A Frank Take

Poisonous Climate Ignorance Fueled By Fossil Fuel’s Dirty Lies

From denialism and greenwashing to attacking science and solutions, industry and its groveling allies keep changing propaganda tactics


Those seeking to avert climate catastrophe and more human suffering continually find themselves having to deal with a tidal wave of false information designed to protect the fossil fuel industry. (ecoRI News)

Five or so years ago TV ads spinning a positive message about fossil fuel corporations aired frequently. ExxonMobil commercials, for example, showed millennials in lab coats, waiting tables, and welding, implying the polluting extraction industry is a job creator. Human trafficking and meth labs also create jobs.

Missing from those white- and greenwashed commercials were the myriad health, environmental, and economic impacts of oil spills and methane leaks, acidifying oceans, poisoned drinking water supplies, and displacement and destruction caused by flooding, wildfires, and increasingly unpredictable and powerful storms — all of which are largely the result of drilling, fracking, coal mining, mountaintop removal mining, and the shipping, processing, and burning of fossil fuels.

This TV PR blitz was part of an ongoing, decades-long offensive to counter the science that proves fossil fuels are destroying the ecosystems that allow us to survive and thrive.

Big Oil, in fact, funded some of the world’s most foundational climate science. Documents show that the industry-backed Air Pollution Foundation uncovered the severe harm the burning of fossil fuels would cause … in 1954.

Since then, the fossil fuel industry has spent countless billions on lobbyists and public relations firms to obscure what it has known for seven decades: that burning methane, gasoline, diesel, propane, oil, and coal is extremely destructive.

The industry, years ago, cleverly branded methane “natural gas,” and the greenwashing of its climate-changing products continues. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has spent nearly $30 million over the past two years on fossil fuel advertisements and on “provocative anti-electrification messaging.” Its ads often promote propane, most of which is a byproduct of methane or crude oil refining, as a form of clean and renewable energy.

As a federally sanctioned trade association, PERC is allowed to collect fees on propane sales, so it pushes its polluting product with the same gusto the Sackler family used to deal OxyContin.

PERC’s homepage calls propane “clean” and “an excellent way to reduce emissions.”

Propane emits 12.68 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon and 138.63 pounds of carbon dioxide per 1 million British thermal units (BTUs), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Its carbon footprint is lower than other fossil fuels because it emits less carbon dioxide, but propane doesn’t produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions, according to science. To call propane clean-burning is a lie, because all propane fuel produces emissions when burned.

It’s not a clean energy source, and PERC knows this. It just doesn’t care.

“Twenty-five percent [of people consider] natural gas to be renewable, in this millennial and gen Z bucket,” an unidentified PERC board member said, according to a recent story in The Guardian. “There’s a perception out there — not reality, but that’s perception. We can attach to that for propane.”

That perception was created by decades of deceit.

The fact the planet has a fever isn’t in dispute. Debate was created to hide the truth, to make a few wealthy at the expense of life.

The sensible majority of humankind seeking to avert climate catastrophe and more planetary suffering continually find themselves having to deal with a tidal wave of lies designed to maximize profit over human well-being.

University of Pennsylvania climatologist Michael Mann has noted the profiteers and their lackeys have shifted from outright denial to undermining climate action by using deflection, delay, despair, division, and doomism.

These actions, funded by Big Oil and spread by lobbying groups like PERC, are cynically utilized by bought politicians and paid propagandists to ignore the emergency. For example, the oil industry executive who, ironically, led last year’s COP28 climate talks used doomism to rail against any possible fossil fuel phaseout, claiming such a move wouldn’t allow sustainable development “unless you want to take the world back into caves.”

Last year was the hottest ever recorded. Wildfires, floods, extreme heat, and drought are becoming normal to billions worldwide. Animals and plants are going extinct.

Big Oil continues to reap big financial rewards for destroying the biosphere. (istock)

In the face of increasing world warming and the suffering associated with it, a new tool to protect industry profits has emerged. A recent study of more than 12,000 disinformation videos concluded the industry’s mission is to now undermine confidence in renewable energy, climate science, and scientists. The 56-page study was produced by group of academics and the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

The study details how social media platforms and content producers profit by spreading climate lies. It found that narratives designed to undermine the science behind climate advocacy made up 70% of fossil fuel propaganda on YouTube in 2023, up from 35% six years ago.

Videos from 2018 to 2023 that were identified as containing industry misinformation received more than 325 million views, according to the study.

Climate liars can no longer pretend global warming isn’t happening, so they have decided to vilify the problem solvers and mitigation efforts.

Before that, climate liars relied on political theater, like when a Republican senator from Oklahoma brought a snowball to the Senate floor as a way to prove the climate isn’t changing. (He merely highlighted the difference between weather and climate.) He complained that environmentalists keep talking about global warming even though it keeps getting cold. It was February in D.C.

The liars used to dismiss climate change by talking about past ice ages and warming cycles. They have blamed excess heat in the atmosphere on the sun and volcanoes. One congressman claimed rocks are responsible for rising seas, seriously.

A Republican representative from Alabama and a member of the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee said erosion plays a significant role in sea level rise. (It’s a symptom, not a cause.)

He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year and that contributes to sea level rise. He claimed silt washing into the ocean from the world’s major rivers is contributing to sea level rise.

“Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” he said during a 2018 committee hearing.

Now, instead of making snowballs, noting it’s colder in the winter, or blaming rocks, the climate liars spout claims that the consequences of global warming are either harmless or beneficial, climate science is unreliable, and that the climate solutions being offered won’t work.

They shriek electric vehicles produce three times as much pollution as internal combustion engines, if you take into account the mining of the rare earth materials required to make the vehicles. They must believe fossil fuels are delivered by rainbows and unicorns.

The liars — the same ones who said nicotine isn’t additive and smoking isn’t bad for your health — also claim that a shift to wind power would involve destroying half of the world’s forests, wildlife habitats, and plains, and would be more destructive than even the worst climate change scenarios.

The burning of fossil fuels is causing the climate crisis and their extraction is scarring the natural world from pole to pole and coast to coast. Also, a 2017 study estimated that a shift to wind and solar energy would use an area comparable to the fossil fuel industry’s current footprint.

Instead of concern for future generations and for life on this rapidly warming planet, we get senators who call for an investigation of a National Science Foundation program that educates meteorologists about climate change.

The shameless ban books, bash science, threaten teachers, and demand the phrase “climate change” be erased from government documents. Late last year the Texas education board approved new science textbooks but called on publishers to remove material that some Republicans criticized as incorrect or negative portrayals of fossil fuels. Their groveling knows no bounds.

Instead of investigating the corrosive effects of dark money on climate mitigation efforts and on democracy itself, the liars used the FBI to assess the danger posed by the climate activist group 350.org and its founder, Bill McKibben, an environmentalist, author, journalist, and educator.

A few months since the COP28 ended with a loophole-ridden promise, the world is further than ever from reaching its collective climate change mitigation goals. The cause of this problem is the “human behavioral crisis,” according to new research.

A recent white paper advances the notion that the climate crisis is a symptom of ecological overshoot, which in turn is caused by the deliberate exploitation of human behavior — by commercials, advertising, deceptive marketing, misinformation videos, cable “news” propaganda, and social media trolls and bots.

The paper’s authors believe most climate solutions proposed only tackle symptoms rather than the cause. They wrote this leads to increasing levels of consumption, waste, and population.

They claim that unless demand for resources is reduced, most climate crisis solutions are nothing more than Band-Aids.

Unfortunately, the tools we need to combat this problem are being banned, disparaged, and threatened.

Note I: The Oklahoma senator was James Inhofe, the Alabama representative was Mo Brooks. Neither serves in Congress now, but their manure continues to be spread.

Frank Carini can be reached at [email protected]. His opinions don’t reflect those of ecoRI News.


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  1. This opinion piece is full of inaccuracies regarding the facts about propane’s carbon footprint. There is no quick solution for getting off fossil fuels. Complete and immediate electrification with our filthy electric grid is not the answer. Until the electric grid can transition from coal completely we need transitional fuels, and propane is a very good transitional product.

  2. @Tom G. — Please feel free to quote a source that states different data about the emissions tied to propane and natural gas. Frank clearly quotes his source (federal government) —https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.php. Perhaps you glossed over that in your zeal to discredit the whole piece?

  3. The suggestion that propane is a good transition fuel is like saying lynchings were a way to end racism. total crap. Just like everything else inTom G’s comments. We have to ask who pays Tom to lie like this.

    Frank tells it straight, something that the fossil fuel industry has never done. Thank you Frank.

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