The Limits of Do-Goodery

Dear Reader (excluding any of you who’ve been convicted of contempt of Congress recently),

Author’s note: Before you run away like Josh Hawley encountering the consequences of his jackassery, I guess I should warn you that this is a very long G-File. Think of it as overcompensation for missing Wednesday’s G-File.

Julian Simon, the great cheerleader of human ingenuity, was once on a tour of an oil facility in Alaska. Every time the flack stopped to boast about this or that, it would be to tell Simon about the “environmental benefits” of some doohickey or procedure. Eventually, Simon got so fed up with the relentless propagandizing he allegedly said, “What do you produce here, oil or environmental benefits?”

I’ve told that story many times, always with Simon as the hero. But it’s worth coming to the defense of that poor P.R. flack (that’s public relations, not “Puerto Rican”—just in case you misunderstood me). Oil companies face enormous political and cultural headwinds. When was the last time you saw a movie or TV show where the oil industry was cast in a favorable light? Some exist. There’s Armageddon, where those madcap roughnecks save the planet, and a couple others. But you’ve really gotta go deep in the catalog to find them. Giant was released in 1956. But for every Giant and Beverly Hillbillies, there’s gotta be 10 There Will Be Bloods and Oklahoma Crudes going the other way.

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