There are no parallels between the tobacco industry and the oil industry

One sells a product that causes many documented, scientifically provable harms but provides pleasure to its users. The other sells a product that causes harm that exists only in the minds of climate activists, but is otherwise essential for modern life, including those of activists.

Nobody buys gas for their car because they are ‘addicted’ to it. Unlike cigarettes, if you give up gasoline and quit cold turkey you will still need to find another source of energy to do the same job. Cigarettes you can quit, it won’t kill you. A substance that serves an essential function of modern life is not an addiction.

The moral template of addiction, abstinence and sin does not apply to fossil fuels.

Climate activists have been thrashing about for decades, fitting their cause into pre-existing societal moral conundrums. Successful moral conundrums seize the imagination of a public, elicit outrage and legislation and create a change in mores. Latching on to one could catapult the cause because there are pre-existing social mechanisms and a thirst for moral action to produce trajectories.

Which is why you see the activists in turn talking about pollution, polar bears, grandchildren, slavery and the third world. Unfortunately, their nonsense doesn’t fit anything. How can one tell? Ask the question: in all the years and years of climate campaigning, has there ever, been a bonafide popular uprising or political movement solely in the name of the climate cause? Everyone’s heard their crap a million times, and no one buys it.




  1. manicbeancounter

    The lack of parallel between CO2 and tobacco has a dimension for policy externalities.
    If an oil company quits producing oil it will make no difference to global oil supplies. Most of the global oil reserves are not owned by the oil companies, they hold production licences. Even if they did, the marginal difference of one production source of oil is near zero on a global scale. Quitting has huge harms for the oil company and no positive impacts on the issue.
    The harmful effects of smoking are primarily on the smoker. Quitting will primarily have positive benefits to the smoker both in health and financially.

    The externalities issue also helps to understand policy to reduce CO2 emissions. The alleged harms are all in the future and are global. The policy is here and now, and applied at country level. Even if a large country like USA cuts its emissions, there will be no benefits to the country in the career of the politicians who impose the policy. But there is huge political kudos for enacting the policies, along with a large number of people to benefit from the policies, from bureaucrats and investors in renewables. Most of all it gives people the illusion that they are part of “saving the world”. These positives can be achieved in the short term without driving through the destructive policies of significantly reducing fossil fuel use. If they did, they would quickly observe that other countries would not be following the lead.

  2. Willard

    > Just the thoughtless, mentally retarded BS I can expect an average climate commenter on the consensus side to come up with.

    Thank you for the kind words, Shub.

    You may need to admit, however, that the “oil as addiction” trope has been used by climate contrarians too. In the case of Dubya’s speech, it was to sell security. Fancy that.

    That it was a State of the Union address, after all:


    How you reduced the comparison of two industries to the properties of their respective products was a thing of beauty, BTW.

    Since you’re playing dumb, note that there are more than parallels between the two industries: the FUD machines are eerily similar. Sometimes, the actors are the same.

  3. Willard

    > That it was a State of the Union address, after all:

    Make that “That it was only a State of the Union address, after all, can explain why you could forget it.”

  4. Shub Niggurath

    Some tropes are universally used and no one questions their validity. Some fears are almost existential and a number of these underlie the global warming scare, and no one questions them either. “We have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil”, “we will encourage all forms of energy”, “addiction to oil” are some examples.

    Tropes can be used to sell the same policy to opposing political groups, and this should be no mystery. For example, Trump can be easily persuaded to join the global warming bandwagon if global warming legislative measures can be dressed and presented to him as hurting China’s manufacturing.

  5. willard (@nevaudit)

    > Some tropes are universally used and no one questions their validity.

    This looks a lot like what you’re trying to do right now, Shub – your argument rests on questioning the validity of such trope. As if showing that the “oil addiction” trope should be taken with a grain of salt shows that there’s no relationship between the FUD machines that promote both the oil and the tobacco industries.

    You should know by now that the parallel is between the defense mechanisms of both industries, not with the properties of their commercial products. I mean, come on – it’s been how many years now since the connections between the two PR engines have been traced? While we could review the Tobacco documents, this should be enough for now:

    Shooting fishes in a barrel is no sport. Squids are more entertaining, if you catch my drift.

  6. Shub Niggurath

    Willard, Naomi Oreskes is a very poor scholar. I have read her book. Please don’t build your worldview on the basis of what you read in her book.

  7. Willard


    “But Naomi” doesn’t cut it – the parallels between the two industries are cut and dry.

    Your trick of reducing it to one single property of their respective products was interesting, but it’s time to give it a rest.

    Your fight for FREEEEDOOOM deserves better than that.

  8. Willard

    Which part of

    Since you’re playing dumb, note that there are more than parallels between the two industries: the FUD machines are eerily similar.

    you do not get, Shub?

    Industries are more than the properties of their respective products.

    Don’t they teach any ontology courses in pharmacology?