“No evil conspiracy of oil companies and oil-producing nations is forcing fiat fuel enthusiasts to consume oil. They consume it because their actions are grounded in the real world, unlike their ideas. The intellectual brain, being largely used for insignificant entertainment purposes for most people, can contemplate insane and meaningless ideas like a modern world free of hydrocarbons, but the acting human looking to survive and thrive cannot. Even as they virtue-signal about wanting to get rid of hydrocarbons, they do so from the safety of a house built with hydrocarbons, lit with hydrocarbons, powered by hydrocarbons, using electronic devices impossible to make without hydrocarbons.”
- from The Fiat Standard by Saifedean Ammous
Snopes rated this as mixture due to not having received any responses from North Face indicating the reason for declining the sale was due to Innovex’s business.
“Arguing to 0 is the practice of conceding the moral goal of one’s opponent but then challenging as impractical their particular policies to achieve that goal. This perfectly describes the approach of most traditional supporters of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel supporters generally concede the goal of eliminating CO2 emissions—whether under the name “stopping climate change,” “net zero,” or “carbon neutral”—in two ways: explicit and implicit.
Sometimes, and increasingly, the concession is an explicit endorsement of that goal. For example, international oil giants Shell and BP have both committed themselves to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. More and more fossil fuel–based companies are signing their names to carbon neutral pledges and policy statements. (All of these are misleading and none are possible, for the reasons I gave in chapter 6.) Even when companies don’t explicitly concede the goal of eliminating CO2 emissions, they usually concede it implicitly by not challenging it.
When the world’s number one moral goal calls for the elimination of your industry, to not challenge it is to concede it. In addition to conceding the moral goal of CO2 elimination and therefore the elimination of fossil fuels, fossil fuel supporters frequently concede and therefore reinforce the key elements of the anti-impact framework that supports the moral goal of CO2 elimination. Fossil fuel supporters frequently endorse the disguised goal of eliminating human impact by saying they want to “minimize our environmental impact,” not drawing the distinction between productive and destructive environmental impact—even though impacting our environment in a productive way is the core of what fossil fuels do.”
- “Epstein, Alex. Fossil Future (pp. 405-406). Penguin Publishing Group. Edición de Kindle.
Corporate press boomergoons at Fox News switched the verb to “trolled” clearly not understanding what that word means either
And zilch from the Innovex CEO
Nobody asked you to.