Irony and Sarcasm

by John Delach

The dictionary defines irony as: “A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.”

The street definition of irony is: “You really can’t make this s*** up.”

The dictionary defines Sarcasm as: “The use of irony to mock or convey contempt.”

The street definition is “Gotcha!”

This piece is a bit of both, however, before I present it, I wish to explain two relevant points:

During my thirty-year career in the marine and energy insurance business, I represented several so called “Big Oil” clients and major oil tanker fleet owners. To fulfill their insurance needs led me to develop a close understanding of how they think. The major oil and gas companies are the most competitive, competent and professionally run operations on the planet yet extremely demanding in achieving their perceived results.   

They are ahead of everybody else including Uncle Sam and like Uncle, they have all the time, all the money and all the lawyers they need. Witness Rex Tillerson’s tumultuous tenure as Secretary of State. He knew he was better than the President, but he failed to recognize he was no longer CEO of Exxon-Mobile and Trump was now the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

I lifted what follows from an article by Jesse Barron: “Hedging Against the Apocalypse,” part of a series of essays in the April 14, 2019 climate issue of The New York Times Magazine.

I accept on face value what Mr. Barron wrote and, to the best of my ability, I have not influenced or altered his message.

Barron begins with a confrontation between Tillerson, and a Capuchin Franciscan friar, Michael Crosby, during Exxon-Mobil’s 2015 Annual Meeting. Crosby deliberately set out to upset Tillerson’s apple cart by accusing him of deliberately ignoring climate change. During their exchange, the good friar gave the CEO a run for his money scolding Tillerson by admonishing him that, “You’re living in the past.”

Crosby challenged the CEO on renewables, but Tillerson came right back at him. From my own experience, I can easily picture the biggest bully in the room gripping the rostrum, steely eyes, laser focused, reply: “Quite frankly, Father Crosby, we choose not to lose money on purpose.”

Dear reader, Tillerson’s statement sums up in a nutshell what makes Big Oil tick.

Fast forward to 2018. Never mind that Tillerson retired and Darron Woods is Exxon-Mobil’s new CEO.

Declan Flanagan, CEO of Lincoln Clean Energy, a renewables company announces that his firm has partnered with Exxon…”to build a solar farm in the Permian Basin.”

If you read the book, Friday Night Lights, saw the movie or watched the TV series, you would understand that the Permian basin was in decline in the 80’s and 90’s. Its oil fields first exploited in 1921, were running dry. Drilling was at a minimum and Odessa, the heart of the basin, was dying.

There was a solution, hydraulic fracturing, a concept first reported in a 1948 issue of Oil & Gas Journal. (Ayn Rand promoted the concept in her masterful 1957 apocalyptic novel, Atlas Shrugged.) (Who is John Gault?)

But the price of crude oil remained too low and the cost of fracturing or, fracking remained too high for this technology to be cost-effective until the millennium when the price of oil and advanced technology made it profitable.  

Barron noted in his piece: “In recent years, the Permian became the most productive oil and gas field in the United States, as…fracking…made it possible to shatter the tightly packed shale. Exxon, Chevron and their peers can now access natural gas and oil that was previously unreachable…If Permian were a country, it would rank among the largest oil states in the world.”

“All well and good but what’s the point? Simple, fracking requires an inordinate amount of electricity to be effective. Though Exxon’s deal with Lincoln is one of the most visible examples of a fossil-fuel company using renewable energy, all the Permian extraction outfits consume it…to make fracking more profitable.”

Exxon, Chevron and their partners have blanketed the surface of the Permian with solar panels installed by Lincoln for the sole purpose to pay the electric bills needed to extract the oil and gas.

Save the planet? Bah humbug: Maximize profits.

Climate change is real. What Big Oil is doing in the Permian is at best, a head-shaker and, at worse, complete pervasion of why Lincoln exists and its stated goals.

Never-the-less, because of fracking, the USA has once again become a net exporter of oil and gas and Lincoln is making a handsome profit.