Pittis: Ignoring Fossil Harms in Business Media Coverage Is ‘Bad Economics’
Canadian investors and the broader public are increasingly demanding energy industry reporting that does not shy away from forthright discussions of the intersection between the immediate needs and the long-term costs of fossil fuel use.
Gone are the days when the environmental impacts of greenhouse gases could reasonably be overlooked by mainstream business coverage, writes Don Pittis for CBC News—and yet, he adds, such myopia clearly persists. Recent energy stories by The Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail, and the Wall Street Journal made no “mention whatsoever of climate change”—a critical gap for readers hoping to actually use those stories to guide their business decisions.
Like this story? Subscribe to The Energy Mix and never miss an edition of our free e-digest.
“In the current context, leaving the effects of fossil fuels on climate, even if just peripheral, out of any substantial report on the energy industry is simply bad economics,” Pittis writes. “Anyone trying to make good investment decisions who repeatedly runs across articles that find the subject unmentionable should likely seek more complete sources.”
Responsible independent reporting does exist, he notes, with the best bringing together both the long-term costs of fossil fuel use and the near-term needs. As an example, he cites stories that acknowledge the economic impacts of lower-carbon emissions.
Such measured reporting was absent from a recent CP story on the expected coming spike in oil prices, with the article offering “no mention of the carbon impact, no nod to how a jump in consumption would raise greenhouse gas output, nothing on how a sharp price spike might boost the trend toward greener cars or thus ultimately reducing long-term demand,” he writes.
Similarly, the Globe’s recent report on the Canadian natural gas sector’s push for a federal-provincial partnership to develop a hydrogen economy “contained no mention of the enormous carbon footprint of making hydrogen from fossil gas.”
And damage to investor portfolios will not be the only fallout from a failure to report energy news in its full complexity, observes Pittis. While respected news sources like the Globe do commonly write on both the climate crisis and the fortunes of fossil fuels, their persistent inclination to treat the subjects separately, as if the two do not affect each other, cultivates a dangerous tendency to “double-think”—to believe that the climate crisis and fossil fuel fortunes can be evaluated in isolation from one another.
Given that this is manifestly not the case, concludes Pittis, energy reporters need to honestly present the “discordant reality” in which we live, as a first step to building “a synthesis” between present needs and future ones.