Praying for oil and comparing climate science to Nazi propaganda, Kansas oilmen remain skeptical — or in outright denial — of what international officials have called a “code red for humanity.”
As expert climate scientists warn of impending crisis, the state’s oil and gas producers question the existence of human-caused climate change and the motivations of climate activists.
“Climate change has been happening since Earth has been around naturally, natural cycles, with stuff that’s more powerful than anything humans can do,” state Sen. Mike Thompson said.
“And so it’s pure hubris to think that we should be spending billions of dollars — or now trillions of dollars — on mitigating climate change for something we have zero control over. And that includes trying to change our energy policy to fit that by going more green, with the renewables, which are not reliable.”
Thompson, a Republican state senator from Johnson County and chairman of Senate Committee on Utilities, presented a seminar on “The Weaponization of Climate Change” during the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association annual convention in Wichita on Monday.
The oil and gas convention was held one week after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a nearly 4,000-page report. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report “a code red for humanity.”
“The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse‑gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk,” Guterres said in an Aug. 9 statement. “Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”
Thompson, a retired Kansas City television meteorologist, compared the messaging on climate change to Nazi propaganda: “You tell a lie big enough. You keep telling it. Eventually it becomes true.”
“Science has just become a weapon,” he said. “So we basically turned real science into we’re all gonna die in 12 years, OK. And unfortunately, this is the culmination of the dumbing down of America. People buy this stuff. They hear it on the news. They think global warming is real. We’re all gonna die.
“We’re turning away from sources that we know are reliable, the oil and gas, nuclear, coal, everything that we rely on to keep our lights on 24/7 with this, because of course, we have to save the planet with green energy, which doesn’t work.”
One audience member said his college-educated son told him: “Dad, you have been brainwashed. You’re part of the oil industry.” The man asked Thompson, “How do we fight back?”
“The kids are being indoctrinated with this stuff,” Thompson responded. “It’s penetrated the schools. We’ve got to start by looking at the educational system in this state and across the country, and getting rid of all this crazy stuff and start educating the kids with real true science.”
The KIOGA luncheon opened with a prayer, where a Baptist pastor from Silver Lake thanked God for oil and gas resources and jobs. Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who previously was a president of an oilfield equipment company and a KIOGA member before entering politics, was the keynote speaker.
“It’s great, too, that this is the first place I’ve been in a long time that prayed for oil,” Pompeo said. “I am back home.”
Ed Cross, president of the Topeka-based KIOGA, praised people who work in the oil and gas industry.
“Without you, people wouldn’t have the fuel to drive to the grocery store or to heat their houses,” Cross said. “All of you are amazing, and you are not told that enough and certainly not by the media.”
He said the association “works hard every day to protect our oil and gas blessings.”
‘Human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land’
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s summary of the nearly 4,000-page report states that “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
“Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe,” the authors wrote. “Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened.”
The work group that wrote the report involved 234 authors from 66 countries, plus 517 contributing authors.
“From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions,” the summary states. “Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality.”
The report calls for implementing short-term policies that would improve both air quality and limit climate change, including “energy efficiency measures, methane capture and recovery from solid waste management and oil and gas industry, zero-emission vehicles” and other strategies.
“The main human influence on the climate is via combustion of fossil fuels and land use-change-related CO2 emissions, the principal causes of increased CO2 concentrations since the pre-industrial period,” the report states.
Mike Thompson: Deregulate energy industry except for renewables
Thompson’s seminar was at odds with the international climate report. He said the U.S. has “done our part” to clean up pollution but argued that “humans cannot change the climate.”
“We can burn fossil fuels. We can put things into the environment that might change the environment, but it’s not going to change the climate,” he said. “There’s only a certain number of actual greenhouse gases that affect the temperature of the planet.”
He argued that reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would have no effect on climate because carbon dioxide is “a very tiny” greenhouse gas while “water vapor does 95% of the stabilization of the temperature of this planet.”
“With carbon dioxide right now, we could double, triple, quadruple the amount of CO2, it is not going to change the amount of warming on this planet or the temperature on this planet at all,” Thompson said.
Thompson claimed that higher carbon dioxide levels would be good for plants, making them “hardier, more drought resistant, produce more crops.”
Thompson called for deregulation of the energy industry — except for renewable energy, where he wants increased regulation on wind farms. He questioned the efficiency of wind turbines and solar panels, pointed to dead birds and wintry weather issues, and claimed renewable energy is leading to higher electrical bills that cause businesses to leave the state.
While President Joe Biden has a goal of net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2050, Thompson said becoming carbon neutral is “virtually impossible.”
He was critical of climate mitigation efforts.
“We could spend money, but it would be fruitless,” Thompson said. “The climate is going to change on its own. … Bottom line is, there’s nothing we can do to change the climate. Nothing at all.”
He called carbon sequestration “the dumbest idea I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Mike Pompeo jokes about climate change
“We also never started a meeting by talking about climate change,” Pompeo said of his time working for Trump. “We all want clean air, and sign me up for safe drinking water. But we all know that the American economy and innovation is the thing that’s going to protect the health of people all across the world.”
“Sadly, the current administration is taking a radically different approach to this. I spent very little time with that Greta woman,” he said, eliciting laughs, “and a lot of time with people like you.”
Swedish teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg has been critical of Biden for not doing enough to address climate change.
Pompeo compared Biden’s cabinet with Trump’s, zeroing in on the Energy Department secretaries.
“One of them has actually been in the energy industry,” Pompeo said. “The other, I’m convinced, needs a dictionary to spell ‘energy.’ I’m sure Jennifer Granholm is a really nice woman, but she wouldn’t know you. She wouldn’t know the things that matter to you.”
Granholm was a Michigan governor and helped strengthen the state’s automotive industry during the Great Recession while adding electric vehicle battery production, according to her Energy Department biography. She later taught about public policy, including clean energy, at the University of California, Berkeley.
It is unclear which of Trump’s two congressionally confirmed energy secretaries — Rick Perry and Dan Brouillette — Granholm was being compared to.
Before Perry got into Texas politics, his background was in agriculture and the military. Brouillette held numerous governmental positions on energy, including as a staffer for a congressional energy committee, and also spent time as a vice president at Ford Motor Company.
Infrastructure and Green New Deal
Republican Reps. Ron Estes, Tracey Mann and Jake LaTurner were featured in a policy roundtable before Thompson’s seminar. The state’s entire congressional delegation was invited.
Mann criticized the infrastructure bill’s funding for climate change research, electric vehicle charging stations and environmentally-friendly building upgrades.
“Basically it’s taking the Green New Deal, calling it infrastructure, and trying to ram it through,” Mann said. “We’re doing all we can possibly do to stop it because it would be really bad for Kansas, our future generations, agriculture, and end the oil and gas industry as we know it.”
He praised fossil fuels: “You can’t plow with a Prius.”
LaTurner thanked the oil and gas industry for creating wealth, jobs and providing “a resource that is essential for our economy to function. He said the Green New Deal is too expensive, and politicians in Washington, D.C., are trying to pass it piecemeal instead of as one whole package.
“Almost every piece of legislation that I’ve encountered, regardless of how unrelated it is to climate change, has something in it to try to affect this economy,” LaTurner said. “And you all know it well: it is a government takeover, the likes of which we have never seen before.”
LaTurner said the “blame America first party” is giving a “free pass” to adversaries around the world, such as China, at the expense of the American economy and national security.
Estes said some politicians are seeking to “attack areas that they deem aren’t worthy, specifically how do you cripple the oil and gas industry.” He said the opposition’s intention is to the raise prices at the pump and make oil and gas more expensive in order to justify their policies, such as backing electric vehicles.”
“I hesitate to bring that up in, in this group, because, you know, having a higher barrel price isn’t necessarily bad all the time, at least in this room,” Estes said. “But when you look at the efforts they are making on the tax side, what that really does is it it hampers the industry.”