By Julian Cribb*
A new world superpower is arising. One that is unelected, borderless, controls most governments and, increasingly, employs the familiar tools of repression and deception to attain its goals.
In Australia, the US and Britain, young people calling for urgent climate action are being arrested and gaoled. Harsh new laws are being passed to prohibit free expression of opinion about climate and fossil fuels on the internet.
At COP27, by far the largest single delegation was from the fossil fuels sector with 660 representatives. Petrodelegates were only outnumbered by the UAE, itself a petro-lobby, rubbing home the message that fossil fuels are not just a ‘country’ – they are now a superpower. (1.)
The political muscle of the petro sector (coal-oil-gas-petrochemicals) is flexed publicly almost every day. Politicians from a dozen countries and different parties chant the same carefully scripted anti-climate-action ‘talking points’, like the trained parrots they have become. Social media are awash with industry-funded bots, trolls and agents of disinformation.
Meanwhile Governments pour billions of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of fossil fuel barons – over $420bn in 2020 alone, according to the BBC. (2.) So corrupted has politics worldwide become that it now freely spends its citizens’ hard-earned money on destroying the very climate all humans rely on for their survival. Many countries now spend more on subsidies to the petro sector than they do on renewable energy. Many countries who vowed to act on climate at COP26 were at the same time opening up new coal, oil and gas fields.
Worldwide the petro sector is tightening its grip on politics and locking in its power base. Collectively the sector is worth $7 trillion a year, making it the third largest economy on Earth after the US (GDP $17tr) and China ($10tr), an autocratic superpower without borders but with global reach into every government on Earth. (3.)
In tweaking the reins of government in countries autocratic, democratic and in between, the petro sector pursues three agendas:
• To sabotage, weaken or retard attempts by governments and the public to bring under control the Earth’s increasingly destructive climate, for its own immediate profit;
• To consolidate their emerging role as a de facto world political power, through the influence they collectively wield over individual governments, parties and politicians.
• Increasingly, to suppress, gag or eradicate any opposition, whether from students, indigenous people, ordinary citizens, scientists or greens.
At the same time, the petro sector is anxious to cover up the worst crime against humanity in history: the needless deaths of up to 13.7 million people every year due to environmental poisoning caused by the toxic pollution of air, water, food and living environment. According to the World Health Organisation, one person in four now dies as a result of this chemical assault, and 602 million are crippled annually by it. (4.) This is twice the annual death toll in World War II.
Transcending the tired and obsolescent nationalism of the 20th Century, a new, unelected global political force is arising – the seizure and exercise of world power by corporate macro-interests, whose wealth and influence far outmatch those of the atrophying nation states they are gradually replacing. Being corporate, however, they do not wish to govern the whole of society – only the bits from which they draw their profit and powerbase. For education, health, equality, the environment, they care not a fig. About the fate of humanity, they give not a damn.
It is time this force had a name and, with its increasingly brutal exercise of physical and mental control over the citizenry, petro-fascism seems appropriate. Our police, our media, even our militaries and courts are being turned against their own citizens to serve the interests of fossil fuels corporates, with the naked compliance of the cabinets, parliaments and media it has already suborned.
Some may argue that fascism, as a concept, applies only to countries – not to industries. However, consider its main features:
• An authoritarian, centralist philosophy generally disdainful of democratic methods, at times expressing extreme nationalism
• Hatred of anyone deemed to be on the political left, including communists, socialists, environmentalists, indigenous people, journalists, peace activists and small ‘l’ liberals.
• Extreme economic conservatism.
• Worship of corporate power; control of labour.
• Militarist values; identification of common ‘enemies’
• Male domination, sexism and opposition to feminist principles.
• Violence and repression.
• Rampant cronyism and corruption.
• Control of the mass media.
• Disregard of human rights.
• Manipulation of elections.
Many, if not all of these defining features apply equally to the rising potency, influence and control exerted by the petro sector. It may be more a global economic consortium than a nation state – but so what, if its methods are those of the autocrat? If it leaves the same boot-prints on the face of society, to borrow the Orwellian image?
One of its most heinous tactics is to employ disinformation to so confuse the citizenry that they do not know what is going on or whom to vote for. The climate lie-factories funded by big US coal barons have now metastasized into a global industry, using a range of psychological warfare tactics to deceive, misinform and distract the populace. Recent studies indicate the five oil majors alone spend $200m a year buying political influence. (5.) The fact that governments then pay the petro sector $420bn a year makes it a pretty lucrative exercise.
By denying the public the right to understand the very real threats which now confront us and take timely action to remedy them, the petro sector is denying humanity the right to survive.
That their own grandchildren will perish in the ensuing holocaust is of less importance to them than today’s ‘shareholder value’. Meanwhile, through our parliaments, leaders, police forces and courts, they will continue to deploy the methods of brute force and brainwashing against the young, the clean and the valiant, until all hope is erased.
The age of the petrofascist has begun.
*Julian Cribb AM FRSA FTSE is an Australian science writer and author of several books on the human existential crisis.
3. Oil and gas is worth $2.1tr, coal worth $0.8tr and petrochemicals worth $4tr annually.