Big Oil and Science Fiction


There’s a concept in good science fiction whereby viewers are asked to accept one main fiction as truth, and most other things in the work should then be credible.

For example, in a story about time travel, we should only be asked to accept the mechanism by which time travel is possible, and the rest of the story should be believable given that acceptance.

It’s the same with energy companies.

Oil companies in particular are considered horribly immoral by most. The assumption is that they move through life committing multiple and constant acts of malice.

But the reality is more like a good science fiction movie. For oil companies the initial thing we’re asked to accept is not time travel, but rather that it’s possible to own the energy collected from the sun and captured within ancient plant life.

It’s harder to consume than time travel, really. Basically, for millions of years the sun showered the earth with heat and light, and this energy was captured in plants that are now oil.

Oil companies find that material and own it, making them billionaires.

It’s somewhat silly, if you think about it.

But then again, isn’t the concept of private property silly as well? Here we are with very limited lifespans, and we claim ownership of certain organizations of atoms that co-exist with us. And we can’t take the stuff with us.

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But it’s practical, I suppose, so it makes sense.

Anyway, many oil companies are doing the same thing as the science fiction story. Once you accept that they are charging people to consume the stored energy of the sun, the rest of their business practices are often quite moral and/or ethical.

So, are oil companies evil? Depends when you start your observations. If you start right after the initial point, i.e. selling something owned by the earth, many energy companies are exceptionally ethical in their business dealings.

This is why to them it’s quite strange to be considered immoral or unethical. They know from their own internal guidance and culture that their ethics are extremely strict within the company, and they can’t figure out why people have such an issue with them.

And that’s the reason: there’s a separation between the initial “crime” (or fictional claim we’re asked to accept), vs. the behavior thereafter.

Anyway, it’s an interesting way of seeing things.

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