Yesterday my company flew me out to West Texas for a site visit. There lies the Permian Basin - the world's most productive oil field that has made the US the world's top oil and gas producer.
While flying over Texas we saw huge wind farms lining the semiarid terrain - an unsurprising sight given that Texas is, by far, the largest producer of wind energy in the US. However, the farther northwest we flew, we saw fewer wind turbines and waaaay more oil wells. For oil and gas companies, the Idaho-sized Permian Basin will be a cash cow for many years to come. Fracking was the last game-changer in the industry; future improvements in drilling and extraction technologies will mean that this oilfield, and ones like it, will continue to produce hydrocarbons in large supply for decades.
In our lifetimes, as long as there is demand for oil and natural gas, energy companies will continue to find ways to supply it. The demonization of the oil and gas industry is one way of showing concern over rising atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental degradation. But public opinion turning against these companies is NOT ENOUGH to meaningfully combat climate change.
Each of us who drives a car, uses plastic, flies in aeroplanes, has a mobile phone, buys food from a conventional grocery store, wears synthetic fibres is sending a message to energy companies to continue mining the earth for oil and gas. Even under best-case scenarios for renewable energy development, we will still need hydrocarbon-based energy to supplement our growing global energy needs.
So if you feel strongly about decarbonization, about mitigating climate change, reducing carbon emission, fighting against plastic use and pollution, there's a clear answer: change your own behaviour. Reducing plastic use, buying local and organic food, using public transportation and driving less, cutting down on air transport, and wearing only natural fibres are just a few of the ways to reduce your total demand for oil, gas, and their byproducts.