Be careful what you wish for

An organization named the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) recently released an open letter calling on the federal government to implement a “tobacco-style ban” on fossil fuel advertising in Canada. Erroneous comparisons aside, the group of doctors completely failed to acknowledge all of the good things produced by fossil fuels, including (ironically) numerous items found in any given hospital room. Photo credit: Pexels/Pixabay


It seems that everyone is politicized these days. Last week saw the publication of an open letter from a number of professional health groups, stating that the federal government should ban the advertising of such things as fossil fuels, gasoline-powered vehicles and household natural gas because of their detrimental effects on the environment. 

The organization making these recommendations, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), said that stronger measures are necessary so that “misinformation” about fossil fuels is not distributed and that companies should be required to disclose any negative impacts of the use of such fuels. CAPE compares what it is recommending to earlier efforts to ban the advertising of cigarettes.  

Really? There are many aspects of this campaign that have at best a tenuous grip on the facts, and a lack of understanding of the issues being discussed and the repercussions should their recommendations be taken seriously. For starters, comparing fossil fuels to cigarettes is ludicrous. Tobacco products are universally negative for their consumers and warrant restrictions on advertising. Mind you, the same governments that love to denounce them (and most recently the federal government has moved to mandate the inclusion of warnings on every single cigarette) are still very pleased to receive the billions of dollars in tax revenue their sales deliver. But putting fossil fuels in the same category as tobacco ignores the immense benefits fossil fuels have brought to humanity for centuries.  

Access to affordable, reliable fossil fuel energy has led much of the world out of poverty and dramatically increased standards of living globally. The climate alarmists love to talk about how extreme weather events are threatening people’s lives, yet the reality is that deaths as a result of events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and the like have plummeted in large part because fossil fuel-enabled technologies have been essential in increasing mankind’s ability to withstand these events with much less damage and loss of life than in earlier times. The World Meteorological Organization recently noted that while weather disasters killed an average of 170 people per day in the 1970s, that had dropped to about 40 per day as of 2021. 

CAPE also targets natural gas, a clean fuel that provides essential, reliable and affordable energy for heat, cooking and other applications for the majority of Canadian households. This criticism of natural gas on CAPE’s part is especially tone-deaf in the context of what is currently going on with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been enabled by Europe’s foolish replacement of their fossil-fuel and nuclear energy sources by unreliable wind and solar power, such that they are now overly dependent on Russian natural gas to meet their energy demands. Natural gas is also a key input in the production of fertilizer, currently in short supply to the extent that some are forecasting a global crisis in food production is on the horizon. 

Another one of the criticisms CAPE expresses is that a majority of advertising on automobiles is focused on vehicles like SUVs and trucks that have higher emissions than regular-sized cars. Yet this ignores the fact that many individuals and businesses require a larger vehicle for very practical reasons, and that electric vehicles are unable to meet these demands. For much of the vital agricultural sector, for example, electric vehicles are totally impractical and cannot replace the equipment currently needed on farms to produce the food so essential to Canadians and our economy. 

It is also ironic in the extreme to see medical professionals recommending curbs on the industry that is so very important to their work. Do these folks really not understand that all of the essential items they use in their work every day are products of the fossil fuel industry? All of the sterile plastic products that are employed so extensively in health care are derived from petroleum. Plastics are also used extensively in food packaging and food service to prevent contamination and ensure food safety. During the pandemic, most of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) employed was produced using petrochemicals, including the gloves, gowns, respirators, goggles and face shields. Most of the main components of an N-95 mask are made from petroleum products. As the CAPE report came from a bunch of health professions, you would really think they should know better. 

Similar to so many of the climate alarmist campaigns, this latest effort by CAPE is unrealistic and unhelpful. There are many ways to promote true progress on environmental issues without inflicting serious negative impacts on average people and their standard of living. Instead of proposing foolish measures such as advertising restrictions, perhaps groups like CAPE should acknowledge the massive advances that have been made by Canada’s oil and gas industry to reduce their emissions and pursue more environmentally-friendly means of production, and recognize the work of the plastics industry to promote more recycling and other positive measures. 

The Canadian industry’s work on these initiatives is leading the world and making serious, measurable progress without sacrificing the many benefits the sensible use of fossil fuels has provided to mankind. And that’s something all Canadians should celebrate. 

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