The Cattleman’s Corner: OPINION: Park It

pump jack at oil well
(Photo: B.E. Lewis / Shutterstock.com)

By Austin Snedden, Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Austin Snedden
Austin Snedden, Valley Ag Voice ranching contributor

The history of people in positions of power asking the commoners to do things they aren’t willing to do themselves is not new. We are often enthusiastic to put “commoners” in power because we feel they share a common bond with us. Political revolutions have historically been led by people that the commoners identify with. Politicians have become wise to this idea of being one of the regulars, that is why you will see politicians don hunting apparel with store tags still in place to try to give the impression that they identify with “the regular guy.” You may see a politician butchering firearm terminology in an attempt to gain acceptance or showing up to an agriculture event in shiny, stiff cowboy boots and a brand new ill fitted cowboy hat. The new era of political elitists is often so far disengaged with the commoners that feeble attempts aren’t even made.

The draconian COVID restriction that California governor Gavin Newsom placed on residents and businesses is well documented. There are probably very few folks who are unaware of Newsom being found dining at a fine restaurant in violation of his own rules, while at the same time restaurants all over the state were being shuttered because of his authoritarian guidelines. This example of double standards illustrates the “do as I say, not as I do” behavior in a very concise way. Many of us in agriculture, fossil fuels, and other natural resource businesses have seen the double standards for years; however, California’s fine dining Governor may have shown the hypocrisy to a broader audience.

The liberal devotion to misguided environmental policy and climate obsession has been putting leftist politicians in awkward hypocrisy for years. I am calling these extreme environmental and climate policies “luxury crises.” Only comfortable societies with extremely comfortable elites pursue changing things that they can’t be sure that they effect in the first place. It requires shelter, air conditioning, heat, clothing, refrigeration, and a full belly to get to a point in your luxury that you can now be concerned about cow belches and carbon emissions possibly causing the temperature to rise one half of a degree in the next century. If you are not sure whether it is a luxury crisis, try explaining it to a person who isn’t sure where their next meal is coming from or a person shivering in the cold or sweltering in the sun. Explain to a person challenged with hunger or exposure to the elements how imminent the devastation of a one-degree temperature change is in this luxury crisis; it probably will be a tough sell.

Regardless of the absurd politics and science of man-made climate change, will we ever see a politician lead from the front and walk the climate friendly tight rope they want all of us to walk? President Biden has his climate commitments and has banned new oil and gas production on federal lands. Will we see him park Air Force One? Will he turn off the heat and cooling in the White House? Or is climate discomfort only for the masses and not the elite? Governor Newsom has ordered that oil and gas extraction in California be phased out. A horrible, painful decision, but a true leader will not send his troops into danger without leading them. So, Gavin must park the jet and the heating and cooling.

The negative consequences of an attack on fossil fuels goes way beyond the oil industry. The negative environmental impacts of a world without fossil fuels is abundant. As we watch diesel powered semi-trucks haul loads of cattle away from drought-stricken California ranches, we would have to be asinine to think of a world prior to fossil fuel powered trucks or even before trains. Droughts have always been a part of life, but the effects of drought on the landscape and animals prior to the era of fossil fuel powered transport for livestock was a scene of overgrazing, starving animals, and often euthanasia. Beyond the commerce, comfort, and food availability that fossil fuels have created, there is also the environmental benefit. 

I strongly oppose an attack on fossil fuels, but if naive politicians insist, I must ask them to lead from the front and not dictate to others what they will not do themselves. Park it. Lead from the front, show us a fossil fuel free life. Park the jet, park the car. As California’s single largest electric source is natural gas, park the electric car, turn off the lights, park the heater and the air conditioner in your house Mr. Governor. Park the cell phone charger and all plastics. I have only begun to dip into the oil impact on our lives, the list is extensive. I might not get on board ever, but until our authoritarian leaders can show us their oil free life, I would kindly ask them to park their mandates for us commoners.