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The Other Kind of Climate Change Denial — Impact of Expanded Oil Drilling On Climate Change Ignored

Writing about expanding oil drilling without talking about its impact on the climate  indicates a deep state of denial. (cc photo illustration: -POD)
Writing about expanding oil drilling without talking about its impact on the climate
indicates a deep state of denial. (cc photo illustration: -POD)

It's gotten to the point that sensible people can agree that climate change is a real problem in the world. But some people manage to write about energy policy and pretend that that problem doesn't exist–which is perhaps a more dangerous kind of climate change denial.

Take Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson. As we noted recently (FAIR Blog, 8/26/14), Samuelson is no longer really a climate denier. But it's hard to tell how meaningful the shift in his views is when you see what he writes nowadays. His column in today's print edition of the Post (9/28/14) is a full endorsement of increasing US oil drilling.

"One of the economy’s good-news stories is the oil boom, a derivative of the natural gas boom," he writes, explaining that fracking technology has been applied to oil drilling and has "yielded similarly astounding results." Samuelson declares: "By all logic, we should be working to sustain the boom." Alas we are not, and his column goes on to explain why it's disappointing that we aren't drilling more oil and exporting it on tankers.

He doesn't skip the downsides of drilling for more oil–he gives them one entire sentence:
Sure, there are concerns: Rail transport of crude oil involves safety issues; there are continuing environmental worries about fracking. Still, public gains outweigh the costs.
Whew. Back on planet Earth, burning more fossil fuels is going to have at least one consequence: It will continue contributing to the heating of the planet. But Samuelson never mentions climate change, which is too often treated as a non-event in coverage of energy (FAIR Blog, 5/15/12; 9/9/14).

In a way, this is merely a different type of climate change denial, one that wishes away the consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels. Interestingly, the Samuelson column has a "Read more about this topic" link at the bottom, which takes readers to a Post editorial on the same subject, headlined "Commerce Dept. Should Allow Exports of US Crude." This is notable because the Post editorial page has drawn attention for a series they're calling "A Climate for Change," which is supposed to represent the paper's decision to take the climate crisis seriously. Except, apparently, when the same editorial page is making the case for drilling for more oil.

If climate change represents a profound crisis, the only sensible policy is to leave fossil fuels in the ground (Extra!, 5/13). A media system that has begun to understand the scale of the problem while at the same time advocating for policies that will make the problem worse is still in denial.

Reprinted with permission from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.

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